The Sixth International Al-Awda conference was held in California as Palestians spoke of their intention of returning to Palestine. ‘Palestine is and will be Arab until the Day of Judgement. Occupations come and go but Palestine perevered and maintained the Arab-ness. Plstinian cities will remain forever Arab.”Speakers denounced Israel and said there was but one goal and that was a return to Palestine. Bishop Atallah Hanna compared his God, who is one of peace, in contrast to the justifications that Zionists use which are “stantic and have nothing to do with God.”
The overwhelming majority of speakers insisted all Arab refugees had to be allowed back into Palestine and there could only be one state in which the majority–Arabs– would decide who is in charge. The non-ceasing rhetoric led Salman Abu Sitta to term Gaza the “new Auschwitz” while Abu Khalil, professor of political science at California State University, noted that “after 60 years, we should be aware how Zionism has its tentacles through Arab media and government.”
The one tragedy not discussed at the convention was the inability of Palestinian leaders to approach the current situation with a focus on solutions rather than on pandering to one another with the rhetoric of failure. The Palestinian people need an independent nation, they need leaders who will create a vibrant political democracy as well as draw upon the talents of so many bright humans. Instead there is nothing but hatred, and a complete lack of any sense of reality.
I have always advocated there must be compromise on the part of all sides, and compromises deal with the present reality, not what happened in the past. Step one is the evacuation of all West Bank settlements with existing housing being used for Palestinians who fled. Step two is renouncing violence as a means of attaining goals. Step three is creation of a new “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East which would bring all nations together in a peaceful approach that would transform the Middle East into a new economic giant. Step four is creating academic organizations which can help all sides end the hatred that is taught children and replace it with common sense, historical accuracy, and a desire for peace.
Not all Palestinians will be able to return. Neither will Jews who had to flee Arab nations due to persecution in the 1940s and 1950s. I suspect not a word was mentioned at the conference about North Africans Jews who fled or those who left Iraq and Yemen.