Archive for Palestinian refugees

Palestinians killed in ‘Nakba’ clashes

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 15th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Several killed and dozens wounded in Gaza, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun and West Bank, as Palestinians mark Nakba Day.

”]Several people have been killed and scores of others wounded in the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Palestinians mark the “Nakba”, or day of “catastrophe”.

The “Nakba” is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 founding of the state of Israel, when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled following Israel’s declaration of statehood.

At least one Palestinian was killed and up to 80 others wounded in northern Gaza as Israeli troops opened fire on a march of at least 1,000 people heading towards the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

A group of Palestinians, including children, marching to mark the “Nakba” were shot by the Israeli army after crossing a Hamas checkpoint and entering what Israel calls a “buffer zone” – an empty area between checkpoints where Israeli soldiers generally shoot trespassers, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reported from Gaza City on Sunday.

“We are just hearing that one person has been killed and about 80 people have been injured,” Johnston said.

“There are about 500-600 Palestinian youth gathered at the Erez border crossing point. They don’t usually march as far as the border. There has been intermittent gunfire from the Israeli side for the last couple of hours.

“Hamas has asked us to leave; they are trying to move people away from the Israeli border. They say seeing so many people at the border indicates a shift in politics in the area.”

Separately in south Tel Aviv, one Israeli man was killed and 17 were injured when a 22-year-old Arab Israeli driver drove his truck into a number of vehicles on one of the city’s main roads.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver, from an Arab village called Kfar Qasim in the West Bank, was arrested at the scene and is being questioned.

“Based on the destruction and the damage at the scene, we have reason to believe that it was carried out deliberately,” Rosenfeld said. But he said he did not believe the motive was directly linked to the anniversary of the Nakba.

West Bank clashes

One of the biggest Nakba demonstrations was held near Qalandiya refugee camp and checkpoint, the main secured entry point into the West Bank from Israel, where about 100 protesters marched, Al Jazeera’s  Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported from Ramallah.

Some injuries were reported from tear gas canisters fired at protesters there, El-Shamayleh said.

Small clashes were reported throughout various neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and cities in the West Bank, between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

Israeli police said 20 arrests were made in the East Jerusalem area of Issawiyah for throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli border police officers.

About 70 arrests have been made in East Jerusalem throughout the Nakba protests that began on Friday, two days ahead of the May 15 anniversary, police spokesman Rosenfeld said.

Tensions had risen a day earlier after a 17-year-old Palestinian boy died of a gunshot wound suffered amid clashes on Friday in Silwan, another East Jerusalem neighbourhood.

Police said the source of the gunfire was unclear and that police were investigating, while local sources told Al Jazeera that  the teen was shot in random firing of live ammunition by guards of Jewish settlers living in nearby Beit Yonatan.

‘Palestinians killed’

Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that Israeli forces killed four Syrian citizens who had been taking part in an anti-Israeli rally on the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border on Sunday.

Israeli army radio said earlier that dozens were wounded when Palestinian refugees from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border were shot for trying to break through the frontier fence. There was no comment on reports of the injured.

Meanwhile, Matthew Cassel, a journalist in the Lebanese town of Ras Maroun, on the southern border with Israel, told Al Jazeera that at least two Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon were killed in clashes there.

“Tens of thousands of refugees marched to the border fence to demand their right to return where they were met by Israeli soldiers,” he said.

“Many were killed. I don’t know how many but I saw with my own eyes a number of unconscious and injured, and at least two dead.

“Now the Lebanese army has moved in, people are running back up the mountain to get away from the army.”

A local medical source told the AFP news agency that Israeli gunfire killed six people and wounded 71 others in Ras Maroun.

‘End to Zionist project’

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned Sunday’s demonstrations.

“I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighbouring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage”, Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

“There is no place for this, for denying the existence of the State of Israel. No to extremism and no to violence. The opposite is true”, he said.

Earlier Sunday Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas-controlled Gaza, repeated the group’s call for the end of the state of Israel.

Addressing Muslim worshippers in Gaza City on Sunday, Haniyeh said Palestinians marked this year’s Nakba “with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine”.

“To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership,” Haniyeh said, praising the recent unity deal with its rival, Fatah, the political organisation which controls the West Bank under Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership.

