Despite recent censorship and unequal treatment by King County, Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) has launched new ads on King County Metro buses calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return and share their historic homeland.
With a photo of a local family that includes Palestinian refugees, the ads have the slogan “SHARE THE LAND. PALESTINIAN REFUGEES HAVE THE RIGHT TO RETURN. EQUAL RIGHTS FOR PALESTINIANS.” The ads will will run on twelve buses for four weeks.
“This is a continuation of our Equal Rights campaign,” says SeaMAC’s Edward Mast. “Jews from anywhere in the world are allowed to become instant citizens of Israel, but many Palestinians who were born there are not allowed to return. This is one of many ways that Palestinians do not have equal rights in Israel.”
Over one million Palestinians were driven out of what is now Israel in 1948 and 1967. Israel has prevented the great majority of them from returning to their homeland. Palestinian refugees now number several million and are one of the largest and longest-suffering refugee populations in the world.
The issue of Palestinian refugees has become more urgent as Israel prepares to destroy dozens of villages and expel 40,000 Bedouins from their homes in southern Israel. Meanwhile, in the current round of negotiations, the Palestinian National Authority seems ready to sign away the right of Palestinian refugees to return home. “Instead of representing the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority is merely subcontracting from Israel the ongoing violations of our legal and human rights,” says Professor Nada Elia of Antioch University – Seattle. “They have no right to negotiate away one of our inalienable human rights, the Right of Return.”
Over the past two years, some Palestinians inside Israel have tried to re-establish the Right of Return by mounting new nonviolent campaigns, such as re-inhabiting the destroyed village of Iqrit and other Palestinian villages that were destroyed.
“The State of Israel refuses to admit its responsibility for driving out the Palestinians to become refugees in the first place, and also refuses to admit the legal right of Palestinians refugees to return,” says SeaMAC board member Ruth McRee. “The US has made the situation worse by allowing the issue of refugees to be left out of the US-sponsored peace negotiations. No sustainable peace will be possible without addressing the issue of Palestinian refugees.”
In December 2010, King County Metro accepted and then censored a SeaMAC ad which called attention to Israeli war crimes committed against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, despite the fact that these crimes were documented by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Red Cross. ACLU is representing SeaMAC in a lawsuit against King County for that 2010 rejection. The parties are currently awaiting an opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in that matter.
King County Metro more recently ran an ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative that made false accusations against Palestinians. King County later rejected another ad from SeaMAC, even though SeaMAC provided supporting documentation from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.