Israeli occupation leaves psychological not just physical scars

Israel’s occupation has a profound impact on Palestinian children’s psychological development.

Palestine is a nation shaped by its arid scenery and history as the holy land. However, since 1948, it has also been defined by the scar of occupation.

separation wall, ugly and gray, now blights the land which many believe Jesus walked on. It is perhaps one of the most sacrilegious and grotesque structures existing today.

This wall is the very embodiment of the illegal occupation of the West Bank. It serves as a reminder every day, in every place, that Palestinians are not yet free, despite the promises made at Oslo in the mid ’90s and then later at Camp David.

Within the parameters of the wall, however, exists a more subtle (and perhaps more damaging) form of occupation.

The West Bank city of Nablus rests between two hills. The city center is perennially busy, with people going about their daily business, running mundane errands.

At first glance, there is nothing unusual about Nablus. In many ways it’s a great tourist destination; it has a bustling old city, friendly people and beautiful surroundings. It is easy to forget, or even to remain oblivious of, the fact that Nablus is occupied.

Constantly observed

In reality, occupation surrounds the city. On one side there is a settlement, inhabited by radical Zionists. On the other, there’s an Israeli military base, silently watching over the city. Nablus is constantly being observed.

While the impact of the occupation on the landscape is relatively subtle, its psychological impact on the residents of Nablus is significant. Many have lost friends and family to the settlers or army.

One resident, who we shall call N, described to me how his friend had been killed by the army on one of the hilltops. N and his friends had to wait for a whole day to pick up the body, and only then with the help of international activists, whose plaintive requests, screamed from megaphones, were arguably the only thing separating N and his friends from meeting the same fate as the body they were trying to collect.

The occupation by observation becomes a lot more visceral as night falls. At around midnight (although sometimes it can be as early as 10:30pm) the settlers (backed by the Israeli army) descend upon the city.

They are confronted by young Palestinian men, who throw stones. They are met with tear gas canisters, live ammunition and sound bombs.

It is an exercise in symbolically reclaiming and defending space. The army and settlersinvade to remind the residents of Nablus that they are not secure.

As soon as night falls, Nablus becomes a contested space. During the nightly battles, no ground is lost or gained. The purpose is purely to violate. To assert control. To serve as a reminder that life continues as normal in the daylight only because the Israeli army allows it to be so.

The invasion of space is a form of humiliation, to replace checkpoints and the continuous presence of Israeli soldiers. It is like an assault, felt by everyone in Nablus — serving as a reminder of their subjugation.

Humiliation of this kind is present almost everywhere in the West Bank.

Nowhere, however, is this abasement more present than in the southern city of Hebron. Divided into two parts, the city is subjected to some of the most violent and radical settlers within the West Bank.


As a result, Hebron is notorious for extremely visible signs of apartheid; checkpoints, streets off-limits to Palestinians, houses which must have their doors open all day and all night in case Israeli soldiers need to enter onto the roof to gain a better vantage point.

Nonetheless, these are not the most profane symbols of the occupation. It is the everyday humiliations, carried out at the hands of the Israeli army, that are the most sickening aspect of the situation in Hebron.

To access the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians must walk through a revolving gate. It is a de facto checkpoint.

People walk towards the jaws of this gate in single file, shuffling along like cattle, under the watchful eye of an impossibly young soldier. Occasionally the gate jams (or is purposefully turned off by the soldiers, depending on who you believe).

Everyone must wait for it to start working, held in a state of suspended animation. It is an incredibly dehumanizing experience. You are alone. You are watched.

The humiliation endured by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is the ugliest form of structural violence. It reinforces the message, day in and day out, that they are a subjugated people.

It is completely deliberate, a tactic of psychological warfare which is being utilized by the Israeli army, rather than the unfortunate side-effect of necessary security measures. The ability of an 18-year-old Israeli soldier to disrupt the day of a Palestinian family reinforces the ethnic hierarchy which places Israelis above Palestinians. It reifies the power structures of the Israeli state.


It should be more widely recognized that this is a form of psychological warfare — the occupation is an occupation of the mind as well as the land. The intention is to create a submissive populace by breaking its spirit.

