Only for Palestine

As a 20-year-old Palestinian living in the besieged land of Gaza,  I’ve grown up with my people, sharing the same bitterness of the persistence to live a normal life as much as possible despite all the obstacles we face every day. Being among people of the same culture and same daily life didn’t help me to discover a lot about life. I always had questions in my mind that  kept me searching for answers.  Even though I  grew up filled with hope, dreams, love and strength but I could feel in my bones that there is much more in life to learn. I wanted to draw a canvas of life, yet there were certain  missing colors which I was not able to perceive.

I did not have a story to narrate, but life has a strange way of surprising us with stories we never expect. My story started when I was approved for a scholarship that allowed me to spend five glorious weeks in  USA with people of different cultures. There, I had the most wonderful experiences that I never expected I would have. It has left me with a wealth of memories which I deeply cherish. Every day has brought me something new to learn or something new to feel. Being close to those people helped me to fill my canvas with the missing colors as I became more aware of the lessons humanity teaches us.
          In America, I had that experience which made me to believe that dreams do come true. I had a simple dream that wouldn’t seem like a dream for most people. I was always fascinated of the idea of going to a cinema! The thought of watching a movie in front of a big screen; taking a seat next to numerous people, eating popcorn, laughing  and crying, thrilled me. When I heard that my friends were planning to go to a cinema I eagerly asked them if we could do that as soon as possible.
When we finally went, I was really happy because we were not just watching a regular film, rather 3D and 4D films. When it was a 3D film, I enjoyed the amazing flying bubbles that I felt I could touch! I almost screamed when the broken pieces were coming or it felt like coming toward me. I wished I had the chance to chase the beautiful butterflies or to pick one of the colorful  flowers. However, it was scary to watch the documentary film about dinosaurs. The dinosaurs looked so real that I became really scared; as their faces were so close to mine, they looked as if they were going to swallow me! It felt like I was inside the film. At some point, I felt like I had to hide myself from the dinosaurs and I was unconsciously hitting my friend     who was sitting next to me while trying to rescue my life from falling prey to the giant dinosaurs
Things got more real when it was a 4D cinema. I felt wind blew over my face, my chair was rocking because of the explosions in the movie and other effects that would touch me! I never dreamt of these sorts of films before as I thought they are unreachable for me. While watching I noticed that some Americans who were watching along with me were much less amazed as I was. I was interacting with the films madly but they neither shouted nor made wild gestures like I was doing. It felt awkward to me when I realized my dream was one of the options of their daily routine.  Then I thought of it differently. I just came up with a conclusion that everyone has his or her unique dreams, and that was one of my unique dreams. If we can appreciate our blessings and think of others who don’t have what we have, before it becomes  what we had,  we can learn the meaning of satisfaction which can lead us to simplicity and peace.
           Hereinafter and throughout the five weeks, Muhammed, the talented Iraqi writer, was always the source of  happiness among us. No one could imagine that his bright soul and his warm smile hid lots of sadness behind. Keeping strength and hope while everything is ruining around is a difficult ability to be found in any human, but it is not for Muhammed. He started with a smile telling us about his sad stories during the Iraqi conflict between Sunni and Shiites. His stories were the most atrocious stories I have ever heard. Although I am from a Gaza and I am familiar with bombs  and war crimes, hearing his stories broke  my heart. I felt that all the hellish life I have lived in Gaza is nothing comparing to his one.
I was touched the most with a particular story of him. It happened when he was on his way to school. He did not face any trouble due to the rush hour; neither cars nor buses were blocking his way. However, scores of dead bodies were lying on the streets and cannibal dogs were ripping them apart. The scene freaked him out  and then he ran insanely towards his school. This was only the beginning of his nightmare that started to unfold before his eyes. The terrible chain of events continued. As he arrived at his school with his friend, they discovered that one of their teachers was murdered. He fainted because of the shock and by the time he regained his consciousness at the hospital he was informed that his beloved friend was murdered, too.
This absence of security reminded me of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, the war that Gaza suffered in 2008-2009. I still remember that horrible day when I was at the door of my school going back to my home. It all started with something which seemed like an earthquake with thousands of people running and screaming around me. I felt terrified, I was in panic! It wasn’t all because of the bombs that were falling everywhere randomly but also because I lost my sister in that utter chaos and confusion. I frantically looked for her everywhere but in vain. My feet carried me back to my home, I was running, screaming with every
