“Like Something Sacred”: Palestinian Refugees’ Narratives on the Right of Return

Richter-Devroe, Sophie
June 2013
Refugee Survey Quarterly;Jun2013, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p92
Academic Journal
The Palestinian refugees’ right of return is an inalienable right enshrined in international law. Palestinian refugees are united in their demand that this right must be recognized, but their proposed political narratives and scenarios differ on how exactly it should be implemented. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in refugee camps in the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan from 2008–2011 I trace and compare different political cultures on the right of return as articulated and practiced by refugees themselves across these three different locations and across different generations. While members of the Nakba generation tend to long for a permanent return to their homes, identities, and status in their villages of origin, many from the middle generation follow a rights-based approach, using United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 and other international legal instruments to call for the implementation of the right of return. Young Palestinian refugees often formulate the most innovative political imaginaries on return. They tend to frame the right of return within broader struggles of justice, democratisation, human rights, and equality and can also imagine more flexible scenarios for a future Palestinian nation-state. By going beyond a territorially-based nationalist frame, their political narratives thus offer critiques to classic political theory as well as to elite (Palestinian, host country, as well as regional and international) politics. Doing so, they urge us to rethink what – doing and imagining – politics for Palestine means today.


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