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Fayyad subverts right of return – Iqbal Jassat

April 3, 2010 9:42 A.M. (Updated: April 7, 2010 9:08 A.M.)
"Fayyad just gave away your right of return," I read on the Twitter page of Electronic Intifada editor Ali Abunimah yesterday, leading me to access a link and discover that indeed, the Palestinian Authority prime minister has done the unforgivable.

In an interview with Akiva Eldar of the Israeli daily Haaretz, Fayyad made the following comment in response to a question about refugees: "Of course, Palestinians would have the right to reside within the State of Palestine."

The Palestinian state he refers to is what many analysts have come to regard as no different than apartheid South Africa's version of "independent homelands" for blacks, commonly referred to as Bantustans. It is within the confines of this oxymoron that Fayyad envisions the return of refugees – not to the land from where they were forcibly uprooted.

This is a blatant subversion of a fundamental right of Palestinians in the diaspora, millions of whom have been living in miserable conditions for more than 60 years as stateless refugees. Their right to return – guaranteed by international conventions – has remained sacrosanct.

As Abunimah correctly tweets, Fayyad has no right to waive the hopes and aspirations of victims of a terrible ordeal perpetrated by the founders of the illegitimate state of Israel through massacres and ethnic cleansing. These brutal policies have remained and have been applied at regular intervals by successive Israeli leaders.

Both the colonial foundations and apartheid character of Israel testify to its illegitimacy. Dispossession and dismemberment resulting from the enforcement of colonial practices paved the way for a migrant population of European Jews to establish a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestine.

Now in one sentence, the darling of America desires to not only obliterate the memory of the Nakba, but also to reward those in possession of stolen loot. In his obsession with the Fatah plan to declare statehood in 2011 – a move in line with Israel's own vision of a Palestinian ghetto – Fayyad commits the same blunder made by leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat before him: seeking acceptance from America rather than fulfilling the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

By welcoming the International Quartet's announcement made recently in Moscow which supports Fatah's August 2009 plan to establish a state within 24 months, Fayyad reveals a great deal of naivety with regard to the Quartet's impartiality. It is by now well known that America, a crucial component of the Quartet, is completely powerless in the face of Israeli intransigence. Obama's so-called tough talk is no more than rhetoric ignored and defied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Settler expansion in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank is at an all time high, despite warnings by Obama. Evidence of Israel's defiance is visible in the frenzied activities of giant cranes and military bulldozers. Yet Fayyad seems to consider Israeli leaders as partners with integrity.

By cautioning Netanyahu not to succumb to "settlers," he seems oblivious of the fact the entire State of Israel is itself a huge settlement. It is this mass of land that many historians and solidarity activists regard as colonized Palestine awaiting liberation and to which refugees are anxious to return.

The author is chairman of the Media Review Network, a Laudium-based Web site that aims to dispel myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in South Africa.
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