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Tel Aviv University
TAU Yehouda Shenhav involvement with Zochrot which organised workshops to develop the practicalities of Palestinian return

Editorial Note

Professor Yehuda Shenhav (TAU), who made a career out of  portraying the alleged Zionist abuse of Jewish Arabs (his term for the Mizrahim), has "branched out" into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  More recently, Shenhav has been involved in a cooperative project with Zochrot to advocate the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

In an essay, "Chronotope  of Refugee Return," Shenhav claims that Nakba is not limited to the events of 1948, but should be considered an ongoing "insidious trauma."  To heal this trauma he urges the return of the refugees as part of a broader process of "post-Westphalia"  sovereignty; Israel would relinquish its sovereign rights in favor of a "more decentralized and fluid" structure.  It is into this newly created space that the Palestinian refugees would return.   
The Zochrot exhibition is designed to offer practical solutions for the return of the  refugees.
Yehouda Shenhav
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv, 69978 Israel
Tel: 972-3-6408830 (office)
972-3-6406731 (main office)
E-mail: shenhav@post.tau.ac.il
Fax: 972-3-6409215

Sedek 6: Towards return of Palestinian refugees

The Chronotope of Refugee Return

Mahmoud al-Rimawi’s short story, “A Longing for the Good Land,” and three projects included here – Sandy Halal, Alessandro Pati and Eyal Weizman’s “Present Returns: Al Feneiq in Miska” of Decolonizing Architecture, Hana Farah Kufr-Bir’im’s “Re:Form-a Model,” and Einat Manoff’s Counter-Mapping Workshop with Jewish and Palestinian activists – invite a reconsideration of the “nakba” and the “return,” the connection between them, and their combined relationship to history and politics. These texts are the starting point for a discussion leading toward a revised political model of “return,” one that is not subordinated to the utopian modernist narrative that could be called “from destruction to redemption.” In order to formulate a political model of return, we must first begin to think theoretically about the “time” and the “space” of the nakba and the return, as well as about their political basis. These are the fundamentals of the discussion that follows.

An IAM review of the Chronotope will be published seperately.

Click to read Yehouda Shenhav Chronotope of Refugee Return http://zochrot.org/sites/default/files/sedek6_shenhav_eng_p.pdf


Palestinian Refugees Consider a Model for Return 

By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours

TEL AVIV, Oct 16, 2011 (IPS) - 

In a new project that has tackled one of the most divisive issues plaguing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a diverse group of academics, architects, urban planners and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups are examining how the right of return of Palestinian refugees can be implemented on the ground.

"Based on the right of return, we developed since 2008 a project of thinking practically about return. It’s not so much about the right itself, but more about the possibilities, once there will be the right, of how it could be implemented," Eitan Bronstein, founder and spokesperson of Israeli organisation Zochrot told IPS.

Working to raise awareness among Israelis about the Palestinian Nakba, the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians before and during the foundation of the state of Israel in 1947-48, Zochrot has launched an exhibit titled 'Towards Return of Palestinian refugees’ in Tel Aviv.

From the re-imagined layout and step-by-step return processes for the Palestinian villages of Kufr Bir’im and Miska, to video testimonials from Palestinian refugees themselves, a handful of detailed models, simulations and other projects were put on display.

"We believe that if people would be exposed to such projects this would show Israelis that there are possibilities of return. None of the projects talk about expelling anyone. We’re talking about how to return, but based on the rights of people who are living here to live here, and all the refugees and their descendants to return," Bronstein told IPS.

"We are kind of inventing a new language that hasn’t existed until now, of thinking about the return itself and not continuing to say no, it’s not possible."

Palestinians constitute the largest refugee population in the world, with approximately six million refugees and their descendants scattered throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Akhram Salhab is the communications officer at Badil, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which organised workshops with Zochrot to develop the practicalities of return project. He stressed that any discussion about the Palestinian right of return must involve the input of the refugees themselves.

"For the past 62 years, most international initiatives related to the refugees have taken place against the will of the refugees. In all respects, the refugees have been left out of planning their own lives. For the project to be successful, it must be viewed as legitimate by them. Our key objective is to include refugees themselves in the planning process," Salhab told IPS.

"The project is still at the fairly early stage. I think one of the reasons for this is that the project is so unique, and we are trying to work with Palestinians and Israelis to discuss these issues. No such work has been done before."

Salhab explained that the next step in the project would be to look at how refugee return was achieved in a city in South Africa, and then build a comparative model for the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area.

He added that creating a new framework whereby both Palestinian refugees and Jewish Israelis will have equal rights, and making sure that both groups have a realistic picture of what return will actually mean, is crucial.

"There’s sometimes an extent to which Palestinians may view return in an idealised manner, and obviously this is taking place as a result of struggling for rights for so many years. For Israelis of course, it’s important to realise that any return of refugees will affect their privileges and the benefits they enjoy in the apartheid system in Israel. We are trying to bring forward a new reality based on equality," Salhab said.

UN resolution 194, issued in December 1948, states that Palestinian refugees "wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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."

While the right of return of Palestinian refugees is also enshrined in international law, Israel has to date refused to allow the refugees to come back, and discourse within the country largely paints their return as something that would destroy the state.

According to Eitan Bronstein, the practicalities of return project will hopefully break through this wall of fear and misinformation surrounding the Palestinian right of return, and open up a much-needed debate within Israeli society.

"People say that return is extermination of the state of Israel or extermination of the Jews themselves. We try to say that no, it’s not like that," Bronstein said.

"If we do more and more projects like this, perhaps the discourse will change soon. I hope there will be at least some space to open discussion on these issues, which is very important." (END)

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