Al Ahram reports that U.S. officials have been in the Middle East searching for an Arab state where Palestinian refugees can be resettled.
According to news reports, US diplomats have been touring Arab countries, asking them to find ways of settling the Palestinians in various areas outside Palestine. The reports — none of which has been contested by Washington — indicate the continuation of an old US- Israeli effort to extract the issue of Palestinian refugees from future negotiations. The Americans and the Israelis seem to think that the Arabs and Palestinians, having capitulated on many things in the past, would bite the bullet on this in the end.I have just spent the past several days interviewing people who were children in 1948 and who witnessed the violence brought to their villages by the Irgun and Stern Gang, terrorist Jewish paramilitary groups that were intent on cleansing Palestine of its indigenous population. For 62 years, the people I spoke with have lived in exile. Though they are American citizens now and though they carved out successful and productive lives for themselves and their families, they would trade it all in if they could only go home again, they said repeatedly.
The Nakba, which means ‘catastrophe,’ is thought of in terms of May 15, 1948 – the day the state of Israel was created on 78 percent of historical Palestine. But it’s actually an ongoing process of ethnic cleansing and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. From November 1947 to Jan. 1, 1949, Jewish Zionist forces expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland; 13,000 were killed.
In 1967, when Israel waged the Six Day War and began illegally occupying the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine, they forced another 350,000 Palestinians into exile. Palestinian refugees or internally displaced persons make up 74 percent of the total Palestinian population, according to Badil Resource Center. Over the succeeding generations, the number of 1948 refugees has grown to 6 million Palestinians; another 800,000 are from 1967. A full 25 percent of the world’s refugees are Palestinian.
Hasan Kishta was one person I interviewed. He was a toddler when he fled his village of Ijlil on his father’s shoulders in 1948. He showed me property tax records on his father’s and grandfather’s lands that dated back to 1917. Mr. Kishta has no right to return to his Mediterranean seaside village or to reap the harvest from the citrus groves and olive trees that his family once cultivated. He has no Right of Return. Yet American officials are virtually in Mr. Kishta’s Middle Eastern backyard looking for a suitable ‘homeland’ for him OUTSIDE of Palestine.
Mr. Kishta’s faith has seen him through his 62-year ordeal that has kept him a perpetual tourist in his own homeland. He remains positive about life and is grateful for his blessings, he said. But, don’t mistake his attitude with weakness or compromise. Here’s what he had to say:
”I look at (life) positive but without allowing myself to forget or allowing myself to compromise. … Don’t’ give excuses to anyone. Never surrender. … Every speck of the dust in Palestine belongs to me. The air belongs to me. And the water belongs to me. The sky belongs to me. The land belongs to me. Ok. They want to give us money instead. Hasan Kishta will not take it. I will face them. If I cannot bring my land back, I will face them on the Judgment Day and I will say, ‘Allah, they took my land and I was feeble and unorganized and I could not take it so take it from them.’ ”
American and Israeli officials may continue to delude themselves that Palestinians will “bite the bullet” and agree to unconscionable terms. They may even get the puppet government of Abbas to agree.
But don’t ever count on Palestinian refugees of betraying their land or their birthright, they tell me. They will never be truly home until every speck of Palestinian dust runs freely through their upraised, victorious fingers again. Until then, there is no compromise.
Note: “The Nakba: Preserving our Narrative,” second edition will be available in May. Watch this blog for a link to the stories of those who survived the Nakba.