As I prepared to leave Palestine just over a week ago, I said goodbye to the people I had gotten to know over the past few months. I made my journey home with these final goodbyes on my mind, sad to be leaving, but looking forward to returning home.
For me, there is no greater feeling that the comfort of returning home after a long time away. No matter how much I fall in love with every new place I visit, I’m always happy to be back with my family and friends in a familiar environment.As much as I love that feeling, I know that for millions of Palestinians, that feeling may never come. Palestinian displaced in 1948, refugees displaced by subsequent wars, and their descendants have no right to return to their homes.
Jews have had the right to return to the state of Israel since 1950. The Law of Return applies to most people with Jewish ancestry as well as most converts to Judaism. However, as the state of Israel continues to encourage and actively seek out Jewish immigrants to Israel, Palestinians are denied the right to return to their land. The Israeli government has a history of staging large-scale operations to bring Jews back to Israel. Operation On the Wings of Eagles (nicknamed “Operation Magic Carpet”) brought nearly 50,000 Yemeni Jews to the newly created state in 1949 and 1950. Two similar operations were organized to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984 (Operation Moses) and 1991 (Operation Solomon). Non-governmental organizations such as the Jewish National Fund actively seek out “lost” groups of Jews from around the world in places such as India. These policies have brought millions to settle in Israel, often on land beyond the Green Line taken from Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Some see the implementation of Palestinian right of return as fundamental to reigniting the peace process and resolving the conflict. The right of return and right to self-determination are largely agreed to be the foundational issues of the 67-year struggle of the Palestinians. For refugees in surrounding Arab states or Palestinians in the diaspora, the right of return is the promise of coming home. It is also something they are not willing to give up.
A key is used as a symbol of Palestinian right of return. The key is a symbol of mementos taken by those who were forced to leave their homes, especially the generation of al-Nakba, many of whom left with nothing but the keys to their home, hoping they would be able to return in a matter of days. Paintings and statues of the Key of Return can be found all over Palestine, most famously at the entrance to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The key is often inscribed with the Arabic حتما سنعود “we will return” or عائدون“returning.”
These phrases are messages of resistance and hope – resistance to the occupation of Palestinian homes and land and hope for the ability to one day have a home once again.
Posted By Katie Conlon (Palestine)
Posted Sep 10th, 2015