There are signs of a cracked collective psyche in Hebron, particularly among the children. An 11-year-old boy recounted to me the story of how the Israeli soldiers at one of the town’s military checkpoints had delayed his mother getting through with his sick baby brother.

Five minutes before the soldiers let her through, the baby had died. He told the story in a tone of complete hopelessness.

He finished off by saying that nobody cared because his family were Palestinians.

In 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières and Palestinian mental health groups reported that in Nablus in particular, high levels of anxiety disorders among children are being attributed to chronic settler harrassment and Israeli military incursions. And elsewhere across the West Bank, children are “overwhelmingly” suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the groups stated.

Standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle necessitates more than going on a demonstration after Israel launches air strikes on Gaza, or attacks a refugee camp in the West Bank. There remains a need to draw attention to the structural violence of the Israeli occupation — it is indeed a form of violence, as morally reprehensible as the bombing of a civilian population.

We must not focus our fight solely on the physical salvaging of Palestine. This is not simply a battle for land, it is a battle against the oppression of the mind as well as the body.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

DT&V bedient Mugabe, commissies betaald

Het verhaal van politiek vluchteling K uit Zimbabwe wordt bij de RvS geloofwaardig bevonden, maar zijn bewijzen van lidmaatschap van de oppositiepartij en een arrestatiebevel zijn niet ‘zwaarwegend’ genoeg: De marrechausee  had weer eens geen referentiemateriaal, dus worden de documenten niet als nieuwe feiten meegewogen. Voor een ‘erkent expertise bureau’ komt dit echter wel opvallend vaak voor. Dit is slechts een van de aspecten die het vertrouwen in Justitie volledig zou moeten ondermijnen. Maar zolang integere rechters en asieladvocaten geen alarm slaan over de gang van zaken binnen de asielprocedure en het gebrek aan controle hierop, blijft Justitie haar monopolie op besluit en ‘deskundigheid’ uitbreiden. K’s zaak illustreert hoe de beslissende afdelingen binnen het systeem te werk gaan.

Hoe DT&V verlenging legitimeert

Na 5,5 maand in detentie wordt bij wijze van voortvarendheid van het uitzetproces door DT&V vermeld dat de ambassade van Zimbabwe verzocht heeft om een betere kopie van K’s pasfoto, zo verantwoordt DT&V zich naar de Rechter voor verlenging van detentie. Bij navraag echter blijkt de ambassade helemaal geen weet te hebben van een dergelijk verzoek. Het lijkt er dus op dat DT&V deze legitimering voor verlenging uit zijn duim zuigt.

Advocaten moeten doorgaans maar aannemen dat DT&V naar eer en geweten handelt en doen dat helaas vaak ook, anderzijds, er is geen extern orgaan waaraan getoetst kan worden. Hoe kan een instantie, die bestaansrecht ontleend aan het uitzetten van zoveel mogelijk asielzoekers (quota) anderzijds een betrouwbare of erger, neutrale of deskundige partij heten binnen de asielprocedure?


Bij de eerste presentatie aan de Ambassade wordt zowel door K als de Consul een valse handtekening onder aanvraag laissez passer geconstateerd, zo blijkt nadat K werd verzocht zijn handtekening op een stuk papier te zetten ter vergelijking. “Hier klopt niets van” zei de consul tegen haar collega waar K bij zat.

Een onderzoek naar de nationaliteit van K volgt. Dit duurt erg lang volgens DT&V. Achteraf blijkt ook waarom; er werd namelijk stevig onderhandelt over de prijs van K’s terugname, dat werd bevestigd door de Ambassadeur in eigen persoon: “Er is nu geen weg meer terug, de commissies zijn al betaald.”

Al wijd bekend is het betalen van commissies door DT&V aan partijen zoals de Ambassade, teneinde medewerking te verlenen aan terugname van een persoon. Ambassades hanteren vaak de regel geen personen terug te nemen tegen hun wil, maar zijn dus wel chantabel. De definitie van een commissie: “Beloning voor de broker, (een onderhandelingspartner)  berekend in een percentage van de verhandelde waarde.” K wordt dus verhandelt, of liever, zijn verwijdering wordt verhandelt. Wat is het DT&V waard om K te laten verwijderen? Wat is K waard als te verwijderen persoon?


