Haq al awda: Palestinian refugees’ views on the Right of return
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 23:36 authored by Sobhi Albadawi
Right of return has been a fundamental claim by Palestinian people since 1948. The ‘right’ refers to the political position or principle that all generations of Palestinian refugees have the right to return to the property they or their forebears left behind during the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, and following the 1967 Six-Day War. Our current understanding of the Palestinian refugee perspective of the right of return however is limited due to the potential impact of changing socio-political conditions on Palestinian refugees’ views and the relative marginalisation of the refugee voice in the peace process. The aim of this study is to examine and update Palestinian refugees’ views of the right of return. Towards this aim, five aspects are given focus: the negotiation for the right of return; the centrality of the right of return claim to Palestinian refugees; compensation and the right of return claim; resettlement and the right of return claim; and the phase out of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. This aim emerged directly in response to the marginalised Palestinian refugee voice and an interest in exploring the extent to which the right of return claim remains ‘sacred’ to them. Gaining access to interview refugees is challenging given the security situation and University ethics protocols. The study therefore adopted a quantitative research design including convenience sampling methods to recruit participants. The sample comprised 1200 participants from five refugee camps located in the West Bank. A self-administered survey instrument was used to facilitate the safe and confidential collection of data on the respondents’ views of a broad range of issues and social conditions. The survey was also designed to collect refugees’ demographic data (e.g., gender, age, education level attained etc.). This facilitated another key objective of this study; namely, to identify any significant relationships between demographic variables and refugee perceptions of the right of return claim or to its other key elements. Also considered in this thesis as a point of interest is the perceived ‘sacredness’ of the right of return to the Palestinian people as expressed in the literature. This study finds that most surveyed Palestinian refugees participants living in the West Bank are committed to the right of return as recommended in Resolution 194, and that most would not accept a peace agreement that did not include the provision for the right of return to their homeland. In addition, most surveyed Palestinian refugees reported that they would not accept compensation as a substitute for the right of return and just over half of all participants favoured resettlement in their original homes. Lastly, the surveyed Palestinian refugees overwhelmingly indicated that they wanted to remain aligned to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency until the right of return is actioned. The main conclusion drawn from these findings is that, even after 70 years of displacement, the right of return remains an active but changing political construct among Palestinians in refugee camps located in the West Bank. Furthermore, based on the findings indicating most respondents remain committed to Resolution 194 and demonstrate a general reluctance towards accepting compensation or resettlement as a substitute, this study concludes that the right of return claim maintains a sense of sacredness among the surveyed refugees. As such, future negotiations must consider the generational narratives and ensure that the right of return claim, resettlement, and compensation particularly are not treated as mutually exclusive in the delivery of a just solution to the displacement of Palestinian refugees.