We Will Be Back: Refugees

BEKAA CAMP, Jordan – Wael Ismail does not have a single memory of his country. Like thousands of Palestinian refugees, he was born in diaspora.

Still, he yearns for the day he returns to a usurped homeland.

"I was born in Bekaa and I even have Jordanian citizenship but I dream only of one thing — to be able to return to Palestine with my children," Ismail told Agence France Presse (AFP) on the 60th anniversary of Nakba.

He calls himself and his seven children, all born like him in Bekaa, the "lost generation" who only know Palestine from photos or stories passed from one generation to the other.

"We are denied our rights, our land, and so we are left with one thing – hope."

Palestinians, whether in the occupied territories or in diaspora, commemorated on Thursday the loss of Palestine and creation of Israel on its rubble in 1948.  

In Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Palestinians staged demonstrations that saw 21,915 black balloons — one for each day since Israel’s creation – released into the sky to mourn their lost homeland.

At Ain al-Helweh camp in south Lebanon, hundreds of children carried banners bearing the names of Palestinian towns and villages abandoned in 1948.

On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin’s Irgun militant group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist militants and 70,000 Palestinians fled.

On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of Jaffa, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.

On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel, Jaffa surrendered to the better-equipped Zionist militants and only about 4,500 of its population remained.

Return

Marking the loss of their homeland, many Palestinians held keys — real and symbolic — to demand the right to return for refugees.

Ali Abu Haidi, another resident of the Bekaa camp, says his determination to reclaim his land will never die.

"The conclusion to draw from the time spent in the camps is that it is our job to return to our homes on our land and to be reunited with our families."

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, defines as refugees the descendants of Palestinian who fled or were forced out of their homes in 1948.

The number of registered refugees has subsequently grown from 914,000 in 1950 to some 4.5 million in 2005, and continues to rise.

One-third of the refugees live in 58 recognized camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

UN resolutions guarantee the right of return of Palestinian refugees, many still holding the keys and titles of their homes in what is now Israel.

For Haidi, originally from the West Bank city of Qalqilya, the solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is and has always been simple.

"When they give me the right to return to my land peace will be possible," he reasons.

"They cannot deprive a man of his land, his identity, his country. I am sure one day our right to return will be given back to us."

(IslamOnline.net and agencies)

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