Toufiq left the West Bank in 1984 to study overseas. He studied in both the Philippines and India, gaining a PhD in linguistics. He is close to my age. 40 something. He and his brothers all work in the Gulf countries: U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Oman. He was lucky to go to Jordan instead of Lebanon, so he got a passport, instead of indefinite internment in a refugee camp. I've spoken about him before. His family had money, so he and his brothers got an education, and maybe because of that, he never would have ended up in a refugee camp no matter where he went. The sisters had the option to study too, but they didn't take it up.
His parents died while he was in India. That would have been in the nineties or late eighties. Both were only sixty. First his mother died, then two weeks later, his father. They say he died of a broken heart. They were farmers. They made olive oil. His older brothers and sisters remember when the West Bank was under Jordanian control, and Toufiq remembers it only under Israeli. As for his parents, I am not sure.
Anyway, if you have not returned to Palestine for six years, despite being born there, and despite growing up there, the Israelis no longer consider you a resident. The only way he can visit his homeland is for his sister to write a letter to the Israeli authorities, and if all is quiet in the West Bank, then he is granted permission to enter as a visitor. He did this once in 1995. So, in twenty-five years he has visited his homeland once, and he is not considered Palestinian, I guess, according to Israeli law. Unable to return, and really, unwilling to return until conditions improve, he has lived outside of his homeland longer than within it, and as stated above, under the occupying power, he cannot return even if he wanted to. However, under international law, the right to return is sacrosanct, and is particularly pertinent in the case of the Palestinians.
Unable to exercise the fundamental right of self-determination during the period of a the mandate, although recognized in the Covenant of the League of nations as a provisionally "independent" nation, the Palestinian people have struggled to regain this right since 1947, when the United Nations became involved in the Palestine issue and recommended the partition of Palestine into two states – one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish. While Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, on the basis of the Untied nations partition resolution, war and politics (both Israeli and Arab) prevented the Palestinian Arab state envisaged in the resolution in the resolution from coming into existenceInstead, after Israeli declarations of independence in 1948, and the consequent annexation of about 70% of the land designated for the Palestinian state, many Palestinians fled. When the remaining lands were invaded and occupied in 1967, further ethnic cleansing and exodus occurred and is still occurring.
The right of a person to return to his home in his native country traditionally has been included among an individual's fundamental rights. Only in the case of criminals was its denial regarded as a justifiable punishment, exile or banishment being regarded as one of the more severe penalties.Remember the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
"1. Everyone has a right to freedom of movement and residence without the borders of each State.Israel does not adhere to these principles in relation to the Palestinians. It, on the other hand, has the Law of Return, [which was]...enacted in 1950, [and which]... gives Jews, those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses the right to migrate to and settle in Israel and gain citizenship. At the same time, they can expel Israeli Arabs who are born in the state and raised there. Israel, in the past, has especially been scared of those promoting peaceful forms of resistance to occupation, stating: ''This nonviolence is a smart way to trigger Israeli violence and thus incite the uprising,'' which then triggers deportation in the case of the expulsion of a Jerusalem born and raised Arab who gained American citizenship. His story, linked to above, is one case among many. In the past, the current foreign minister, Lieberman, has suggested expulsion as a good policy for all Israeli Arabs, despite the generations upon generations they have lived on the land. He still seems to hold these views and they proved very popular at the recent elections.
"2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country".
Anyway, it is not necessarily safe for an adult male in the West Bank, and can anyone really bear the humiliation of check points, random strip searches and the constant presence of a foreign army nearby? The curtailing of movement and day to day life? The possibility of going to jail to join the other 10,000 Palestinians, many being held for many years without a trial, or worse? [T]en Palestinian legislative members and political leaders who are supposedly associated with Hamas in West Bank were kidnapped by Israeli forces the other day in relation to the breakdown of negotiations over the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat. There are many representatives of the Palestinian government, both Fatah and Hamas, in Israeli jails. Imagine how we would feel if New Zealand kept making incursions into Australia and kidnapping our members of parliament? Business as usual, I guess, and government representatives are the ones who make it into the news. There are many more who are not important enough to gain the few lines of print that newspapers allocate them. There are some who are dangerous. I doubt all 10,000 are. There seem to be just as many, if not more, dangerous IDF members. So saying, I wouldn't want my friend to take the risk of going to his nephew's wedding and possibly not coming back.
From Al Jazeera . Northern Ireland, anyone?
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Umm el-Fahm, said a group of about 100 Israeli right-wingers wanted to march in the town, home to about 15,000 Palestinians.
He said the group's march followed a supreme court decision that allowed them [the Israelis] to "excerise their sovereignty over the city".
"They wanted to come with Israeli flags and many people thought that was a very provocative decision," he said.