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September 2000 - Return to Monthly Index    MiddleEast.Org 9/11/00
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MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington, DC - 9/12/00:

What could be done more thoughtfully than the way this coming Saturday's mini-march in Washington about the "Right of Return" for Palestinian refugees is currently planned?  That's an important question, once various MER articles have addressed in recent months in various ways, and one which deserves much urgent contemplation.

The biggest problem, though, is not a little change here or there.  It's the whole structure and context that is wrong.  After two generations now of bumbling along, of being used and co-opted, of being held in check and undermined by the very organizations they belong to, it's not a simple or easy matter to correct such a tragic situation in the confused, mislead, and demoralized Arab American community.

But even so, when it comes to this Saturday's rally specifically, making that more serious and more real can still be done in the following two simple ways:

LOCATION.  First of all getting together on Pennsylvania Avenue and walking over a few blocks to Lafayette Park is hardly what the situation cries out for.  Rather, the demo should start at the Israeli Embassy -- that's where the major initial shouting should take place -- and then march right down nearby Connecticut Avenue to the White House.  Actually, and its so convenient as they are both nearby, brief stops at the Jordanian and Egyptian Embassies would be in order before heading down Connecticut.  These are the two Arab regimes that have worked most closely with the Israelis and Americans to create today's situation and the two regimes which are now pressing Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the U.S. and Israel, to sign this "apartheid peace" -- one which will do more to prevent the "Right of Return" than any document ever agreed to by any Palestinian leader.

Oh yes, one more little diversion on the way down to the White House -- which by the way is only about a 45 minute walk from the Israeli Embassy.  There ought to be a stop as well at the downtown offices of the Arab League, where Arafat also has his offices.  For the Arafat Regime itself has very much become a part of the overall plot to prevent the "Right of Return" for the great majority of Palestinians -- no matter what crafty rhetoric is uttered otherwise.

SPEAKERS.  About the last thing anyone should want to hear is another rhetoric bombast by either of the Maksoud's, or Jim Zogby, or Hisham Sharabi, or Nihad Awad.  Taken all together their credibility is way in the minus zone.  They and their client organizations are in fact among those also responsible for the desperate state of affairs in Washington these days, having greatly enriched themselves personally while squandering so much valuable time and money to no significant effect.

All the organizers of Saturday's rally have to do is get themselves a couple of cell phones and a loud-speaker system to connect them up to.  Then let them call Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, in Syria, and in Lebanon and invite a representative of each camp to speak for 15 minutes about how they really view this "peace process" and their agonizing plight.  It is THEIR plight afterall, and few of those who are going to be in Washington Saturday have ever even been to a refugee camp themselves!

And then after a little break and just a few words from the American organizers -- a very few please! -- let them go back to the refugee camps and call some in historic Palestine, near Nablus, near Ramallah, near Jerusalem, and in Gaza.

The whole thing would only take a couple of hours and a few hundred dollars and for the first time ever the real Palestinian refugees would be heard loudly in Washington -- unfiltered, uncensored, unrestrained.

Indeed, why not make this a conference call and let everyone from the other camps hear what those in the other camps have to say.  And let them speak honestly and spontaneously and with dignity -- don't censor them or twist things toward any particular outcome.  LET THEM SPEAK THEMSELVES ABOUT THEMSELVES!

Now let's be clear about this.  Not just one sanitized and approved refugee, that's not what we're talk about!  We're talking about calling at least half a dozen camps throughout the region and letting them choose their own spokesperson and tell us what they want us to hear.

But of course we're not naive about this.  We know very well the organizers of  Saturday rally aren't likely to do any of this.  They are too afraid.  They are too infiltrated.  There are too cowardly to do such creative and controversial and uncontrolled things of this kind.

They won't even mention that the Hashemite regime has collaborated with the Israelis going back to the 40s, and is greatly responsible for what happened to the Palestinians in the past and for their plight today.  Or that the Hashemite regime has siphoned away over $25 billion dollars into their own pockets, while the great majority of the Jordanian/Palestinian people are so poor and needy.

They won't mention that the Egyptians have been working closely with the CIA and Mossad for years, are well paid for their assistance, and that this situation explains why they are pressuring Arafat to sign the "apartheid peace" which does more to disenfranchise the great majority of Palestinians than any previous agreement ever.

They won't mention that Arafat's top cronies have become multi-millionaires and built splendid villas for themselves, not far from the squalid refugee camps, as a result of various "Peace Process" payoffs -- whereas the lot of the Palestinian people has gotten worse and worse as a result of their corruption, incompetence, repression, and grossly self-serving ways.

And they won't mention that while they are spending a few hours in Washington shouting simple slogans about the "Right of Return" the "agreement" Arafat is being cornered into signing is specifically designed to make that "Right of Return" all but impossible -- with less than 20% of what was Palestine to be "autonomous" and without agricultural lands, water resources, jobs, and even the freedom to come and go without Israeli "supervision".  All these are being stripped away while the Palestinian patrimony and society is further dissected and fractured by this latest disengenuous "peace process".

Just where is it the nearly 4 million refugees are going to return to?

Now just in case we're wrong about this and there are among the organizers some honorable and courageous people with real guts and convictions, here are a few specific suggestions to give them a head start.  Start with Dr. Hisham Ahmed at Deheishe Camp near Bethlehem - an amazing man born a blind refugee in a cold tent who has become a university Professor of International Relations.  Move on to Ghazi Asadi, a simple but smart grocer in Ein el-Hilweh, the largest camp in Lebanon.  And then of course we have to hear from survivors in both Sabra and Shatilla Camps, sites of the most recent horrible massacres in 1982; before moving on to more real refugees in Jordan, Syria, and the big camps in Gaza.

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