missile exploded praying that my sister would be safely back. When I finally arrived home, it was such a
relief to find all my family members were safe.
The savage bombings and shelling lasted for 23days; from December 27, 2008 to 18 January 2009. For 23
days, Gaza, which sank in the darkness because of the permanent power cut,  was isolated from the whole world as there was not any way of communication.  Every night, I was praying to stay alive untill the next day, and every morning I appreciated the taste of the life more. I was counting my last moments, and because there was a possibility a missile could be shelled to any room all of a sudden, my closest sister and I made up our minds to go together to any room, even to the bathroom! We decided to stay together to die together or survive together. One can hardly imagine to what extent the situation was insane.
All these memories flood to my mind when I was listening to Muhammed’s stories and I could not help but crying. When Muhammed was trying to calm me down, his voice reminded me of my little brother who was always telling me, “It is ok!” every time we heard an explosion nearby, even though I could hear his heart beating rapidly because of the horror. After a while I realized what I went through, shocking and brutal though it is, was nothing comparing to his experiences especially after he witnessed the terrorist attacks by the so-called ” Islamic movements”. Since Islam prohibited murdering the innocents, they cannot be Muslim  .
Muhammed’s experience inspired me to keep smiling despite the hardships of life. He taught me, even when death is howling at the doorstep, not to lose hope and faith. Although he went through dreadful and sad moments, which are enough to make anyone depressed forever, he managed to preserve his pure heart and hope. His stories show how awful some humans could become when it comes to their petty gains which they desperately want to attain at whatever cost. I wonder how difficult is it to realize we all are the same! Why can’t all of us treat others in terms of humanity? Yet among all the madness that goes around the world, we will find people like Muhammed who can hold themselves steady and spread hope among others in search for a brighter day.
          Then  I went through another experience that taught me the fine line between hatred and love. I was walking in Muir Woods National Monument in California,  staring at the tall and old-growth trees with two of my Bahraini friends when suddenly a young lady, with many children, stopped us. She was curious to know about the countries we came from after she saw us wearing scarfs which indicated that we were strangers. My friends replied to her questions and then my turn came. “I am from Palestine,” I said proudly. Then she asked about from which part of Palestine I came and I told her I came from Gaza. Then she smiled but I didn’t know how to interpret her smile, especially as her children looked at me strangely without smiling, but I smiled back and curiously I asked her where she’s from.  “We are your neighbors that you HATE!”, she answered.
I was puzzled and began wondering who the neighbors that we hate are? It took me a while to realize that she meant she is from Israel, the occupying country of Palestine. Even when her definition was based on hatred, I decided to treat her with love. I said goodbye to her that day with a smile and I met her once again with a smile and I even shook her hands. When I went back home,  I wondered why she judged me as a hater! Is hatred the language that unifies our humanity?
 She judged me a hater because she looked at me from her personal perspective. Maybe that what made her to think that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is because we HATE them. What most of them don’t realize that this conflict is because we LOVE our land and we struggle to protect it and to restore our rights that are daily violated by Israel. Our fight is a fight of human rights, not a fight of hatred!
We are all humans and we have our own way of thinking and judging. What most important of having our own way to think or to judge, is to know that others don’t look at things as we do. Whatever the differences were between us, love is the language that make us humans, as Paulo Coelho said in his book The Alchemist:” There was a language in the world that everyone understood. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as a part of a   search for something believed in and desired.”
          In sum, in America I discovered  that  being alive means you have to learn how to love, to donate, to hold hope, to be satisfied, and how to appreciate. Without these, we will never live as humans. Our world will be an ongoing-nightmare full of  wars, crimes, and famine. All that is learned by the heart, so we’d better clean our hearts from selfishness, hatred, greed, and all that can spoil our hearts.
 (Nihaya Jab. / / 10.09.2012)

UN says Gaza facing disaster if Israel does not end its siege

To avert this looming but avoidable catastrophe is simple, says the United Nations: lift the Israeli blockade and allow the people of Gaza to be self-sufficient.

European Phoenix — THE INTERNATIONAL system is often accused of failing to give adequate early warning; of being myopic and not furnishing the appropriate powers with data and analysis that would allow an effective, timely response to predictable disasters.

