Refugee fact sheet
The largest remaining national refugee crisis in the world
• During and after the creation of the Zionist state of Israel, nearly three quarter of a million Palestinians were forced to become refugees. Together with their descendants, these refugees are today the largest and longest suffering refugee population in the world. Over 3.7 million are registered by the United Nations and more than 2 million are not registered. They live largely in countries and regions sometimes within a very short distance of their original homes and lands.
• The international community felt a deep sense of responsibility for this tragedy. Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Mediator stated: "It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine" (UN Doc Al 648, 1948). This remains true today as any Jew, regardless of national origin, can gain automatic citizenship while Palestinians cannot return to their own homeland.
• The Right to Return has a solid legal basis. The United Nations adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. Paragraph 11 states: "...the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date... compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return." Resolution 194 was affirmed practically every year since with a universal consensus, except for Israel and the U.S. The resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirms in Subsection 2, "the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Hindering return is an act of aggression, which deserves action by the Security Council. Israel's admission to the UN was conditional on its acceptance of relevant UN resolutions including 194.
• The Right to Return does not derive its validity merely from UN Resolutions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 reaffirms the right of every individual to leave and return to his country. Moreover, the Principle of Self Determination guarantees, inter alia, the right of ownership and domicile in one's own country. The UN adopted this principle in 1947. In 1969 and thereafter, it was explicitly applied to the Palestinian People, including "the legality of the Peoples' struggle for Self-Determination and Liberation", (GAOR 2535 (xxiv), 2628 (xxv), 2672 (xxv), 2792 (xxvi)). International law demands that neither occupation nor sovereignty diminish the rights of private ownership. When the Ottomans surrendered in 1920, Palestinian ownership of the land was maintained. The land and property of "the refugees" remains their own and they are entitled to return to it.
• The right of refugees to return is not only sacred and legal but also possible. Demographic studies show that 80% of Israelis live in 15 percent of the land and that the remaining 20% live on 85% of the land that belongs to the refugees. Further, of the 20%, 18% live in Palestinian cities while the remaining 2% live in kibbutzim and moshavs. By contrast, more than 5,000 refugees live per square kilometer in the Gaza Strip, while over the barbed wire their lands are practically empty.
• According to Amnesty International and other Human Rights groups, Israel destroyed 2650 Palestinian houses in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, since 1987 on the pretext of not having building permission. Further, thousands of acres of Palestinian owned-land have been confiscated to build settlements in these occupied territories. The settlements contravene the 4th Geneva Convention Article 49 which states that the "Occupying Power shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
• The inalienable rights of refugees cannot be left to "negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. International law considers agreements between an occupier and the occupied to be null and void if they deprive civilians of recognized human rights including the rights to repatriation and restitution.
• The US is bound by its laws not to fund regimes that violate human rights and basic freedoms. There is no more elemental right than one's right to his/her home and to live in his/her land. The US could use the leverage of the massive financial support it gives to the State of Israel to press for this right.