Omdat het expertisebureau van Kmar niet naar behoren is geoutilleerd, wordt K’s zaak bij de RvS afgewezen. Met een valse handtekening wordt een verzoek voor laissez passer aangevraagd. Omdat meer tijd nodig is voor de onderhandelingen met de Ambassade wordt een reden tot verlenging uit de duim gezogen. Hierdoor wordt de procedure door DT&V belemmerd. Tenslotte worden steekpenningen betaald, berekend op wat de verwijdering van K hen waard is. Nee, Gerard Schouw van D66, de IND ziet niet “dingen wel eens over het hoofd,” maar misbruikt willens en wetens haar machtspositie voor het behalen van een quotum door list en bedrog. Name it!

K. hangt. En hoe. Bij aankomst in Harare zal hij per direct worden opgepakt en gedetineerd door de beulen van Mugabe.

K zal op donderdag 12 september worden uitgeleverd

Vluchtnummer: KL 523 Amsterdam-Harare vertrek: 10.20

(Photo: Reuters) An opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporter shows how he was beaten by Zimbabwe army soldiers in the capital Harare

An opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporter shows how he was beaten by Zimbabwe army soldiers in the capital Harare

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Myassar Atyani sentenced to 3 months and 2000 NIS fine


Palestinian activist myassar-atianiMyassar Atyani was sentenced to 3 months in prison and a fine of 2000 NIS at a court hearing at Salem Military Court on September 11, 2013, on charges of entering Palestine ’48 without a permit. Myassar Atyani was arrested on August 15, 2013 while visiting former prisoner Woroud Qasem, along with fellow former prisoners Linan Abu Ghoulmeh and Leena Jawabreh. Myassar Atyani is a leading activist in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and is a former detainee herself.

Linan Abu Ghoulmeh was sentenced to 60 days and a 1000 NIS fine, and Leena Jawabreh to 30 days and a 1000 NIS fine.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

U.N. Guilty of ‘Collective Failure’ in Syria, Leader Says

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, said Wednesday that the organization was responsible for a “collective failure” to halt more than two years of atrocious violence in Syria, and he expressed hope that the crisis over that country’s chemical weapons stockpile would be a catalyst toward a diplomatic solution.

Mr. Ban’s remarks, in a speech at a United Nations conference, came as diplomatic energy was intensifying over a Russian proposal to secure Syria’s chemical munitions, which averted, for the time being, an American military strike threatened by President Obama, who said in a speech Tuesday night that he would give diplomacy more time.

Diplomats at the United Nations said the five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — were planning to meet later in the day to discuss a French-sponsored draft resolution that would place those chemical munitions under international control. But the Russians, who have said they will present their own plan, have expressed opposition to any resolution that carries the threat of military force to ensure compliance.

It was unclear when — or even whether — the French resolution would be put to a full vote by the 15-member council, and in any event their deliberations were not expected to advance significantly until Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, meet in Geneva on Thursday.

The remarks by Mr. Ban came in his opening speech to a General Assembly meeting on the “responsibility to protect” principle adopted by the United Nations in 2005, which asserts that the organization has an obligation to prevent mass atrocities. The principle grew out of the United Nations’s failure to avert the Rwandan genocide and the mass killings and ethnic cleansings in the Balkans conflict.

Despite the adoption of that principle, Mr. Ban said, “atrocities continue to be committed, and we continue to face challenges in our efforts to protect people from them.”

Mr. Ban cited the Syrian conflict as a case in point, declaring, “Our collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria over the past two and a half years will remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations and its member states.”

He expressed hope that the “current discussions related to safeguarding Syria’s chemical weapon stocks will lead to the Security Council playing an effective role in promoting an end to the Syrian tragedy.”

Samantha Power, the new American ambassador to the United Nations, also made Syria the theme in her remarks to the conference, reinforcing the Obama administration’s contention that Syrian forces were responsible for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed hundreds and led to the American threat to punish those forces with missile strikes in response. Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has denied culpability, asserting that insurgents must have carried out the attack.

