lifted from minervanett.no (google translate)
In an Arabic-language magazine the Norwegian People’s Aid uses militant rhetoric in the fight for the Palestinians’ right to return.
“We’re going back.” It is the title of a project Norwegian People’s Aid has initiated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Funded by Norwegian taxpayers through Norad. The aim is to create awareness about “the Palestinians’ right to return.” The work takes place in areas of conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.
As part of the project is the annual commemoration of the Palestinian nakba, the day of the establishment of Israel. The word nakba means “catastrophe”. The campaign has also set several other local footprint, including the release of an Arabic-language magazine about the creation of the state of Israel and a lecture about the same question at Birzeit University near Ramallah.
The Norwegian People’s Aid’s is also active among Lebanese refugees with efforts to raise awareness about the Palestinians’ right to return. ”
Norwegian People’s Aid is already known as a strong pro-Palestinian organization. Obviously, this is acceptable in general. One can of course be critical of the People’s Aid statements about Israeli “apartheid” and adherence to various Boycott Israel campaigns. But it is an obvious part of freedom of expression of an NGOs statements on political issues, including organizations that receive large government budget appropriations.
But it is not obvious that the Norwegian authorities ought to finance political agitation in conflict areas. Especially when the political agitation intends to or practice will help to fuel and not to dampen the conflict.
Norad writes about the priorities for Norwegian assistance in Palestine that one of the goals is “peace and reconciliation”. How this harmonizes with Norwegian People’s Aid commitment to the right to return is unclear.
In summary, the sustained commitment on the Palestinian side of the “right to return” one of the biggest hurdles for peace. A recent example was when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated and made clear that he was not expecting to return to their ancestral areas in Safed in Israel today, as part of a peace settlement.
Hamas responded by saying that “no one has the right to give away the refugee’s right to return, it is a sacred and immutable right.” The leftist group PFLP came with similar statements.
“The right to return” has traditionally been the main cause for radical Palestinian groups, which have been adversaries or skeptical of peace negotiations with Israel. In particular, the Palestinian left groups like the PFLP and DFLP emphasized this “right”, but also Hamas and radical wings of Fatah have used this as an argument against signing a two-state solution and a compromise with Israel.
A similar rhetoric we find in an Arabic-language magazine published as part of the Norwegian People’s Aid campaign to create awareness about the right to return. Here we can read, among other that “any peace settlement must be based on the Palestinians’ right to return to their homes as they were driven from.”
The slogan embossed text reminds statement from Hamas. The rhetoric of the People’s Aid magazine is at times militant.
“The right to return is sacred. It is not open to negotiation or compromise. ”
“The Refugee issue is a key issue, not just a problem that must be negotiated on to solve or find a way from. It is a question of rights and this right can not or will never be gone. Thousands martyrs have sacrificed blood for this right that that is untouchable. ”
There is no doubt that injustice was committed against the Arab population in the British Mandated Palestine in connection with the Israeli-Arab war that led to the establishment of Israel. Recent Israeli history research also confirms this. There is now considerable consensus in Israeli academia that Israeli forces expelled Palestinians from their homes and that the management of the Israeli forces were aware of this.
One of those who has spearheaded this effort is Benny Morris, which must be considered in the center or right side an Israeli political scale. Although Morris is clear that injustice was committed against the Palestinians in 1948, he is also aware that the right to return, meaning that the current five million Palestinian refugees, would inevitably lead to a new disaster.
“To implement the right of return will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Jewish state,” Morris told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2012.
Another aspect is how the refugee question is used to prevent the integration of Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries where they have now lived for three generations. Palestinians in Lebanon suffer the most. Here they are denied access to large parts of the labor market and especially professional life, making it pointless for Palestinians to seek higher education.
An article in Middle East Quarterly documents how the Lebanese authorities are held insufficiently accountable for discrimination against Palestinians. The UN organization, UNRWA, is insufficiently addressing these issues.
But here the Norwegian People’s Aid moves in the diametrically opposite direction. Instead of working for the integration of the Palestinians, “The Norwegian People’s Aid work for the Palestinians’ right to return,” David Schenker, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,concludes.
This is a known issue. Because the refugee question is “holy” and not open to negotiations, Palestinian groups have in practice contributed to the problems we have faced in solving refugee problems in neighboring countries. Unfortunately the Norwegian People contributes also here in a negative way. It is difficult to see how this work is related to the Norad objective to “strengthen civil society.”
The Norwegian People’s Aid’s representative in Lebanon has previously commented on the aid organization’s goal that the refugees should return. There is clearly something the organization has a strong focus on, not only in their political work but also in the field.
– We know that when we start a campaign we must work an achievable goal, Wafa Yassir, who then led the Norwegian People’s Aid in Lebanon, told the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada on 25 January 2008.
– We know that the right to return is not an easy target. It may not happen in our lifetime. But we must fight for the next generation and generations to come. And one day it will happen, because it is our historical right and we will not give up.
If one goes further back there are also a number of other initiatives Norwegian People’s Aid has supported.
Fuel to the fire
Support for Norwegian People’s Aid work for the refugees to return is of course only a small proportion of the total aid to Palestinian refugees and state-building in Palestinian areas. Nevertheless, it is not unproblematic that a Norwegian aid organization working in a way that seemingly contradicts the official Norwegian objectives in the Middle East, to contribute to a solution to the protracted and deadlocked conflict.
One of the reasons that the conflict persists is the constant stream of support from radical and extremist groups abroad, to both sides of the conflict. Militant Palestinian groups have many friends in the Arab world but also in the West. Just as Israeli settlers and extremist groups also have support, especially from western Christian Zionists. Both these extremes help to carry fuel to the fire.So does the Norwegian People’s Aid. In future, it should happen without support from Norad.