The Palestinian refugees have always merited limited mention in most accounts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They were assumed to be a humanitarian case which, at some point, became available for politicization and radicalization but were incapable of taking action on their own. In most Arab histories, they were a living testament to the nakba’s destruction of the Palestinian community. To the Israelis, they were a dangerous mass that must be pushed away from Israel’s frontiers and be settled in Arab countries as soon as was possible.
This book’s goal is the need to record as much of the Palestinian refugees’ political history as possible. The author is becoming increasingly aware of the ebb and flow of general interest in the refugee issue and the strong possibility of subsuming that chapter in the larger Palestinian story. As the PLO itself moved further and further away from the refugee constituency, it became necessary to examine and define the impact of the refugee issue on the larger Palestinian political picture, for indeed, as it turned out, they were always a tremendous influence on the course of Palestinian and Arab history. Although they lost their leadership positions within the PLO, as the latter became increasingly elitist and bureaucratic, the powerless refugees apparently never lost the means to influence the course of Palestinian history.
This book relies heavily on early State Department dispatches, Israeli Foreign Office correspondence, early accounts of the stirrings of a refugee movement in Jordan and declarations, statements and studies of the Badil Research Center and some right of return groups. Also investigated is much of the known literature to emerge from the secretive Oslo negotiations and the reverberations produced by their deliberations throughout the Palestinian diaspora. The resilience of the refugee question should never be questioned or declared over with until one of two things happened: either the obliteration or dispersal of concentrated refugee communities became a reality or the Palestinian refugees accepted a resolution of some kind or another.