With the recent publication of the report, Gaza in 2020: a Liveable Place?, it would be hard to level these accusations at the UN country team in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The report is a trend analysis based on data from authoritative sources, such as the UN’s specialised agencies, the World Bank and the IMF, which sets out where Gaza will be in less than eight years’ time. This is early warning writ large.

By 2020 the population of the tiny Gaza Strip will grow by half a million people: 500,000 more to be fed, housed, educated, employed. More than half of the population will be under 18, with one of the highest youth populations as a proportion anywhere in the world.

The lack of safe drinking water is the most urgent concern in Gaza today and it will only get worse in the years to come. The coastal aquifer is the main water source, but 90% of its water is not safe for drinking without further treatment. Three times as much water is currently extracted from the aquifer as is recharged from rainfall every year.

This situation is not sustainable. By 2016, the aquifer may become unusable, and damage to it may be irreversible by 2020 without remedial action now. Already, people have to drill deeper and deeper to reach groundwater. The UN Environment Programme recommends resting the aquifer immediately, as it would otherwise take centuries for it to recover. At the same time, demand for water is projected to grow to 260m cubic meters per year in 2020, 60% more than is currently extracted from the aquifer.

Only one quarter of sewage is currently treated. The remaining three quarters are dumped into the Mediterranean sea. Based on population growth, the amount of sewage and waste water that is generated per year could increase from 44m cubic meters today to 57m cubic meters in 2020. Current treatment plants need to be expanded and improved, and new ones built.

These predictions have profound implications for all humanitarian and development organisations in Gaza, in particular the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which works with Gaza’s refugee communities. Some 70% of the population are refugees, with UNRWA’s current caseload of over 1.2 million expected to rise to some 1.5 million by 2020. This 30% increase in refugees will require massive investment to maintain current levels of service.

Take health: in 2011 there were over 4.4 million patient visits to UNRWA health centres, that could be expected to rise to over 5.7 million annual visits at current rates. UNRWA’s 21 health centres currently have an average catchment of approximately 57,000 registered refugees; without new clinics that would rise to over 74,000 by 2020.

To bring UNRWA closer to WHO standards, the agency currently needs an additional 90 doctors and 95 nurses. To maintain current service levels by 2020, UNRWA would need to add five new health centres, 220 doctors and over 300 other health professionals, and that is without improving the present level of service (over 100 patient visits per doctor per day).

In the education sector, urrently UNRWA has 247 schools in 130 buildings, with 93% double shifting – the same building serving two separate shifts of students and teachers each day. To maintain our current student teacher ratio we would need over 2,000 teachers and support staff.

On social protection UNRWA distributes food to over 900,000 refugees, after which some 44% remain food insecure because of a lack of jobs. Without improvements in the economy that can only come about with the lifting of the blockade that figure will rise to over 1 million. An additional 350,000 refugees by 2020 means some 20,000 new shelters will be required.

Our prescription to avert this looming but avoidable catastrophe is simple. While the UN has condemned the rockets many times, we continue to demand a lifting of the blockade, which is costing the international community hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Allow the people of Gaza to enjoy the standards of development and economic prosperity for which they yearn. They are capable of self-sufficiency. They do not want the current levels of 80% aid dependency to continue and neither do the world’s taxpayers who fund the international aid agencies.

Let us address the root causes of this looming disaster rather than expecting the international community to foot the bill to mitigate their disastrous consequences.

( / 10.09.2012)

Siege leaves 80 percent of Gaza’s factories shut

Israel’s ban on allowing Gaza to export goods has decimated Gaza’s economy.

JABALIYA, Gaza (IPS) – “Gaza’s economy is expected to grow modestly and people will likely still be worse off in 2015 compared to the mid-1990s,” read a statement heralding the publication of a United Nations report, “Gaza in 2020 – A Liveable Place?” in August.

In a no-frills office in the Jabaliya refugee camp, Rizik al-Madhoun, 41, explained how his clothing factory began shutting down six years ago.

“We started in 1993 with seven sewing machines. By 2005 we had 250 machines and as many tailors,” he said. “In 2006, after Hamas was elected and Israel sealed the borders, we had to close down half of the factory. We stopped all production in 2007, when Israel tightened the siege.”

Al-Madhoun’s is one of the 97 percent of industrial establishments in the Gaza Strip which by 2008 had stopped production as a result of the Israeli-led closure of Gaza’s borders that limited imports and virtually halted all exports. By December 2007, the UN had already reported that only one percent of Gaza’s 960 garment factories remained open.

