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Open Letter to Al-Awda, August 26, 2005

August 26th, 2005

NOTE: This open letter from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to Al-Awda comes in response to a May 2005 resolution passed by its Coordinating Committee, which reads, in part:  

"No chapter of Al-Awda is to formally associate itself, nor establish any formal relationship with the [sic] U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, the United for Peace and Justice Coalition, or any organization that refuses to support the right of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their original homes, farms, villages and towns in any part of Palestine as it existed before the establishment of 'Israel' in 1948, and to compensation."

Open Letter from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to Al-Awda, August 26, 2005

It is with both surprise and disappointment that the leadership of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation heard of a declaration by a group within the national Al-Awda campaign which forbids member organizations from associating with the US Campaign.  The reasons apparently have to do with the stance of the US Campaign on the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees.  Though it is hard to imagine that there remains any confusion on this issue, the purpose of this open letter is to clarify.

From its inception, the US Campaign has endorsed all relevant UN resolutions and international human rights conventions, including those regarding the Right of Return.  Thus, the US Campaign has always endorsed the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to homes they left, for whatever reason, and to receive compensation for losses. 

For its first two years, the issue of the Right of Return was not a prominent part of the work of the US Campaign, the tactical decision having been taken to focus on other aspects of US government and corporate policies in support of Israeli human rights violations.   But there was never a question of support for UNGA resolution 194.  In response to widespread confusions and rumors, a letter from the Steering Committee was read publicly at the 2003 US Campaign annual conference, and entered into the official record.  This letter reiterated the commitment of the US Campaign to all relevant aspects of international law together with the explicit understanding that this included the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to receive compensation.

At the 2004 conference a year later, the membership adopted the Right of Return as one of its key priority areas for educational work.  Again, this was done publicly and on the record without the slightest equivocation and received the unanimous support of the US Campaign leadership.   At this point, the US Campaign felt confident that rumors would be put to rest.  Unfortunately this confidence was mistaken. 

It is hard to know what else to say.  It is hard to know how confusion on the position of the US Campaign could, at this point, be honest or well intentioned.  Since no one involved in the effort to disassociate Al-Awda from the US Campaign has made any effort to speak with the Steering Committee of the US Campaign, we really have no idea what motives are behind this effort.  It has been suggested to us that our association with United for Peace and Justice is troubling to some.  Though there are member groups of United For Peace and Justice which disagree with the US Campaign on important issues concerning Palestine, every member group of United for Peace and Justice has agreed to support an end to all aid to Israel and it is our belief that the only way to encourage such groups to develop their views in a more consistent direction is by engaging with them.  As such, we believe continued work within this broad coalition of progressive organizations to be important.  United for Peace and Justice has provided substantial support for many US Campaign projects, and continues to do so.

To reiterate, there is no question about the position or commitment of the US Campaign regarding the Right of Return. In light of this, we continue to welcome the participation of any and all Al-Awda chapters or individual members who wish to work with us and we welcome constructive criticism and debate as we all strive to strengthen our work in solidarity with Palestine.  For those who choose not to work with us, that is their right.  It is not, however, anyone’s right to spread deliberate misinformation and we therefore call on those urging disassociation, in the spirit of basic fairness and honesty, to circulate this letter to their members.

In solidarity,

Steering Committee

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation