On May 15, Palestinians across the world mourn al-Nakba, the destruction of historic Palestine and the massive displacement of Palestinians by Israeli forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Al-Nakba was not a singular event; displacement continues to this day affecting thousands of Palestinians throughout the Middle East. There are approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 internally displaced persons, representing 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million). [i]
Internal displacement continues, unabated, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Thousands of Palestinians have been forcibly displaced as a result of the building of the wall, home demolition, and eviction orders. The threat of displacement hangs over those who remain.
Similar patterns of forced displacement are found in Israel, where urban development plans for the exclusive benefit of Jewish communities are displacing indigenous Palestinian communities in places like Naqab (Negev) and Galilee.
More recently on March 9, 2010, the Netanyahu government approved the development of 1,600 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, a policy condemned by the U.S. This development will forcibly displace several families from their land.
Palestinian refugees in host countries are also vulnerable to forced displacement. For instance, as a result of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, persecution has forced over half of the approximately 34,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Iraq to leave the country. Additionally, over 31,000 people were displaced from Nahr al-Bared camp in Lebanon in 2007, and most have not been able to return. Palestinians constitute the largest and most protracted refugee situation in the world.
Sixty three years after their initial forced displacement from their homeland, Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons still lack access to voluntary durable solutions and reparations — which include return, restitution, and compensation — based on international law and UN resolutions.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is mandated to provide assistance to 1948 Palestinian refugees, and on an emergency and temporary basis to1967 Palestinian refugees and to those displaced as a result of subsequent hostilities. UNRWA faces many difficulties in implementing its mandate due to funding shortages and armed conflicts in the region, in particular Israel’s military occupation.
ADC is committed to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Any peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict requires the following: The dismantlement of the Israeli Wall which is being constructed through the illegal annexation of Palestinian lands; the cessation and dismantlement of settlements; an end to the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli occupation policies; the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state; and the upholding of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees under international law. ADC will continue to advocate the rights of the Palestinian people to freedom, equality and self-determination in an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
[i] Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.
The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.