One consistent aspect of cultural life in the United Nations-run Palestinian Arab refugee camps: the film screenings in the camps which motivate the refugees longing for a Palestinian “right to return” to villages that they left in 1948, even though these villages were turned into Israeli communities after that war.
These films are organized through the Cine Club, a project of the Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center, orchestrated under the framework of a Palestinian advocacy group known as Shaml and registered with the Palestinian Authority.
What is not generally known is that the agency that sponsors the Shaml organization is not an Arab entity, but rather the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, funded by the German Social Democratic Party, which in turn receives direct funding from the German government.
According to the Ebert Foundation’s website, its primary mission is “promoting peace and understanding between peoples”.
Yet UN article 194 is touted by the German sponsored Shaml as proof for an absolute “right of refugee” return.
That article states that: “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
Besides Shaml, the Ebert Foundation also aids PASSIA: the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.
In 2004, PASSIA published a multicolored bulletin still in circulation titled “Palestinian Refugees”, offering facts and proofs for the so called “right of return”.
This publication highlights the Friedrich Ebert Foundation as the sole sponsor of this brochure.
Cohre, the Geneva based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is yet an other Palestinian entity which campaigns for the “right of return” Scott Leckie, Cohre’s director, was a member of the PLO’s Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees.
Cohre has teamed up with Badil, The Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, another leading Palestinian advocate for the “right of return”.
In the Cohre Activity Report of 2000 – 2002 it says, “Cohre and Badil are planning to jointly hire a lobbyist to co-ordinate a campaign to change policies within various UN agencies and States with regard to the right of Palestinian refugees to repossess the properties confiscated by Israel since 1947”. On page 72 of that report, the Cohre Activity Report praises support provided for the “right of return” campaign by The Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Badil, for its part, was recently deferred from membership to the UN Social and Economic Council.
According to NGO Watch, Badil’s “extremist anti-Israel political agenda is incompatible with universal human rights norms”.
This is evidenced by their 23rd Occasional Bulletin of December 2004, where they candidly reveal the scope of a Palestinian “right of return”:
“The real Zionist opposition to return is that return would alter the demographic balance in Israel so much that it would destroy Israel’s Zionist, exclusionist character. This, of course, is true. But the preservation of this character of Israel is neither an international responsibility nor a moral-juridical-political fact that outweighs in importance the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”
When the President of Germany, Horst Kohler visited the Israeli Knesset in January, 2005, Israel Member of the Knesset Gila Finkelstein waved the Ebert Foundation funded PASSIA “right of return” brochure at President Kohler and walked out of the Knesset in protest.
Finkelstein requested and received an appointment with German President Kohler, to personally d express her outrage that Germany would ever fund an effort that supported the “right of return”, which is a code name for dismembering the state of Israel.
Kohler promised to look into the matter.
In April, German President Kohler wrote to MK Finkelstein that he relied on the professional judgment of the Fredrich Ebert Foundation and rejected MK Finkelstein’s protests.
However, in contrast to the lofty goals of peace and reconciliation advocated by the Ebert Foundation website and by the President of Germany, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in practice has clearly aligned itself with the most virulent proponents of the Palestinian “right of return”, all of whom operate with funds traced directly to the German government, with programs designed to dismember the state of Israel.
A generation after a previous German government sponsored a JudenRein campaign in Europe, a new German government now sponsors a JudenRein campaign in parts of the land of Israel.