While Arab activists and intellectuals rally to the cause of Palestinian refugees, officialdom in Ramallah denounces their efforts
By Khaled Amayreh
"The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has strongly denounced a recent conference on the plight of Palestinian refugees held in the Syrian capital, Damascus, organised by a coalition of factions and figures dedicated to the right of return, which according to organisers -- amongst them Hamas -- is the heart and soul of the Palestinian problem.
The conference asserted the centrality of the right of return and warned Palestinian, regional and international players that any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict not including the repatriation of millions of uprooted refugees to their original homes and villages in what is now called Israel would be strongly rejected by the Palestinian people......
Fatah spokesmen in Ramallah criticised the Syrian government for hosting the conference in the first place, saying Syria shouldn't allow "coup mongers" (an allusion to Hamas) to attack the PLO from Damascus. They also lambasted two prominent Fatah leaders, Farouk Al-Qaddumi and Hani Al-Hassan, for attending. Within the Fatah hierarchy, Al-Qaddumi and Al-Hassan rank second and third respectively after PA President Abbas. However, because of their opposition to the "Oslo process", and more recently to "excessive collaboration between the PA and Israel", the Ramallah-based leadership has marginalised each......
Palestinian intellectual and former Israeli Knesset member Azmi Bishara alluded to the inherent contradiction between PA pronouncements regarding the right of return and its actual policies. "If the right of return is negotiable and if continued, open-ended negotiation with Israel is the sole Palestinian strategy towards ending the conflict, this means that the PA will be willing to abandon the right of return."
Bishara, who was addressing a Ramallah conference, via teleconference from Amman, said the main purpose of the current peace process was to enable the PA to find Arab cover for the effective liquidation of the right of return and other prospective concessions the PA would be forced to make. "Then Abbas would be able to claim that all the Arabs are standing behind him.""