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Arab 'Right of Return' Conference: We Demand Kibbutz Land

Organizers of a "Right of Return" conference held in Nazareth called upon Arab parties to include the return of Arabs to land left in 1948, most of which, they say, is now owned by kibbutzim.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 12/20/2005, 8:27 AM / Last Update: 12/20/2005, 10:56 AM

Last weekend the conference, entitled "The Right of Return and a Just Peace" took place in the Arab city of Nazareth, in the Galilee.

The main aim of the conference was to induce Arab parties to introduce the concept of the Right of Return into their platforms. According to a conference statement, "The 'Right of Return' must be incorporated into their political agenda, so that Israel is not able to extort recognition as a Jewish state from the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries."

Dozens of Israeli Jews, many from left-wing kibbutzim, took part in the conference as well, including extreme-leftist professor Dr. Ilan Pappe. "Not all Jews are hard-hearted or boorish with regard to the hallowed Nakba [literally tragedy, the Arab term used to describe Israel's founding -ed.]," Pappe said. "We are a minority, but exist."

One of the conference's main speakers, Salman Abu-Sitta, told those present that getting Israel to return land within the pre-1967 is not a dream, but something that will be done in the near future. "We must continue to struggle for the right of return because it is able to be actualized"

Abu-Sitta said that it is ironic that the Kibbutz movement in Israel, a bastion of left-wing political strength, occupies 93% of the land the Arabs claim as their own. "The number of Jews in the country will dissipate with time and they will no longer be the majority…There is no other way but implementing justice in order to arrive at peace," he said.

Conference organizers protested the fact that Israel did not allow the participation of Kassam Kassam, the spokesman for the Palestinian Refugee Network in Europe. At the conference's conclusion, organizers declared the incident would not pass quietly. "The expulsion of Kassam Kassam [who was denied a visa –ed.] only strengthens our will to strengthen the connection with our nation in exile and our homeland in the battle for the right of return."

Organizers read a speech prepared by Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, who was recently released from prison after serving time for supporting Hamas. Salah emphasized the importance of locating and preserving the Muslim and Christian cemeteries located in Arab villages destroyed in 1948. "We need to draw the attention of Palestinian society toward the phenomenon of the selling of our land, through middle-men and agencies, to Jews and the Israeli government."

Arabs that sell property to Jews often have to move overseas under new identities in order to escape murder by other Arabs. At the same time, land in Jerusalem is being bought up by PLO proxies and PA Arabs are even moving into Jerusalem neighborhoods such a Pisgat Ze'ev, as Israeli law does not prohibit selling of land to Arabs.

There are currently no parties in the Knesset calling for the return of the Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 at the behest of the attacking Arab armies. Israel's position is that the return of those who left, together with their children and grandchildren, will lead to the democratic nullification of the Jewish state. There are some left-wing parties and movements suggesting compensation for those Arabs or allowing the return of a token number to Israel.