Meanwhile, a 63 second-long siren rang midday in commemoration of the Nakba’s 63rd anniversary.

Over 760,000 Palestinians – estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants – fled or were driven out of their homes in the conflict that followed Israel’s creation.

Many took refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere. Some continue to live in refugee camps.

About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind in what is now Israeli territory and are known as Arab Israelis. They now total around 1.3 million, or some 20 percent of Israel’s population.

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Thirsty for justice

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 25/03/2010 by 3071km

Written by Mona El-Farra

Published on Electronic Intifada

Date published: 25/03/2010

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Mona El-Farra writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 25 March 2010

Palestinian children wait to fill up water in the Gaza Strip. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Toni Morrison once wrote “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” I feel it is the same for Palestinian refugees, who have struggled for decades for their right to return home. I thought of this connection between water and refugees during a recent meeting about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s (MECA) Maia Project with Aidan O’Leary, Deputy Director of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) Operations in Gaza.

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. We are working with UNRWA to install locally-made water purification and desalination units in their schools. Mr. O’Leary expressed his total appreciation for the Maia Project and stressed that providing clean drinking water to children is among the highest priorities and needs for Gaza schools. Mr. John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, also expressed his admiration for the Maia Project.

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate under Israeli military occupation and siege. The refugees are often the hardest hit by rising unemployment and poverty. Access to clean water is one of the many basic needs that UNRWA is no longer able to meet. A recent UNRWA report states that the most common infectious diseases affecting Palestinian refugees in Gaza — who make up more than three-quarters of the population — are directly related to inadequate supplies of safe water and poor sanitation: diarrhea, acute bloody diarrhea and viral hepatitis.

Creating a positive impact on children’s health is the main goal of the Maia Project, and working on water access when you live in Gaza is self-explanatory. The reality is that tap water in Gaza is undrinkable due to its bad quality and contamination. At best, when you have access to a running tap, the water is not clean and is very salty. Our daily water consumption averages around 78 liters a day per person, while Israelis average over 300 liters each, more than four times as much. Israel is under increasing scrutiny by international organizations including Amnesty International for “denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.”

We move to help the children as quickly as we can. Children in Gaza will have the chance to drink clean and soft water, but only at the rate in which we can implement the Maia Project. And we race against time. The UN estimates that Gaza will have no drinking water in the next 15 years.

Water is life, but here in Gaza it can also bring death. Numerous military attacks on the Gaza Strip have devastated Gaza’s water infrastructure. Israel’s twenty-two day assault last winter destroyed or rendered unusable an estimated 800 of Gaza’s 2,000 wells, and caused $5.97 million in damage to our water and wastewater treatment facilities. Since January 2009, the Gaza Health Ministry and the World Health Organization have issued drinking, seafood and swimming advisories.

We yearn for our water and our freedoms to return to us. We roll up our sleeves and hope for rain, the kind of rain that floods the hearts and minds of those who hunger and thirst for justice.

Here in Gaza, we are still thirsty.

Mona El-Farra is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist in practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. Her blog is From Gaza, with Love.

Ian Pappe: Israel ‘committing memorycide’

Posted in History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 12/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Ian Pappe

Date published: 6th July 2008

Source: Aljazeera English

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Israel ‘committing memorycide’
By Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe says Israel needs to acknowledge the crime it committed
against the Palestinian people


As part of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian ‘Nakba’, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.

Pappe says the Israeli army systematically
forced Palestinians from their homes

The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.

This is a group of 50 to 60 villages that remained within the state of Israel and its population was steadfast and was not expelled over to the other side of the border – to Lebanon or Syria.

The international community was aware of the ethnic cleansing but the international community, especially in the West, decided not to confront head on the Jewish community in Palestine after the Holocaust.

And, therefore, there was a kind of conspiracy of silence and again the international community did not react and was complacent and this was very important for the Israelis because it showed them that they can adopt as a state ideology ethnic cleansing and ethnic purity.

Erasing history

Part of any ethnic cleansing operation is not just wiping out the population and expelling it from the earth. A very typical part of ethnic cleansing is wiping people out of history.

