May 14, 2013 (Ma’an) By Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Every May 15, a nation marks her historic catastrophe. In 1948, the Palestinian people were condemned to exile, and their homeland, Palestine, disappeared from the maps. Some 418 villages were destroyed and 70 percent of our people became refugees.
For 65 years, our people have lived through the vicissitudes and humiliation of being treated as strangers, both in exile and in their own land. Today, we are still struggling to return Palestine to the map and attain justice based on international law for Palestinians everywhere.
This solemn commemoration, which pains the heart of every Palestinian, should be a cause for shame on an international level. After decades of unfulfilled resolutions calling for the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Israel continues to act with impunity.
Twenty-five years after Palestine’s historic and painful compromise of recognizing the State of Israel on 78 percent of our historic homeland, Israel has not only failed to recognize the State of Palestine, but continues to expand its colonies throughout our occupied country.
Moreover, Israel benefits from its illegal and oppressive enterprise while maintaining good relations with countries throughout the world.
In 1949, the international community accepted Israel’s UN membership upon two conditions: That they respect resolutions 181 (two states) and 194 (refugee rights). Neither has been honored. In fact, 65 years later, Israel has not even acknowledged what it did in 1948.
Even more despicably, the State of Israel has legislated to forbid Palestinian citizens of Israel from commemorating their Nakba. But denying the Nakba does not negate its existence. Refusing to assume responsibility for the refugee question does not mean that refugees will disappear. On the contrary, it simply makes it harder to achieve reconciliation and a just and lasting peace.
Today’s Nakba is alive in 11 million Palestinians around the world. One example is the Palestinian refugees in Iraq and Syria, suffering the consequences of sectarian violence in conflicts of which they are not a part. This situation shows, once again, that international responsibility for the safety and welfare of the Palestinian people cannot be effective without the Palestinian return to their homeland.
We have made painful compromises to achieve peace. With us we have brought the Arab Peace Initiative, which confirms the Arabs will to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for some small measure of historical justice, meaning the end of the occupation that began in 1967 and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees based on resolution 194.
Unfortunately, what we are faced with is an occupying power that does not want peace; an extremist government made for and by settlers. A government that each time it has had the opportunity to choose between peace and settlements has chosen the latter; a government whose ministers call for the elimination of the Palestinian state and for the construction of settlements for 1 million settlers in occupied territory.
This is why US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest initiative should be supported. Sixty-five years after the Nakba, the sole message of the international community must be that enough is enough. It is a shame that 65 years later, we are still listening to statements without actions.
It is time to put things right, to do whatever is needed to allow Palestine to return to the map as a free and sovereign state living side by side with Israel and, most importantly, to fulfill the rights of Palestinians everywhere.
To achieve this, the international community must leave old, failed recipes aside. To call for a resumption of negotiations without terms of reference or without forcing Israel to honor its previous obligations are simply calls for another 20 years of empty dialogue which will allow Israel to continue its policy of colonization with a better cover. This will destroy any remaining prospects for peace.
After well over half a century, this is the first anniversary of the Nakba whereby Palestine is a recognized state in the United Nations. Though we are under occupation, we have taken a concrete and positive step in the right direction. We will continue following the same path toward exercising our legitimate and inalienable rights.
We must end 65 years of impunity. The international community cannot continue marking commemorations without taking any real action. Israel must become aware that the price for denying the rights of the Palestinian people is higher than the price of making peace. In Israel’s mind, this equation is the other way around.
Source: Ma’an News