AL-AWDA, THE PALESTINE RIGHT TO RETURN COALITION
SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
NEW YORK, NY, USA
APRIL 16-18, 2004
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its second international convention, titled “Sustainable Struggle: The Road to Palestine,” in New York City from the 16 to 18 April, 2004. Several hundred Palestinians and their supporters, hailing from all over North America, Europe and Palestine, held a series of informational and strategy workshops aimed at advancing Palestinian rights in general, and the refugees’ right to return in particular.
The conference, which coincided with the Day of the Palestinian Prisoner, the second anniversary of the fall of the Jenin refugee camp and the 28th anniversary of the fall of Tal el-Zaatar Palestinian camp in Lebanon at the hands of Israel’s allies, convened a few days after the recent Bush-Sharon declarations which are contrary to international law and aim to set a disastrous precedent affecting refugee rights in Palestine and beyond. Participants at the convention examined other attempts to liquidate the right to return, including the so-called “Geneva Accord.” The convention declared its intention to confront all designs that deviate from the fundamentals of the Palestinian national position, first and foremost the right to return. The convention also decided to send a letter to the Palestinian leadership expressing the dedication of the convention and the broader community to the right to return, and notifying them of its resolutions and decisions.
Participants reaffirmed that the right to return to Palestine is inalienable, collective and individual. It is a right that cannot be diminished by the passage of time, any treaty, edicts, declarations, political agreements or changes in international law. The right to return is neither negotiable nor open to concessions or interpretation.
Equally significant, and reflecting the fact that the struggle for return is inseparable from the larger Palestinian struggle for national liberation and self-determination, the convention adopted Points of Unity which stress the unity of Palestine (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and present day “Israel”) and calls for the creation of a democratic state for all its citizens in all of Palestine.
The convention heard from participants about the dire condition of the Palestinian refugees in some Arab countries. It decided to organize activities aimed at helping to empower the refugee communities, especially those living in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The convention paid special attention to the struggle of the Montreal Palestinian refugees fighting impending deportations. A fundraiser was held to help defray parts of their mounting legal bills. Equally important, the convention decided on the creation in New York of networks of support for those refugees who might be deported by the Canadian authorities to the US.
The convention also addressed the condition of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq and the urgent need for UNRWA to provide much needed aid for them. A letter addressed to the convention from al-Awda camp in Baghdad was read by a New York activist. An ad hoc fundraiser was held during one of the workshops in support of the inhabitants of the camp.
The convention affirmed support for Palestinian political prisoners and passed a number of important political resolutions that signify Al-Awda’s political evolution since its founding in the Spring of 2000, especially given the brutal Zionist onslaught on our people in territories occupied in 1967 as well as the occupation of Iraq. The convention also adopted a broad program of action aimed at making 2004-2005 the right of return years within the US in general and the anti-war camp in particular.
Finally, participants highlighted their opposition to the occupation of Iraq and expressed solidarity with the Iraqi people’s rejection of all foreign occupations and their struggle for self-determination.
MESSAGE TO POLITICAL PRISONERS
Al-Awda, noting the plight of our comrades in Zionist and imperialist jails, and believing that their struggle for freedom and honorable treatment is part and parcel of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and return, expresses solidarity with all Palestinian and Arab prisoners awaiting trial or presently on trial, and those serving terms of imprisonment.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, in its Second International Convention, reaffirmed the resolutions passed at the First Annual Convention on June 22, 2003 in Toronto, Canada.
- The Palestinian right of return is a historical, national and collective right rooted in the individual and collective inviolable right of an individual and a people to their original homes, property, and homeland, and to restitution, regardless of agreements, developments in international law and political framework. It is a right that transcends generations, political entities, and is not subject to any form of negation or compromise. It is an inextricable right from the fundamental right of unconditional self-determination for the totality of the Palestinian people regardless of their place of residence or birth.
- Al-Awda 2003 Convention opposes the US sponsored Road Map, which aims at suppressing the human and national rights of the Palestinian people. The Convention expresses support for the struggle of the Palestinian people, currently spearheaded by the Intifada, to achieve national resistance goals including, but not limited to, ending Zionist colonization, implementing the right of return, and achieving self-determination. Al-Awda Convention does not recognize any self-proclaimed Palestinian leadership, elected or appointed, in compromising any Palestinian national rights, especially the right of return.
- Al-Awda 2003 Convention demands the immediate termination of the use of the term “Israel/Palestine”, and any of its combinations, in all and any Al-Awda related documents.
- Al-Awda 2003 Convention demands the immediate release of all political prisoners from all Israeli and Palestinian Authority jails.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, in its Second International Convention, hereby calls for the full national unity of all Palestinian National and Islamic forces, civil organizations, and institutions, in the collective struggle against military occupation and Zionist apartheid, and for the right of return.
We join the Palestinian people in calling for national unity amongst National and Islamic forces and reviving the PLO institutions, inside and outside of Palestine, on a democratic basis utilizing proportional representation in its structure, leadership and decision making, and including all factions.
It is critical that all Palestinian National and Islamic forces join hands in a common national front and unified national leadership, expressing the democratic will of the Palestinian people and rejecting all such attempts to negotiate or undermine any and all of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, joins the Arab masses and the international community in a call for the unity of all Arab forces in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people and of all Arab people for self-determination and liberation, and for the unity and action of all progressive, antiwar, anti-imperialist and anticolonial forces internationally in full solidarity with our struggle for liberation and return.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, affirms that the right to return is the central and fundamental core of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation, and it must be guarded, protected and struggled for by a unified leadership and national movement that represents the entire Palestinian people, in 1948-occupied Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza, and throughout the Diaspora.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, in its Second International Convention, hereby affirms its full support for the Palestinian right to resist occupation and apartheid in 1948 and 1967 occupied lands as guaranteed by International Law.