For ethnic cleansing to be an effective and successful operation you also have to wipe people out of memory and the Israelis are very good at it. They did it in two ways.

They built Jewish settlements over the Palestinian villages they expelled and quite often gave them names that reflected the Palestinian name as a kind of testimony to the Palestinians that this is totally now in the hands of Israel and there is no chance in the world of bringing the clock backwards.

Pappe says many former Palestinian villages
were turned into recreational spaces

The other way they did it is planting trees – usually European pine trees – over the ruins of the village and turning the village into recreational spaces where you do exactly the opposite of commemoration – you live the day, you enjoy life, it is all about leisure and pleasure.

That is a very powerful tool for ‘memorycide’. In fact, much of the Palestinian effort should have been but was never unfortunately – or only recently began – was to fight against that ‘memorycide’ by at least bringing back the memory of what happened.

I think that there should be no reason in the world that two people – the Palestinians and the Jews – despite everything that happened in the past should not be able live together effective and in one state.

You need three things for that to happen. You need closure for the 1948 story – namely you need an Israeli acknowledgment of the crime it committed against the Palestinian people.

The second thing that you need is you need to make Israel accountable for this and the only way of making Israel accountable is by, at least in principle, accepting the Palestinian refugees right of return.

And thirdly you need a change in the Palestinian and Arab position towards the idea of a Jewish presence in Palestine as something legitimate and natural and not as an alien colonialist force.

I think these principles have to emerge and so far the political elites on both sides are unwilling to accept them.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Difficult Ramadan in Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, Videos with tags , , , , , on 04/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 4th September 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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For the last eight months, Abu Hassan and his family have been living in a refugee camp after their home was destroyed during Israel’s war on Gaza.

Since the war ended in early January, life has been a daily struggle for many families like Abu Hassan’s – their situation now made even worse during the month of Ramadan.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin visited one such camp where even the simple act of breaking fast has become a daunting task for hundreds of refugees.

Israel sells off refugees’ hopes

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , on 15/08/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Jonathan Cook

Date published: 14th August 2009

Source: The National

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Abu Arab, a refugee from the destroyed Palestinian village of Saffuriya, stands in front of homes being built for Jews on land that was once his parents. Jonathan Cook / The National

TZIPORI, ISRAEL // Amin Muhammad Ali, a 74-year-old refugee from a destroyed Palestinian village in northern Israel, says he only feels truly at peace when he stands among his ancestors’ graves.

The cemetery, surrounded on all sides by Jewish homes and farms, is a small time capsule, transporting Mr Muhammad Ali – known to everyone as Abu Arab – back to the days when this place was known by an Arabic name, Saffuriya, rather than its current Hebrew name, Tzipori.

Unlike most of the Palestinian refugees forced outside Israel’s borders by the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state, Abu Arab and his family fled nearby, to a neighbourhood of Nazareth.

Refused the right to return to his childhood home, which was razed along with the rest of Saffuriya, he watched as the fields once owned by his parents were slowly taken over by Jewish immigrants, mostly from eastern Europe. Today only Saffuriya’s cemetery remains untouched.

Despite the loss of their village, the 4,500 refugees from Saffuriya and their descendants have clung to one hope: that the Jewish newcomers could not buy their land, only lease it temporarily from the state.

According to international law, Israel holds the property of more than four million Palestinian refugees in custodianship, until a final peace deal determines whether some or all of them will be allowed back to their 400-plus destroyed Palestinian villages or are compensated for their loss.

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// ]]> But last week, in a violation of international law and the refugees’ property rights that went unnoticed both inside Israel and abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, forced through a revolutionary land reform.

The new law begins a process of creeping privatisation of much of Israel’s developed land, including refugee property, said Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva.

Mr Netanyahu and the bill’s supporters argue that the law will cut out a whole level of state bureaucracy, make land transactions simpler and more efficient and cut house prices.

In practice, it will mean that the 200 Jewish families of Tzipori will be able to buy their homes, including a new cluster of bungalows that is being completed on land next to the cemetery that belonged to Abu Arab’s parents.

The privatisation of Tzipori’s refugee land will remove it from the control of an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property, who is supposed to safeguard it for the refugees.

“Now the refugees will no longer have a single address – Israel – for our claims,” said Abu Arab. “We will have to make our case individually against many hundreds of thousands of private homeowners.”

