Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Josh Ruebner on Negotiating Peace and Redefining Refugees

Last Wednesday, US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner spoke on the Palestine Center's panel of "Negotiating Peace" regarding President Obama's strategy toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Mr. Ruebner, despite changed rhetoric, Obama's actual efforts at promoting peace have been no different than those under previous presidents.  Ruebner argues that Obama has continued to try to “sell” Israeli ideas to Palestinians, promoted negotiations for the sake of negotiations, and held that the U.S.-led "peace process" is the sole means to conflict resolution with alternatives shoved aside.  Ruebner also suggests that the continued inability to the United States to provide Palestinians with fair negotiations under Obama has led to a Palestinian effort to bring the conflict back to an international stage for mediation.  

On Monday, Mr. Ruebner was interviewed by the Institute for Palestine Studies regarding a recent U.S. Senate motion seeking to redefine Palestinian refugees. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment to an appropriations bill asking that the State Department determine how many Palestinian refugees were born before the Nakba in 1948 and how many were born after. The State Department argued, in Ruebner's words, that such a definitive status could “prejudice who is considered a Palestinian refugee," which in turn "Would affect final status negotiations,” and refused to make this distinction.  In itself, Mr. Ruebner says, this amendment is insignificant.   But he believes that it is part of a larger “deliberate campaign to undermine the status and rights of Palestinian refugees,” which includes an eventual right of return to their homeland.  According to Mr. Ruebner, the Israel lobby and Members of Congress seek to undermine the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the international body tasked with caring for displaced Palestinians, despite its apolitical mandate.