The Palestinian resistance is confronting brutal genocide assaults dedicated to the eradication of the existence of a Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli occupation, sustained and aided by US imperialist support to the Zionist project.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, affirms its stand by the Iraqi resistance to US, UN and all foreign occupations, as a legitimate right guaranteed by international law. We join the Arab masses and the international community in calling for Iraqi unity, which would be capable of leading the Iraqi people in their struggle for liberation.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, joins the Palestinian people and the international community in condemning and rejecting the Bush promise of April 14, 2004, and all such future US promises to Israel, stating that Israel does not have to dismantle its settlements, and does not have to implement the Right to Return-related UN resolutions.
The US policy is in violation of international law and a continuation of the ongoing institutional, financial, military and political support to the Zionist assault against the Palestinian people by the US government.
We condemn Kofi Annan’s repeated statements that demand that Palestinians agree to the Road Map.
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, adopts the following Points of Unity.
- This Coalition affirms that the Palestinian Arab people, regardless of their religious affiliation, are indigenous to Palestine. Therefore, they are entitled to live anywhere in Palestine which encompasses present-day “Israel”, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This Coalition regards the “Israeli” definition of Jewish nationals, granting exclusive rights to citizenship and land to any Jew from anywhere in the world, as part of the racism and discrimination inherent in Zionist ideology which underlies the policies and laws of the settler state of “Israel”.
- This Coalition unequivocally supports the rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns, villages and lands anywhere in Palestine from which they were expelled. This Coalition also unequivocally supports the rights of all Palestinian refugees to compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives, and to restitution of all destroyed and confiscated property. All Palestinians are entitled to the rights to self-determination, to political, economic and civil equality, and to live in a single democratic state for all its citizens in all of Palestine. The Palestinian national identity encompasses more than 5.5 million people living in exile, more than 2.5 million living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and more than 1.2 million living within the areas of Palestine controlled by “Israel” since 1948.
- This Coalition firmly stands against the continued displacement of Palestinians, the construction of illegal Jewish-only colonies in the form of residential settlements, the racist confiscation of land and the demolition of homes since 1948. This Coalition firmly stands against the collective punishment of Palestinians, and all violations of Palestinian civil, economic, political, national and human rights. This Coalition abhors and condemns the use of massacres and abuse of civilians to further the expansion of “Israel” to the detriment of Palestinian society.
- This Coalition supports the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and views it as a struggle against all forms of colonialism. This struggle is inseparable from the universal and labor struggles for social, economic and national equality, development, justice and freedom against an imposed global new world order. This Coalition upholds all of the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This Coalition also upholds the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (Pub. L. 99-440) and the American Convention on Human Rights.
- This Coalition respects, recognizes, and supports the central role of Palestinian women in the struggle for national liberation and the right to return. This includes the leadership of Palestinian women in the right to return movement.
- This Coalition will work to educate the public about “Israeli” injustices the US government subsidizes with billions of dollars annually. Until the dismantlement of the exclusionary and racist character of “Israel”, and until all Palestinians are granted the right to return and achieve equality, this Coalition is united in working for and demanding:
- An end to all US political, military and economic aid to “Israel”
- The divestment of all public and private entities from all “Israeli” corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within “Israel”
- An end to the investment of Labor Union members’ pension funds in “Israel”
- The boycott of all “Israeli” products
- The right to return for all Palestinian refugees to their original towns, villages and lands with compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives
- The right for all Palestinian refugees to full restitution of all confiscated and destroyed property
- The formation of an independent, democratic state for all its citizens in all of Palestine
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, will create a committee to review and adapt its bylaws to correspond with the Points of Unity passed at Al-Awda 2004 Convention and the resolutions passed at Al-Awda’s 2003 Convention at Toronto and 2004 Convention at New York City.
PROGRAM OF ACTION FOR 2004-2005, YEAR OF PALESTINIAN RIGHT OF RETURN IN NORTH AMERICA
National Days of Action
May 15-22 — Week of Action to commemorate al-Nakba, with May 22 serving as a day of solidarity with the Montreal refugees facing deportation.
September 17-28 — Days of political and cultural activities commemorating the Sabra and Shatila massacre and the Aqsa Intifada.
Republican and Democratic National Conventions:
Al-Awda will link with demonstrations to have a strong Palestinian and solidarity presence at these demonstrations highlighting US support for Zionist colonialism and brutality in Palestine.
- A calendar of events will be established on the Al-Awda website for all Al-Awda activities nationally.
- Designating a day for coordinated, national cultural activities in support of the Right of Return.
- Grassroots letter-writing campaign against the Bush Declaration and in support of the Right of Return
- Organizing support campaigns for Palestinian refugees in Montreal.
- Organizing support campaigns for Palestinian refugees in Iraq.
- Promoting the Right of Return within labor unions.
- Publishing a training manual to protect and enhance the security and sustainability of the movement.
The continued onslaught on the Palestinian Right of Return is galvanizing support for that right. Today, the Right of Return has turned into a culture and into a mass popular movement, with increasing and far-reaching influence on Palestinian and world public opinion. Equally significant, this movement had succeeded in restraining any tendency amongst many Palestinian officials to compromise or derail that right.
As such, the Right of Return movement, of which Al-Awda is a part, constitutes a safeguard against any compromise. This movement is alive, vibrant and growing stronger every day. Al-Awda’s 2004 International Convention constituted a significant step in that direction.