August 05, 2007

What is Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition?

What is Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition ?

-- Calls for the Palestinian "Right of Return"
-- Seeks the dissolution of Israel

Has quoted the Hamas slogan, "Palestine will be free from the river to the sea"

Co-founded by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Zahi Damuni, and Jess Ghannam, Al-Awda (a.k.a. the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) describes itself as "a broad-based, non-partisan, democratic, and charitable organization of grassroots activists and students committed to comprehensive public education on the rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands of origin, and to be granted full restitution of all their confiscated and destroyed property in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Viewing Israel as an illegitimate entity with no right to exist as a sovereign nation, Al-Awda condemns what it calls the "Zionist[s'] insatiable need for colonial expansion and the systematic destruction of the indigenous Arab population." "For almost sixty years," Al-Awda adds, "the genocidal Israeli government has been murdering, exiling and maiming innocent Palestinians who wished simply to be left to live on their land with dignity and peace."

The refugees on whose behalf Al-Awda agitates were never expelled from their homeland; they voluntarily (for the most part) left their homes during the period just before and shortly after the commencement of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. They sought out safe haven during what they anticipated would be a brief war that the Arab allies would undoubtedly win, and fully expected to return to their homes once the fighting had stopped and the Jews had been exterminated. Instead, the Arab armies were defeated. Today Al-Awda calls for the readmittance not only of the relatively few survivors who were among the 725,000 original refugees, but also for the admittance of more than 7.2 million of their descendants.

Al-Awda lists the following "Points of Unity" as the key axioms upon which its mission is founded:

(a) "[T]he Palestinian Arab people, regardless of their religious affiliation, are indigenous to Palestine. Therefore, they are entitled to live anywhere in Palestine which encompasses present-day 'Israel,' the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Al-Awda regards the 'Israeli' definition of Jewish nationals, granting exclusive rights to citizenship and land to any Jew from anywhere in the world, as part of the racism and discrimination inherent in Zionist ideology which underlies the policies and laws of the settler state of 'Israel.'"

(b) "Al-Awda unequivocally supports the rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns, villages and lands anywhere in Palestine from which they were expelled. Al-Awda also unequivocally supports the rights of all Palestinian refugees to compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives, and to restitution of all destroyed and confiscated property."

(c) "Al-Awda will work to educate the public about 'Israeli' injustices the U.S. government subsidizes with billions of dollars annually. Until the dismantlement of the exclusionary and racist character of 'Israel,' and until all Palestinians are granted the right to return and achieve equality, Al-Awda is united in working for and demanding: an end to all U.S. political, military and economic aid to 'Israel'; the divestment of all public and private entities from all 'Israeli' corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within 'Israel'; an end to the investment of Labor Union members' pension funds in 'Israel'; the boycott of all 'Israeli' products; ... [and] the formation of an independent, democratic state for all its citizens in all of Palestine."

With thousands of members worldwide, Al-Awda has 17 local and regional chapters (in nine U.S. cities, two American universities, two Canadian cities, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and the United Kingdom). These chapters regularly sponsor anti-Israel exhibits, film festivals, lectures, and protests. In September and October of 2002, Al-Awda held anti-Israel rallies where its members sold t-shirts donning the famous Hamas quote, "Palestine will be free from the river to the sea."

A member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, Al-Awda lists New Jersey Solidarity as one of its "Coalition Committee Members" and the Palestine Children's Relief Fund as a "partner organization."

On July 14-16, 2006, Al-Awda and the General Union of Palestine Students at San Francisco State University co-sponsored the Fourth International Al-Awda Convention, which highlighted two main themes: (a) "Political and material isolation of the Genocidal Zionist State of Israel"; and (b) "Political and material support of the Palestinian refugee population." A featured speaker at the event was Michel Shehadeh, the host of "Radio Intifada," a KPFK-FM Los Angeles radio program named in honor of the Palestinian terrorist campaign seeking to destroy the State of Israel.

Source: Discover The Networks