On July 1, 1999, President Clinton stated that American policy was that Palestinians have a right to live “wherever they would like to live”.
Clinton’s policy statement resounded through the Palestinian media and the United Nations Relief and Work Refugee Agency (UNRWA) camps which have serviced Palestinian Arab refugees in “temporary” shelters since 1948, under the premise and promise of the UN resolution #194, that assures the 3.6 million Palestinian Arab refugees under the aegis of UNRWA that they have the “inalienable right of return to the villages that they left in 1948, which now constitute Jewish communities throughout Tel Aviv, Haifa. Ashkelon, and at least 200 kibbutzim and Moshavim.
Far from being a theoretical notion, the “right of return” remains a living program that moves the hearts and minds of 3.6 million Palestinian Arab refugees. For UNRWA camp residents, the “right of return” is not a dream: it is a plan of action.
The policies of UNRWA, whose greatest funder for the past fifty years remains has been the US, reassure Palestinian Arab refugees that they may indeed realize their right of return”, while the new Palestinian Authority forbids housing assistance or eve voting rights to UNRWA camp residents, under the premise of the “right of return”. >
Toward that end, the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority Educational system, funded in part by the US, stresses the “right of return”, as UNRWA school principals and teachers inculcate a new generation of Palestinian youth to prepare themselves to return “home”, and that does not mean to the west bank and Gaza.
Meanwhile, a senior US State Department official told me that Under Secretary of State Dennis Ross has reassured the Israeli government that UN resolution #242 (that recognizes Israel’s 1967 ceasefire lines) supersedes UN resolution #194.
However, nobody bothered to tell that to 3.6 million people who linger in UNRWA refugee camps, who are also assured by US officials in the employ of UNRWA that they have the right to return to the homes and villages that they left in 1948.