He added: “Israel is like a thief who wants to hide his loot. Instead of putting the stolen goods in one box, he moves it to 700 different boxes so it cannot be found.”

Mr Netanyahu was given a rough ride by Israeli legislators over the reform, though concern about the refugees’ rights was not among the reasons for their protests.

Last month, he had to pull the bill at the last minute as its defeat threatened to bring down the government. He forced it through on a second attempt last week but only after he had warned his coalition partners that they would be dismissed if they voted against it.

A broad coalition of opposition had formed to what was seen as a reversal of a central tenet of Zionism: that the territory Israel acquired in 1948 exists for the benefit not of Israelis but of Jews around the world.

In that spirit, Israel’s founders nationalised not only the refugees’ property but also vast swathes of land they confiscated from the remaining Palestinian minority who gained citizenship and now comprise a fifth of the population. By the 1970s, 93 per cent of Israel’s territory was in the hands of the state.

The disquiet provoked by Mr Netanyahu’s privatisation came from a variety of sources: the religious right believes the law contravenes a Biblical injunction not to sell land promised by God; environmentalists are concerned that developers will tear apart the Israeli countryside; and Zionists publicly fear that oil-rich sheikhs from the Gulf will buy up the country.

Arguments from the Palestinian minority’s leaders against the reform, meanwhile, were ignored – until Hizbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, added his voice at the weekend. In a statement, he warned that the law “validates and perpetuates the crime of land and property theft from the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Nakba”.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer from the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Palestinian minority, said the law had been carefully drafted to ensure that foreigners, including wealthy sheikhs, cannot buy land inside Israel.

“Only Israeli citizens and anyone who can come to Israel under the Law of Return – that is, any Jew – can buy the lands on offer, so no ‘foreigner’ will be eligible.”

Another provision in the law means that even internal refugees like Abu Arab, who has Israeli citizenship, will be prevented from buying back land that rightfully belongs to them, Ms Bishara said.

“As is the case now in terms of leasing land,” she explained, “admissibility to buy land in rural communities like Tzipori will be determined by a selection committee whose job it will be to frustrate applications from Arab citizens.”

Supporters of the law have still had to allay the Jewish opposition’s concerns. Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed that only a tiny proportion of Israeli territory – about four per cent – is up for privatisation.

But, according to Mr Yiftachel, who lobbied against the reform, that means about half of Israel’s developed land will be available for purchase over the next few years. And he suspects privatisation will not stop there.

“Once this red line has been crossed, there is nothing to stop the government passing another law next year approving the privatisation of the rest of the developed areas,” he said.

Ms Bishara said among the first refugee properties that would be put on the market were those in Israel’s cities, such as Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias, Haifa and Lod, followed by homes in many of the destroyed villages like Saffuriya.

She said Adalah was already preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of the refugees, and if unsuccessful would then take the matter to international courts.

Adalah has received inquiries from hundreds of Palestinian refugees from around the world asking what they can do to stop Israel selling their properties.

“Many of them expressed an interest in suing Israel,” she said.

Israel urged to commit to Arab plan

Posted in Gaza, History, International community, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 03/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 3rd August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Al-Sabah, left, told Obama that Israel must commit
to the Arab plan in order to secure peace [EPA]

Arab states will adhere to their Middle East peace initiative only when Israel also abides by its terms, Kuwait’s emir has said in talks with the US president.

“It is in our interest that peace be brought about [between Israel and the Arab world]” Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah said as he met Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.

“We will implement this peace initiative when Israel implements and fulfills its obligations,” he said, referring to the Arab Peace Initiative, which was presented by Saudi Arabia in 2002.

Under the terms of the Arab proposals, which were re-adopted at an Arab League summit in Lebanon in 2007, Israel would be granted a full normalisation of relations if it withdraws from Arab land occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The initiative calls for the creation of a viable Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

It also seeks a “just solution” to the long-term future of Palestinian refugees under the terms of UN General Assembly resolution 194.

The Israeli government has repeatedly rejected calls for Palestinians who fled or were forced out of their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to return to areas in what is now Israel.

About 4.6 million Palestinian refugees are living outside their ancestral lands in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.