Jamal Shati Al-Hindi is a Fatah Jenin representative in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) where he is Chairman of the PLC Refugee and Diaspora Committee.

IMRA: interviewed Al-Hindi in Hebrew on March 24, 1998

IMRA: I understand that you say that Israel should allow the 1948 refugees to return to their homes inside Israel.

Al-Hindi: Yes. In Israel.

IMRA: The Left in Israel which supports the Palestinian cause – Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni, etc. say that if you allow the refugees to return to their homes then there will be a situation that there may be more Palestinians than Jews in the Knesset. That this will be a problem because if Israel is a democracy then there won’t be a Jewish majority in Israel so the whole effort was for naught. How do you react to this – that even among the Israeli Left the view is that allowing the right of return wrecks the whole exercise.

Al-Hindi: This is a right of the Palestinian people for two thousand years. They lived in the land and lived in their homes. Why shouldn’t they return to their homes?

There is also UN Resolution 194 calling for them to return to their homes.

The UN allowed Israel membership so that it could fulfill 194 and Israel can’t take this away.

IMRA: All Israelis – I am not talking about Netanyahu – the Israeli Left including Yossi Sarid oppose this. Even if they were in power they would not allow the refugees to return within Israel.

Al-Hindi: Why wouldn’t the Left say that all the refugees should return to their homes. There are Palestinians living within Israel but not in their original homes. Why shouldn’t they be permitted to return to their homes.

IMRA: When I ask the Israeli Left they tell me that the Palestinian demand for the right of return is for negotiations. That in the end they will accept a compromise. Is this really just an opening position?

Al-Hindi: This is the right of the Palestinian refugees and they do not have to say yes now. There is time. A hundred years.

IMRA: What does that mean?

Al-Hindi: It may take much time for us to return to our homes. We want to live in our villages.

IMRA: So there can’t be peace without this?

Al-Hindi: Maybe there will be peace if the Palestinians get the right of return.

IMRA: And if they don’t?

Al-Hindi: Then there won’t. There are four million Palestinian refugees who want to return.

IMRA: Israelis may say that they are willing to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza but only if the Palestinians give up on the right of return of the refugees to Israel. Don’t give up on the right of return and the negotiations fall apart. Are you ready to have the negotiations fail just because of the right of return?

Al-Hindi: Israel didn’t give us houses in Israel. They are Palestinian houses. Why can’t we return to our homes. Would the Jews agree to the Arabs getting their homes?

IMRA: I am asking a practical question. If there is a way for you to get now a Palestinian state it is at the price of giving up on the right of return. Are you willing to pay this price?

Al-Hindi No. I won’t agree to this. Nor will all the Palestinian refugees.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645