Thursday, September 22, 2011

Will Palestine Be a State For All Palestinians?

This is a distressing interview published in Lebanon's Daily Star. Abdullah Abdullah, Palestine's ambassador to Lebanon, informs us that Palestinian refugees will not be given automatic citizenship in any newly created Palestinian state. This applies to Palestinians living in surrounding countries (including Lebanon), but also to Palestinians living in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza (that is, in the territory that comprises the to-be-created Palestinian state):
The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”

Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees.
The right of return that Abdullah says is to be negotiated would not only apply to those Palestinians whose origins are within the 1967 borders of the state, he adds. “The state is the 1967 borders, but the refugees are not only from the 1967 borders. The refugees are from all over Palestine. When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”

Of course, PA policy on this matter is not set by their Ambassador to Lebanon. Still, this is extremely troublesome on several levels. In terms of the desire to resolve the conflict, it is notable that the Ambassador explicitly is disclaiming that as an objective or a result of attaining statehood. In this, he echoes right-wing Israeli sentiment that the Palestinian movement is not fundamentally about attaining self-determination, but about obliterating Israel as well. Meanwhile, from a human rights framework, the Ambassador's position maintains and ratifies the stateless status of millions of Palestinians, including many which would be under the jurisdiction of the new Palestine. That sort of callousness should give everyone pause.

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