The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, has said that the issue of Palestinian refugees is ongoing, demonstrates the steadfastness of the people and confirms their commitment to resistance and their legitimate right of return. Haniyeh made his comments during a popular conference in Gaza under the banner “Defending the Right of Return and Confronting the Deal of the Century”.
The former democratically-elected Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority added that the refugee issue is historical proof of the plight of the Palestinian people and their displacement, as well as their exile and diaspora. It is, he pointed out, one of the pillars of the Palestinian cause.
Haniyeh told participants at the conference that the refugee issue is particularly significant, having been subject to conspiracy ever since the very first wave of displacement. The US “deal of the century”, he explained, targets the refugees and Jerusalem, control of the occupied West Bank, and the growth of the illegal Jewish settlements that continue to steal more Palestinian land. “The US administration is already busy with its plan to liquidate the refugee issue, beginning with the closure of UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], stopping humanitarian aid, and putting pressure on countries that continue to support the Agency.” Washington has also redefined the term “refugee” in order to limit the number of refugees to tens of thousands rather than the millions of Palestinians forced to live outside their homeland.
The Hamas leader called for a national strategy based on several factors. “We are facing an occupation phase that does not include negotiations, recognition or peace with the enemy. We are in a phase of liberation from the occupation.” Moreover, he insisted that there is a need to organise the Palestinian polity on the principle of partnership and recognition of all sections of society engaged within the national arena. “The principle of exclusion, marginalisation, delegitimisation — or attempts to delegitimise any factions or forces — cannot lead to national unity and an organised society.”
The third factor, said Haniyeh, is resistance in its comprehensive concept, including popular and armed resistance. “This includes political and diplomatic operations that must remain committed to national constants,” he stressed. “If we can act based on these factors to build a national strategy, we will be able to thwart all conspiracies and plans that target the refugee issue and Jerusalem.”
Haniyeh also mentioned that there are efforts being made to get Palestinians to migrate from Palestine, and to leave the refugee camps in neighbouring countries and move to Europe. “This is happening in Lebanon; the enemy [Israel] is pressuring Jerusalemites; and some media outlets are encouraging migration from Gaza.” All of this, he said, is part of the Zionist-American plan to eliminate and dissolve the issue of refugees. “Nevertheless, our people remain committed to their legitimate right of return and reject resettlement elsewhere, an alternative homeland and displacement. The future of Palestinians is in their homeland, including Jerusalem and their sanctities.”
The Hamas politician affirmed the Palestinian people’s complete solidarity and support for their fellow Palestinians in Lebanon and its refugee camps. “They reject the decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labour, who is trying to equate Palestinians with other foreigners, and deprives them of their political status as Palestinian refugees.”
Despite this, Haniyeh told the audience in Gaza that he is willing to support the Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue, which will focus on the conditions of refugees in the camps and providing a decent life for refugees there until they are able to return to Palestine.
In conclusion, the senior official called for the lifting of the pressure on Palestinians in many countries who suffer from the lack of a passport or travel documents, as well as education. All of these issues are set out by Arab League resolutions, which clearly express the rights guaranteed to Palestinians in host countries until they return to their homeland in Palestine.