Today, a reported 80 percent of factories in Gaza are still closed or operating at minimum capacity.

“Until 2005, our work was good,” said al-Madhoun. “We made shirts, pants, jeans, dresses, skirts, school clothes … we’d make whatever was in demand. Since our clothes were high quality, 80 percent were exported to Israeli markets, and some of these were then exported to European markets.”

His workers were among 40,000 who worked as tailors in Gaza. “Before our factory closed, I employed 250 high-quality tailors, as well as another 100 who worked from home,” he said. “Another 50 families worked from home, doing the final touches and finishing work.”


A tour through the vast warehouse that was al-Madhoun’s factory revealed much now unused space, with a few rooms devoted to storing cheap imported clothing. “Now we just have a large storage area. There’s no way we can run our factory, so instead we sell these imports in Gaza markets.”

Focusing on Gaza’s devastated economy, the UN noted in June that “the continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency” (“Five years of blockade: the humanitarian situtation in the Gaza Strip”).

Bogus security claims

The Israeli human rights group Gisha has cited estimates that 85 percent of Gaza’s exports traditionally went to Israeli and Palestinian markets outside of Gaza. Gisha has also noted that any claims of security precautions being the reason for prohibiting exports from Gaza held no weight.

“Recently a new scanner for screening goods was installed at the crossing,” Gisha stated in June. According to Gisha, Israeli military officials “have said that the choice to prevent sale of goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank was made at the political echelon and needs to be decided upon there” (“Gisha presents: strawberries for sale”).

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has reported that the amount of exports allowed to leave Gaza in March were “1.28 percent of pre-closure numbers,” with April exports at “0.85 percent of the pre-closure numbers” (“5 Years and Counting: International Organizations and Donors Continue to Fund Israel’s Illegal Closure on the Gaza Strip”).

Gaza’s unemployment rates continue to hover between 35 and 65 percent and food aid dependency remains at 80 percent.

“An urban area cannot survive without being connected,” UN representative Maxwell Gaylard stated in August, reiterating the necessity to reopen Gaza’s closed borders to trade.

“The area has been essentially isolated since 2005,” read the UN statement, “meaning that, in the longer term, its economy is fundamentally unviable under present circumstances. Gaza is currently kept alive through external funding and the illegal tunnel economy.”

The recent United Nations’ report concluded by insisting that, among other things, the Palestinians of Gaza “must have ready access to the world beyond Gaza for religious, educational, medical, cultural, commercial and other purposes.”

Rizik Al-Madhoun simplified the call: allow Gaza’s exports out.

“Since we have so few options for work, Gaza’s tailors have perfected their crafts,” al-Madhoun said. “We can make clothes as good and better quality than the Turkish imports we get, but without a market, there is no point in producing goods.”

( / 10.09.2012)

Oplossing van de Palestijnse kwestie

In dit artikel geef ik mijn persoonlijke visie op de Palestijnse kwestie. Dat doe ik dus op persoonlijke titel, uiteraard wel rekening houdende met het feit dat ik momenteel ook lijsttrekker ben van de nieuwe politieke partij SOPN (link) voor de Tweede Kamerverkiezingen van aanstaande woensdag.

Wie zijn nu eigenlijk Joden?

We nemen het woord ‘Jood’ doorgaans erg gemakkelijk in de mond. Maar wanneer is iemand nu precies een Jood? En heeft het Joodse volk eigenlijk wel een duidelijk afgescheiden grenslijn met de rest van de mensheid? Deze tweede vraag laat ik hier verder rusten.

Laten we maar beginnen met te constateren dat er twee hoofdgroepen zijn binnen wat het Joodse volk wordt genoemd: de Khazaarse Joden en de Asjkenazische Joden. De Khazaren waren een semi-nomadisch volk dat oorspronkelijk vanuit Turkije zich in Oost-Europa vestigde. HetKhazaarse rijk was zeer machtig en kwam tot grote bloei, totdat het rond de 10e eeuw verdween, door oorlogen en onderlinge verdeeldheid. Volgens veel deskundigen zijn deze Khazaarse ‘Joden’ helemaal geen afstammelingen van Abraham en zijn daarmee dus feitelijk geen echte Joden.