The responsibility to protect clause, Ms. Power said, “should have compelled Assad to protect his people rather than attack them, and it should have compelled his partners in the international community to step in earlier, lend advice and assistance, and prevent the situation from reaching its current metastatic proportions.”

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Foreign Policy: “Israël a des armes chimiques”!

Ce n’est pas un secret certes que l’entité sioniste possède des armes chimiques et/nucléaires voire il serait étonnant qu’elle n’en possède pas compte tenu de son histoire  et de sa nature criminelles..

Mais quand c’est une revue américaine réputée par son professionnalisme qui publie de telles informations, cela mérite une pause.
Ainsi, selon le  Foreign Policy , citant des  documents classifiés de la CIA, “Israël dispose des armes chimiques”  depuis les années 60.

” Les satellites US ont identifié dans le désert du Neguev des sites de fabrication d’un gaz neurotoxique et des installtions qui lui servent de réservoir. Les israéliens produisent ce gaz toxique dans un institut de recherche biologique non loin de Tel Aviv” ècrit la revue.

Selon les documents de la CIA qui datent de 1983, “Israël a produit du gaz chimique et en a stocké en grande quantité entre les années 60 et 70”.

“Ces sites chimiques sont situés près de la centrale atomique de Dimona”,  précise le Foreign Policy .

Et d’ajouter: ” mais Israël possède probablement d’autres substances chimiques qu’il utilise dans ses industries.  Les israéliens auraient même effectué des essais chimiques dans le désert du Neguev”.

Mais encore…

La revue souligne que ” selon les enregistrements sonores dont dispose l’Agence de sécurité nationale américaine, les bombardiers de l’armée de l’Air auraient tiré des bombes à ogive nucléaire contre certaines zones du désert de Neguev.

“Un avion de ligne de la compagnie ElAl s’est écrasé le 4 octobre 1992 sur son trajet de New York à Amsterdam alors qu’il contenait  de l’aveu d’une commission d’enquête hollandaise deux tonneaux contenant trois des quatre substances nécessaires à la fabrication du gaz sarin ” ajoute Foreign Policy.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Extremist Israeli minister and settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jewish extemists under the protection of Israeli soldiers have continuosly stormed Al-Aqsa mosque for the past few decades

A group of extremist Israeli settlers headed by Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel broke into the sanctuary yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday morning.

Witnesses said that about 40 settlers accompanied the minister when he broke into the yards of the Mosque under heavy military protection from the Israeli police.

In a statement, Wadi Al-Hilwa Information Centre said that they got into the Mosque through Al-Magharbeh Gate and left through Al-Silsileh Gate. They wandered through the Yards and some of them performed Talmudic rituals.

Placed under heavy security measures, the statement said, Palestinian worshipers could do nothing except chant Allahu Akbar (God is Great).

Jewish organisations gathering under the name of “The Coalition for the Temple” have also distributed ads calling for settlers to storm the Mosque next Saturday. They called upon the police to allow them entry to the Mosque to celebrate the Yom Kippur holiday.

Israeli police spokesman Yohanna Danino has announced that Israeli police have agreed to give permission for Jews to enter into the Mosque on Saturday, considering it a part of the so-called “Jewish Temple”. He said, “That is an undisputed right for Jews.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Minister of Awqaf in Gaza Ismail Redwan condemned the Israeli “desecration” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “This proves that the Israelis are not serious in peace talks with the Palestinians,” he declared.

He also called for the Arab, Islamic and international official bodies to take action to protect the third holiest place for the world’s two billion Muslims.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Algerian president makes surprise cabinet reshuffle ahead of elections

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has made changes to his cabinet on Wednesday.

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika made several top cabinet appointments Wednesday, his office said, in a surprise reshuffle seen as strengthening the ageing leader’s hand seven months ahead of presidential polls.
The changes to the government headed by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal affect key ministries, including interior, defence and foreign affairs, the presidency said in a statement.

“It’s a war cabinet to prepare for the presidential election” in April 2014, political analyst Rachid Grim told AFP.

