Standing for the right of return

Jewish activists, authors, scholars and supporters of Palestinian liberation expressed their support for this essential right in a statement issued New Year's Day.

Palestinian children in the Shatila refugee camp in LebanonPalestinian children in the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon

"For Palestinians, the right to return home and the right to live in dignity and equality in their own land are not any less important than the right to live free of military occupation."
--Prof. Saree Makdisi

FOR MORE than a century, Zionists have sought to construct a "Jewish state" through forced removal of the indigenous Palestinian people.

In 1948, this state was established through the Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic): erasure and occupation of more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages, dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians and a terror campaign of which the massacre at Deir Yassin is but the most infamous example.

Since 1967, Israel has also occupied and colonized the remainder of historic Palestine. Today, this relentless ethnic cleansing continues--armed and financed by the U.S. and its allies--on both sides of the 1948 "Green Line."

As a cumulative result, 70 percent of Palestinians are in exile, the world's largest refugee population.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Gaza, where Israel inflicts particularly brutal collective punishment on 1.7 million people--most of them refugees--for defiantly resisting expulsion from their homes throughout historic Palestine.

"Pick a point, any point, along [Gaza's] 25-mile coastline," writes Gaza City resident Lara Aburamadan, "and you're seven or so miles--never more--from the other side. The other side is where my grandparents were born, in a village that has since become someone else's country, off limits to me. You call it Israel. I call it the place where the bombs come from."

To hide these crimes and shield itself from their consequences, the Zionist regime officially denies the Nakba, the ethical equivalent of Holocaust denial. It has even authorized legislation to penalize those who memorialize the Nakba--a step toward criminalizing its observance altogether.

What you can do

To sign on to the statement as an individual or organization, go to this Google Doc. You can also share, invite friends and repost the Facebook event page.

As it is for all colonized peoples, liberation means reversing dispossession. "The Palestinian cause," writes Dr. Haidar Eid in Gaza, "is the right of return for all refugees and nothing less."

Return--one of the key demands of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign--is affirmed in UN Resolution 194, but derives from the principle of universal human rights and, as such, cannot be renounced or abandoned by any body or representative; it inalienably attaches to Palestinians, both individually and collectively.

Despite this, even some who criticize Israel's 1967 occupation claim that Palestinian return is "unrealistic."

However, solidarity means unconditional support for the just aims of those resisting oppression. As Palestinian journalist-activist Maath Musleh explains, "If you think that [return] is not possible, then you are really not in solidarity with the Palestinian cause."

Some also object that refugees' return would mean an end to the "Jewish state." But supporters of social justice must ask themselves how they can defend a state whose very existence depends on structural denial of Palestinian rights.

Recently, more than 100 leading Palestinian activists reaffirmed their opposition "to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and other forms of bigotry directed at anyone, and in particular people of color and indigenous peoples everywhere."

Such racism and bigotry is reflected precisely in Zionism's attempt to erase the Palestinian people, a century-long campaign that dishonors the memory of Jewish suffering and resistance in Europe.

The moral response is clear: "There is one geopolitical entity in historic Palestine," writes Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah. "Israel must not be allowed to continue to entrench its apartheid, racist and colonial rule throughout that land."

As Jews of conscience, we call on all supporters of social justice to stand up for Palestinian Right of Return and a democratic state throughout historic Palestine--"from the River to the Sea"--with equal rights for all.

The full measure of justice, upon which the hopes of all humanity depend, requires no less.

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Initial signers

Max Ajl, Writer and activist; Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine
Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network Switzerland
Max Blumenthal, Journalist and author
Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Filmmaker, photographer and film studies scholar
Lenni Brenner, Author and antiwar activist
Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
Sonia Fayman, French Jewish Union for Peace; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network France
Sherna Berger Gluck, Founding member, U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; Israel Divestment Campaign
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Coordinator, Fellowship of Reconciliation Peacewalks, Mural Arts in Palestine and Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network Spain
Abraham Greenhouse, Blogger, Electronic Intifada
Tony Greenstein, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
Jeff Halper, Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Stanley Heller, Host of "The Struggle" TV News
Tikva Honig-Parnass, Former member of the Zionist armed forces (1948); author of False Prophets of Peace: Liberal Zionism and the Struggle for Palestine
Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss.net
Selma James, Global Women's Strike; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK
David Klein, Organizing Committee, U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Dennis Kortheuer, Organizing Committee, U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; Israel Divestment Campaign; Dump Veolia LA
David Letwin, Activist and writer; Gaza Freedom March
Michael Letwin, Co-Founder, Labor for Palestine; Organizing Committee, U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Antony Loewenstein, Australian journalist and author
Barbara Lubin, Executive Director, Middle East Children's Alliance
Mike Marqusee, Author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
Hajo Meyer, Auschwitz survivor; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Linda Milazzo, Participatory journalist and educator
Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist
Miko Peled, Author of The General's Son
Karen Pomer, Granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor
Diana Ralph, Assistant Coordinator, Independent Jewish Voices-Canada
Dorothy Reik, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains
Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, President, International League for Human Rights (German Section FIDH); Founding member, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace – EJJP Germany
Rachel Roberts, Civil rights attorney and writer
Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Carol K. Smith, Activist and civil rights attorney
Lia Tarachansky, Director, Seven Deadly Myths
Hadas Thier, Contributing author of The Struggle for Palestine; Israeli-born daughter and granddaughter of Nazi Holocaust survivors
Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, Jewish People's Liberation Organization (Montréal)
Sherry Wolf, Author and public speaker; International Socialist Organization; Adalah-NY
Marcy Winograd, Former Congressional peace candidate; public school teacher
Dr. Roger van Zwanenberg, Non-Executive Director, Pluto Books Ltd.
List in formation. Affiliations listed for identification only.