De echte Joden zijn daarmee de Asjkenazische Joden. In Nederland herkennen we deze afstammelingen van Abraham aan typischeAsjkenazische achternamen als Polak, De Leeuw, De Hond, Schaap, Citroen en Appel. Deze namen zijn veelal van Hoogduitse afkomst. Deze dierennamen zijn deels te verklaren omdat een aantal van de twaalf stammen van Israël gesymboliseerd wordt door een dier (bron).

De Khazaarse afstammelingen, die voor alle duidelijkheid dus helemaal geen echte Joden zijn, hebben zich gegroepeerd als Zionisten. Naar het schijnt behoren ongeveer 90% van de huidige ‘Joodse’ bewoners van Israël tot deze groep van Khazaarse afstammelingen, die dus geen enkele historische aanspraak kunnen maken op dit grondgebied.

Er is daarom een essentieel verschil tussen Zionisten en Joden, iets wat de mainstream media uit alle macht verborgen proberen te houden. Sommigen gaan zelfs zover dat zij beweren dat de Khazaarse Zionisten verantwoordelijk waren voor de Asjkenazische Jodenhaat van de Nazi’s. En in mijn eerdere uitlatingen heb ik aangegeven dat ik het erg vreemd vind dat destijds het Duitse woord Nationalsozialismus niet is afgekort als Naso, maar als Nazi. Mijn hypothese is dat Nazi verwijst naar Nationaal Zionisme in plaats van Nationaal Socialisme.

Een ander opmerkelijk feit dat de mainstream media uit alle macht verborgen proberen te houden is de betekenis van het woord semiet. De Semieten waren de stammen in het Midden-Oosten die zich beriepen op afstamming van Sem, één van de drie zonen van Noach. Daarmee betekent het woord Semiet dus gewoon ‘iemand die stamt uit het Midden-Oosten’, wat we heel eenvoudig kunnen samenvatten als ‘Arabier’. Momenteel zijn er ongeveer 280 miljoen Arabieren. Iemand die zich antisemitisch uitlaat discrimineert dus een Arabier.

Hoe lossen we het probleem in Israël op?

Ieder probleem kan alleen vanuit de kern worden opgelost. De kern van het probleem van de Palestijnse kwestie ligt bij het besluit dat de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties nam op 29 november 1947 om toestemming te geven voor de oprichting van de Staat Israël. Alleen de veroorzaker van dit probleem kan voor een duurzame oplossing zorgen. Daartoe dient de VN opnieuw een besluit te nemen, zonder uiteraard enige bemoeienis van de Staat Israël.

100% openheid

De SOPN wil 100% openheid over alles in het publieke domein. Dat betekent dus ook 100% openheid over de betekenis van de woorden Jood, Zionist en antisemitisme. Persoonlijk vind ik dat het nu maar eens afgelopen moet zijn met al die spastische reacties die demainstream media keer op keer uitvergroten wanneer iemand deze woorden in de mond neemt. Ook hebben we er recht op om te weten wat er nu werkelijk allemaal is gebeurd in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, onder andere met veel Asjkenazische afstammelingen. Ook daarover wil de SOPN dus 100% openheid. En dat geldt ook voor de aanhoudende geruchtenstroom dat de Khazaarse Zionisten de werkelijke terroristen van deze planeet zijn, want ook daarover wil de SOPN 100% openheid.

( / 10.09.2012)

19-Year-Old Blogger Explains What Life Is Like In The Gaza Strip

Tamam Abusalama, Palestine Is Tamam
Tamam Abusalama

 Blogger, Palestinian, Activist – I want freedom!
Drone Military America

Even The Leaders Of US Police Departments Want To Restrict Domestic Drone Use

A Reporter In Syria Captured Shocking Pictures Of A Tank Blast

A Reporter In Syria Captured Shocking Pictures Of A Tank Blast


At Least 10 Civilians Have Been Killed By A US Drone Strike And No One Is Responsibile

I spent 4 hours alone at home today without electricity, listening to the awful sounds of the Israeli drones hovering over Gaza Sky and the generators.Being in such a situation makes me think deeper, so I brought my mobile phone to write on as I had no charge left in my laptop.

After writing many things about my life as a young woman living in the besieged Gaza strip, I came out with a personal theory, which is “living in the Gaza strip is an inspiration to every Palestinian.”

Scales are overturned in Palestine, especially in Gaza. In other places people use candles to create a romantic atmosphere, but Gazans use them to give some light to escape the darkness that we live. Candles in Gaza burn themselves in order to give light to Gazans, just as so many Gazans are so generous in their self-sacrifice for their citizens.