General Ahmed Gaid Salah, considered close to Bouteflika, was named deputy defense minister while retaining his post as army chief, while Tayeb Belaiz, who heads the constitutional council, was appointed interior minister.

Ramtane Lamamra, a seasoned diplomat, was appointed the new foreign minister, and former labour minister Tayeb Louh was tasked with heading the justice ministry.

Bouteflika, who has been in power for 14 years, retains the defence ministry, while the energy and finance portfolios held by Youcef Yousfi and Karim Djoudi remain unchanged.

The reshuffle, a year after the last cabinet was formed, is one of the first major actions by the 76-year-old president since he returned home in July following an absence of almost three months due to health problems.

He was flown to Paris in April for hospital treatment after suffering what his doctors described as a mini-stroke.

The reshuffle also comes just two weeks after Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front chose Ammar Saidani as its new secretary general, amid an internal political crisis in the party that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

The six FLN ministers who had opposed Saidani were removed from the cabinet, and experts believe his appointment has allowed Bouteflika’s supporters to tighten their control of the party in the run-up to next year’s leadership contest.

“The FLN will support the candidate proposed by the presidential clan,” said Rachid Grim, adding that the new interior minister will be in charge of preparing for the election.

Wednesday’s shake-up saw 11 ministers mark their entry into government, including four regional governors, while eight changed their portfolios.

Separately, private media have reported changes to sensitive structures within the armed forces, apparently rolling back the influence of the secretive DRS military intelligence agency, sometimes referred to as “the only real power in Algeria”.

Military communications have reportedly been placed under the control of the army chief, and the DRS’s military police, known for conducting numerous corruption probes, has been dissolved, according to Algerian daily En-Nahar.

Political analyst Rachid Tlemcani agreed that the cabinet appointments strengthened Bouteflika’s hand.

“He has increased his powers by appointing people close to him, such as the new Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz, in anticipation of the presidential election,” Tlemcani said.

Bouteflika’s fragile health has seriously weakened his chances of standing for a fourth term in office, although his supporters have not given up on the idea.

Countering speculation about his ability to rule, the president has been pictured by state media, both in the Paris hospital where he convalesced and back in Algiers, receiving Prime Minister Sellal and General Salah and discussing the daily affairs of government.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Aqsa foundation warns of new Israeli attempt to falsify Arab identity of J’lem


OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Aqsa foundation for endowment and heritage said that the latest Israeli claims about finding historical stone engravings near the Aqsa Mosque is another attempt to liquidate the Arab and Islamic civilization of the holy city of Jerusalem and promote the Jewish temple lie.

The foundation stated on Tuesday that the new Zionist allegations in this regard are aimed to change the reality on the ground and cement the Jewish lies about the alleged temple.

The foundation stressed that the fraud campaigns that are led by Israeli archeologists are politicized and aimed at proving the existence of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem, especially in the Umayyad Palaces area near the southern wall of the Aqsa Mosque.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Israel stockpiled chemical weapons decades ago – CIA document


Israeli soldiers (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)Israeli soldiers

Israel is believed to have secretly built up its own stockpile of chemical and biological weapons decades ago, reports Foreign Policy, citing a recently unearthed CIA document.

American surveillance satellites uncovered in 1982 “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert,” states the secret 1983 CIA intelligence estimate obtained by Foreign Policy (FP). “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry,” the document adds.

According to FP, US intelligence agencies are almost certain that Israel possesses a stockpile of nuclear weapons that the Middle Eastern country developed in the 1960s and 1970s as part of its defense against a possible attack from Arab neighbors.

The FP report is based on a page from a secret, Sept. 15, 1983, CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate entitled “Implications of Soviet Use of Chemical and Toxin Weapons for US Security Interests.” Part of the document was released in 2009 in the National Archives, but the piece on Israel was extracted from that version.

For years, arms control analysts have speculated that Israel built up a range of chemical and biological weapons to complement its alleged nuclear arsenal.

Experts’ attention, in particular, was focused on the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) at Ness Ziona, located 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. The highly-classified research center operated and funded by the Israel Ministry of Defense is alleged to be a military facility manufacturing chemical and biological weapons.  The IIBR was allegedly involved in several “accidents.” In one of them, according to the British Foreign Report in 1998, authorities were close to ordering evacuation of homes in the area before scientists discovered there was no threat to the population.

