January 22, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Al-Awda (“The Return”) New York/New Jersey, the local chapter of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, announced today that it will be hosting the coalition’s international right of return convention in New York City on April 16-18, 2004. Al-Awda is a grassroots organization of Palestinians and their allies dedicated to ensuring fundamental justice for the Palestinian people through the implementation of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and homeland.
The convention, held last year in Toronto, Canada, will bring together hundreds of activists, academics and right of return organizers from across North America, the Arab Homeland and around the world. These convention participants will join with local activists and numerous members of the Palestinian and Arab communities in the New York/New Jersey area for keynote speeches, workshops and strategy sessions dedicated to the strengthening of the North American and international movement for Palestinians’ right to return.
In 1948, over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and homelands by force and violence, as Zionist armies attempted to ethnically cleanse Palestine in order to create an exclusionary Jewish state on Palestinian land. These refugees, and their descendants, now numbering over five million, have been denied the right to return to their homes and lands for over fifty-five years, despite the fact that refugees’ right to return to their homes is a fundamental right also recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions. In addition, United Nations Resolution 194, passed in 1948, was to ensure that Palestinian refugees are permitted to return home. Despite the vast weight of justice and law, Palestinian refugees have been prohibited from returning to their homes.
Al-Awda’s convention, in the words of a document released by the group to announce the event, is timely because “the fundamental right for Palestinians to return to their homes . . . is under constant threat.” The recent announcement of the so-called “Geneva Accord,” continues Al-Awda, “sidestepped legal precedents and used deceptive language to deny millions of refugees their internationally enshrined right of return.” However, Al-Awda states that “in spite of the ongoing efforts to defeat the Palestinians, activists and people of conscience across the world refuse to waver in their support for the Palestinian struggle for liberation, self-determination and return,” citing the centrality of the Palestinian struggle to the anti-war movement, the development of a new international Right of Return Congress and new organizations and initiatives in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Arab American community.
In this context of struggle for fundamental rights and justice, the convention will provide opportunities for coalition-building, networking, mutual education and the development of sustainable strategies for political action. Al-Awda New York/New Jersey invites those who support the principles of the convention to endorse the convention, mobilize for it, and work together to ensure it will be the successful, momentous occasion it promises to be.