When I was In Stockholm, my friend used to light candles whenever we had dinner. I used to make fun of the symbolic differences between candles in Gaza and Stockholm. I wanted to bring some of her candles back home with me so I could use them as she did, for a nicer atmosphere, whenever I want to, not whenever I have to!

Most of the people outside are addicted to music and songs, which make a person relaxed and makes the mood better. However, as usual, things are different in Gaza. The Israeli drones have a louder volume than our songs do. Therefore, we won’t be able to fully enjoy listening to music and separate ourselves from horror hovering above us outside. (PS: You will never be able to imagine how annoying their sound is until you experience it.)

Ordinary people stay up the whole night to work, watch movies, or chat with friends and family and so on. But Gazans have a sleeping clock which depends on the daily power-cut schedule at their homes. Two days ago, we heard six loud explosions nearby and it traumatized me, especially because they were one after another.

After that Israel attack, I was very sleepy but I couldn’t sleep, fearing more bombs might fall at any moment and might target our house. Having these fears in mind didn’t let me go to sleep until I saw the daylight.

Two days ago, The United Nations published a report saying that Gaza will not be a “liveable” place by 2020 due to the problems it has with water, electricity, health and education. It reminds us of a famous line of poetry that every Palestinian living in the besieged Gaza still quotes from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “On this land what is worth living.”

( / 10.09.2012)

Palestinian bid for UN membership on Sept.27

WEST BANK: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he will make a bid on Sept.27 to obtain non-member status at the United Nations.

“We will go to the UN General Assembly for consultations with our friends  on the draft resolution calling for the upgrade of Palestine (to non-member  status)” in the United Nations, Abbas said in a televised address.

“We are going to the UN to say that we are a state which applies the fourth Geneva convention (on the protection of civilians in time of war). There are  133 countries that recognise us as a state with east Jerusalem as its capital  and where we have embassies hoisting the Palestinian flag.” Palestinians now have an observer entity status.

Abbas says that government employees will not receive full salaries this month because donor countries have not delivered promised aid.

The US and Arab countries have failed to come through this year with the aid money they have pledged, leaving the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) that governs much of the West Bank in a budgetary shortfall that has contributed to rising prices and delays in the payment of government salaries.

The economic conditions have helped spark small but growing protests in the West Bank.

Last week demonstrators halted traffic in key Palestinian cities.

There are some 154,000 Palestinian civil servants, and their salaries help keep their extended families out of poverty.  Abbas spoke to reporters on Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Asserting that the ongoing protests against the rising cost of living in the West Bank are legitimate, Abbas reiterated that Israel and some Arab countries share the blame for the PNA’s financial crisis.

The PNA, he said, will not seek to stop the popular protests as long as they remain peaceful and do not harm public interests.

However, he stressed that the government would not allow any attacks on public properties.

“The PNA will not intervene, but we will stand in the face of those who may try to sabotage or set fire or damage (public properties),” Abbas said.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Thursday he was willing to resign if the public demanded, but did not say that he was going to do so.

( / 10.09.2012)

Palestinian Refugees from Syria Lost and ‘Betrayed’

Palestinian refugees in SyriaPalestinian refugees in Syria

The official position of Arab nations is unambiguous: solidarity with Palestine is paramount. But facts on the ground point to a disturbingly different reality, one in which Palestinians are mistreated beyond any rational justification in various Arab countries. The worst-fated among them are stateless refugees, who have for decades been granted only precarious legal status. In times of crisis thee refugees have repeatedly found themselves in a state of legal and political limbo.


At the recent Non-Aligned Movement summit held in Tehran, Arab leaders spoke with the same ardent passion about justice for the Palestinians. One Arab Emir warned that “preoccupation with issues of the Arab Spring…should not distract us from the Arab central cause of Palestine.” He labored to count all Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, as heads of states nodded in agreement. Absent from the speech, however, was any reference to the ongoing suffering of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, where, arguably, Israel has no sway.

While there is no question that displaced Syrian refugees are going through a truly horrific experience during the civil war, the fate of Palestinian refugees is markedly worse. This is because Palestinians do not have the basic rights that passport-holding Syrian citizens do. ‘Stuck’, ‘stranded’ and ‘imprisoned’ are only some of the terms used to describe the state of Palestinian refugees, ill-treated and subjugated by none other than their ‘Arab brethren’.

