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About the Palestinian Right of Return
Gilad Atzmon: The "Return" of Ali Abuminah

Ali Abunimah, the Chicago-based, American-Palestinian activist, is, once again, on the attack. In the last few months he has launched campaigns against some of the most prominent pro-Palestinian figures such as Prof. Finkelstein, Prof. Chomsky, Greta Berlin, Col. Ann Wright and myself. But now he seems to stepping one gear up.

9 November 2012

Following PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ renunciation of the Palestinian Right of Return (ROR) on Israeli TV, Abunimah now criticizes both Abbas and legendary Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat for compromising the most elementary Palestinian cause i.e. the ROR.

Abunimah is a Palestinian exile and so deserves our support for criticising his leaders’ compromising of his most precious right. Still, it’s hard to grasp just why Abunimah is so outraged by Abbas’ comment when he himself is so intimately associated with the BDS and its leader Omar Barghouti who has sacrificed exactly the same right.

It was back in June when we were so shocked to find that BDS in Ramallah changed its 2005 goal statement. To its original statement “Ending (Israeli) occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” it added four simple but nonetheless highly significant, words. BDS’ first goal now reads:

“Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall”.

In his recent book, Omar Barghouti reaffirms the above. In the introduction to his book, Barghouti specifies that the first BDS goal refers to 1967 "ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands [occupied in 1967] and dismantling the wall" (p. 6). On page 49, Barghouti lists "the minimal requirements of a just peace...BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and other Arab territories in Lebanon and Syria." Skipping to p. 235, Appendix 1, "Call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel," it again refers to "military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967."

Barghouti’s book and the BDS’s goal statement do not leave much room for speculation. They all have given op on pre-1948 Palestine. But what about the 1948 refugees and the 194 United Nation Resolution [1]? BDS 3rd goal contends that it is “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194”

BDS indeed ‘respects’ , ‘protects’ and ‘promotes’ the ROR, yet it clearly comes short of ‘demanding’ . Let me assure Mr. Abunimah that PLO’s Abbas is also committed to ‘respect’, ‘protect’ and ‘promote’ the ROR.’ Yet, like BDS and Barghouti he fails to demand.

More significantly, both BDS and Omar Bargouti refused to Join or support The Global March to Jerusalem earlier this year. The Global March to Jerusalem was a symbolic reminder of the Palestinian right to return to their homes and land. Surprise surprise, Ali Abunimah also failed to support the March. Today, chief organizer of the Global March confirmed with me that he personally approached Mr. Abunimah back in March, but, for some reason, Abunimah declined to offer his support.

One may wonder why Abunimah picks on Abbas and Arafat yet fails to condemn BDS, Bargouti or even himself? One possible answer is that Abunimah, quite simply, does not have much ethical or moral integrity in his system. It is also possible that Prof’ Finkelstein’s diagnosis is correct - the Palestinian solidarity movement, and the BDS in particular are now operating as a cult. It is also possible that Abunimah is now serving Israeli, Zionist or Jewish interests. This would explain why he engages in a relentless campaign against our leading scholars, activists and now even against Arafat and his legacy. It may also be possible that Abunimah is just a populist. He could have thought that attacking Berlin, Finkelstein, Chomsky, Wright, Arafat or Abbas would make him popular amongst his Jewish followers and funders. In fact, it may be that all these explanations are equally valid.

However, here’s the twist. I actually agree with Abunimah. I myself have dedicated the last two decades of my life to fight for the Palestinian ROR only to discover that some Palestinian leaders may not be interested in it at all. But if Abunimah ever wants to return to Lifta, his mother’s village, I will certainly fight for him and with him.

Ali Abunimah must understand that if he wants to return to his land he might have to pick a gun and learn how defend himself. He will have to accept that liberation may demand sacrifice.

I’ve never seen a picture of Ali Abunimah in combat gear, though the issue can be easily resolved thanks to photoshop. However, this Chicago Palestinian activist may have to think it through and decide whether he really wants to return to his mother’s village. Because it seems to me that, in the light of his recent campaigns against the enemies of Israel, he may actually prefer to return to Tel Aviv, that 24/7 liberal non-stop, Jews-only metropolis.

Gilad Atzmon
gilad.co.uk, November 9, 2012.

[1194 UN Resolution article 11 directly addresses the Palestinian refuge issue. It reads as follows: “ Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
The bitter truth is that resolution 194/ article 11 does not offer Palestinian refugees much, it in practice offer them to return to live peacefully in a Jews Only State or, alternatively, being compensated. It is actually far from being clear, why would any Palestinian cling to this resolution rather than grounding one’s call for liberation on an ethical and universal right.