However, to date not much evidence has been published about Israel possessing chemical or nuclear weapons. The newly-discovered CIA memo may be the strongest indication yet, FP writes.

While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents,” the CIA document is quoted as saying, “several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and non-persistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.”


image from http://www.foreignpolicy.comimage from


The “non-persistent agent” mentioned in the secret document was likely sarin – a nerve gas that was allegedly used in the August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, FP writes. The US blamed the Syrian government for the attack and threatened to launch a military strike in response.

The 1983 CIA memo reveals that US intelligence was aware of Israeli alleged chemical weapons-testing activities since the early 1970s – when they learned from intelligence sources about the existence of chemical weapons testing grounds. It is almost certain that these test areas were located in Negev Desert, in southern Israel, FP writes.

Israel stepped up its research and development work on chemical weapons following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, according to the CIA document. The war began when Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack against Israel as the nation was celebrating Yom Kippur – the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar.

Israel, finding itself surrounded by frontline Arab states with budding CW capabilities, became increasingly conscious of its vulnerability to chemical attack,” the document says. “Its sensitivities were galvanized by the capture of large quantities of Soviet CW-related equipment during both the 1967 Arab-Israeli and the 1973 Yom Kippur wars. As a result, Israel undertook a program of chemical warfare preparations in both offensive and protective areas.”

The report also claims that in January 1976, American intelligence detected “possible tests” of Israeli chemical weapons very likely to have taken place in the Negev Desert. FP cites a former US Air Force intelligence officer, who told the magazine that the National Security Agency intercepted communications indicating that Israeli air force fighter-bombers carried out a simulated low-level chemical weapons delivery missions at a bombing range in the Negev.

1NIE on Israeli Chemical Weapons

It is unknown whether Israel still keeps its alleged stockpile of chemical weapons. In 1992, the Israeli government signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws such arms. Crucially, however,  Israel has not ratified the agreement.

The author of the FP article claims that after a search on Google Maps, he found what he believes to be “the location of the Israeli nerve agent production facility and its associated chemical weapons storage area” in the Negev Desert east of the village of al-Kilab, about 10 miles west of the city of Dimona.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to FP’s requests to comment on the article.

The CIA document emerged as the US mulls over a possible “limited” military strike against the Syrian regime that President Barack Obama was pushing for following the chemical weapons attack last month.

On Tuesday, Obama the urged the US Congress to postpone a vote to authorize military action, and said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the ongoing Syrian war. Obama cited the Russian proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control among the reasons for the delay. Damascus has this week agreed to hand over its chemical weapons to international supervisors, and tosign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

(Source / 11.09.2013)

Palestinian youth assert right of return with direct action

Summer camps aim to reconnect Palestinian youth to their ancestral villages.

During the summer of 2013 a new grassroots movement burst onto the scene and announced itself as a major development in the long struggle for the right of return forPalestinian refugees.

Activities occurring throughout the Galilee region of present-day Israel have been held which reaffirm the connection of the younger generation of internally displaced Palestinians to their ancestral villages. Events and projects simultaneously take practical steps to realize this long-denied, fundamental right.

The right of return is one of the most evocative and central issues for Palestinians ever since the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, which saw the destruction of more than 530 Arab villages and the displacement of approximately 800,000 Palestinians. The majority of them ended up as refugees in neighboring Arab states, or in those parts of Palestine which initially remained outside of Israeli control, namely the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 managed to remain inside the new state of Israel, however, finding refuge in nearby towns which had survived the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestine’s villages.

Brutal Israel

Attempts by the original inhabitants to return to their villages in the immediate aftermath of the Nakba were fought against by the new state, which used all the means at its disposal, often brutally.

Dispersed villagers attempting to return from outside the borders of the new state were often shot dead on sight by the Israeli army. Meanwhile, villagers attempting to return who had managed to remain within the borders of the new state were routinely rounded up and deported as “infiltrators.” Legislation such as the Absentees Property Law enabled the confiscation of property of those Palestinians who had been made into internally displaced persons, while denying their rights to live there or even to enter the site of their ancestral lands.