Due to geographic necessity, thousands of Palestinian refugees are escaping the war to nearby borders in both Jordan and Lebanon. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has registered nearly 5,000 fleeing refugees. But the number is likely much higher and will continue to grow as fighting escalates.

There are nearly half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria. Despite all attempts at sparing them the bloody outcomes of the conflict, they have still become embroiled in the fight. Regional powers desperate to gain ground in Syria have used their media to exploit the Palestinian issue, knowing well the sentimental value of the Palestinian narrative within the larger Arab discourse. The outcome has been devastating, and many Palestinians have been on the run for nearly a year and a half. Areas with a concentration of Palestinian refugees are no longer neutral territories. Despite pleas and assurances, Palestinian refugees in Syria remain most vulnerable.

In Jordan, hundreds of Palestinian refugees who fled Syria have been crammed into a poorly equipped living facility known as Cyber City, about 90km north of the capital, Amman. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have decried the mistreatment of refugees in Cyber City, reporting forced deportations back to Syria, and the prisoner-like status of those who have remained in Jordan.

In a July 4 report, ‘Jordan: Bias at the Syria Border’, Human Rights Watch claimed that those fortunate enough not to be deported are still threatened with deportation. “Since April 2012, the authorities have also arbitrarily detained Palestinians fleeing Syria in a refugee holding center without any options for release other than return to Syria,” stated the report.

One Cyber City resident, Samir, told UN humanitarian news network, IRIN: “It has been quite bad living like a prisoner, especially when you see other people come and go but you are trapped.” According to the report, “Palestinian refugees from Syria feel abandoned” and Palestinian refugees of Cyber City cannot cross over 30 meters from the main building.

Some of the stories imparted by Human Rights Watch are very disturbing to say the least. The organization acknowledges that Jordan has not signed or ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention; it is still required under international human rights law to respect the principle of non-refoulement, which “prohibits countries from sending anyone back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened.” However, the phenomenon is reportedly recurring in the case of Palestinian refugees.

The situation is Lebanon is equally distressing. Margaret Besheer wrote from Beirut on the double misery of Palestinian refugees fleeing to Lebanon, mostly seeking shelter in the slums of the Shatilla refugee camp. There are 455,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who are mostly distributed among 12 refugee camps throughout the country and subsisting in terrible conditions.

Since Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees are already victims of a host of discriminatory laws, one can only imagine the dilemma of newly arriving refugees. Ibtisam’s family shares one room with eight other people in the Shatilla camp. “We are three families staying in one room. What can we do? We escaped from the killing and shelling and now we are living like this.”

Ibtisam can be considered lucky for being allowed entry in the first place. However, unlike other refugees from Syria, Palestinians who are permitted to enter are expected to renew their permit on a monthly basis – at a cost of 50,000 LBP (US$33), an unaffordable feat for families lacking access to proper food or health care.

Many are not even fortunate enough to be able to leave Syria in the first place. According to NGO worker Rawan Nassar, families are forced to deposit large sums of money to obtain permission from authorities. The poor are naturally denied an exit permit, and some families risk their entire lifesavings to escape. Once at the Lebanon border, even more bribing is necessary. “I saw a Palestinian woman at the border, who did not know anyone in Lebanon and she was forced to pay $300 in bribes, $40 for each child,” a Syrian eyewitness told IRIN.

While hostility towards Palestinian refugees is rooted in histories laden with civil wars and conflicts, it is hard to justify the attitude of UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which manifestly differentiates between refugees of other countries and Palestinian refugees. The latter are supposedly the sole responsibility of UNRWA, which has only a tiny relief budget that is unable to keep up with even the most basic demands of those who bother to register.

The crisis ensuing from Palestinian refugees escaping regional conflict is not a new phenomenon, as wars in Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon have demonstrated in the past. The tragedy is multiplied, however, because no real, long-term solution has been put in place despite the recurring humanitarian catastrophe.

Meanwhile, official speech decrying Israeli crimes continues unabated, with little attention paid to crimes committed elsewhere. This results only in the same disheartening outcome.

One refugee was quoted in UN news as saying: “People come and take pictures and speak with us, but they all leave at the end.” Such is the plight of the Palestinian refugees, sixty-four years after the Nakba.

(Ramzy Baroud / / 10.09.2012)