Between 1948 and 1955, the majority of these villages were destroyed by the Israeli army and covered either with pine forests or new Jewish-only settlements. In many cases, a cemetery, mosque or church was the only remaining evidence of a village’s existence.

The new wave of movements which have gained prominence this summer can be traced back partly to a group of third generation, internally displaced youth from the village of Iqrit, who in August 2012 decided that they would take matters into their own hands and return to their ancestral village.

Iqrit’s residents were originally ordered out of their village for two weeks shortly after the Nakba for so-called security reasons. Exceptionally, three years later they obtained Israeli high court approval to return, and received information that they would be able to return on Christmas Day, especially symbolic for the Christian community.

On that day in 1951, as the villagers waited to return, the Israeli army razed the village to the ground.

Potent symbol

Now living in two small rooms built as extensions of the still-standing church, Iqrit’s youth activists today sleep in the village in shifts in order to maintain a permanent presence there. This summer a small football stadium was also built, a potent symbol of the will and permanence of their return.

Iqrit’s community has been organizing summer camps for its younger members annually since 1996; this year approximately 200 youth between the ages of 8 and 16 attended. The aim of the camp was to help the youth develop their identity by teaching them about their own history, and connecting this to the wider Palestinian history before 1948.

In addition to the summer camp and the newly permanent presence, villagers hold religious celebrations during Easter and Christmas in the local church. The village’s cemetery is also still in use.

The youth-led, grassroots approach of Iqrit is very much indicative of the movement as a whole. Youth took the lead in 2013’s “Summer of Return,” ensuring that demands for the right of return find a renewed voice among the latest generation of the dispossessed.

One village which has adopted Iqrit’s strategy of youth-based return is Kufr Birim. Located close to the boundary between Israel and Lebanon — not far from Iqrit — for the past few years Kufir Birim has played host to summer camps for children.

This summer, people with family connections to Kufir Birim have also decided to maintain a permanent presence in the village, centered around the old community’s surviving church. However, their initiative has not been without obstacles.

Refusing to leave

In August, the Israel Lands Authority told the camp’s members that they had to leave within a week or they would be removed by force (“Authorities threaten displaced community’s return to village,” +972 Magazine, 22 August 2013).

On 28 August, Iqrit also received a visit by inspectors from the Israel Lands Authority, accompanied by border policemen. They came during the morning and confiscated tents and beds, uprooted the small garden, removed signs and destroyed property, including the new football stadium.

However, as in Kufr Birim, the youth are not willing to leave their ancestral land.

This summer has also witnessed a very successful summer camp in the village of Ghabisiya, while Baladna (the Assocation for Arab Youth) and a number of other groups initiated the Udna (Our Return) project with the participation of five ethnically cleansed villages: Saffuriyya, Miar, Maalul, Lajjun and Iqrit, with one youth group in each village.

The project aims to educate the new generation with family connections to these villages of their history and rights, with film screenings and storytelling featuring residents who survived the expulsion. Practical approaches to the issue of return such as town planning and logistics were also explored, while musical events by local artists added a cultural feature.

Iqrit, Kufr Birim, Ghabisiya, Saffuriyya, Miar, Malul, Lajjun. These are just seven of the Palestinians towns and villages which were destroyed and whose inhabitants were displaced during the Nakba.

Yet the combined activities of these villages during the summer of 2013 represent the most significant movement in the struggle for return since the years following the Nakba. Far from forgetting their roots and historical injustices, the latest generation of Palestinians inside Israel are showing their dedication to their right of return.

This, combined with the youth’s energy, enthusiasm and innovative approaches, has resulted in a grassroots, youth-led movement unprecedented in the history of activism for the right to return. Whatever the immediate reaction of Israeli authorities to the return of villagers in Iqrit and Kufr Birim, these movements have captured the imagination of people across historic Palestine, young and old.

And while the future of the movement is full of uncertainty, the determination and energy of our youth alone is reason for optimism.

(Source / 11.09.2013)