Tag Archives: Refugees

For Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon, a diagnosis of breast cancer is almost always a death sentence

October is breast cancer awareness month.

Please take a moment to read this appeal from the American Friends of UNRWA. For Palestinian refugee woman living in camps in Lebanon, a diagnosis of breast cancer is almost always a death sentence. Because of the horrible restrictions refugees endure in Lebanon, most of them are unable to find work and most of them cannot afford health insurance. Many woman are never diagnosed in the first place because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. But even for those who are diagnosed, they are unable to afford the specialized treatment. Please help.

This is one area where our activism can have an immediate and direct impact.

~ Kristin

 Dear Friend,

Breast cancer doesn’t care if you’re a refugee. It doesn’t care if you have access to cancer screening or if you can afford treatment.

Breast cancer doesn’t care if you’re in the United States, Palestine, or Lebanon. It doesn’t care if you’re a mother, a wife, a sister, or a daughter. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. More than one million women around the world will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. For most women diagnosed in the US, there’s a prospect for recovery, but for Palestinian refugee women living in Lebanon, a breast cancer diagnosis is almost certainly a death sentence.

Recurring violence and movement restrictions make it very difficult for many Palestinian refugees to access adequate health care. But for those living in Lebanon, the challenges are nearly insurmountable. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are granted only limited Lebanese citizenship status. This makes finding meaningful employment nearly impossible and prevents most from being able to afford health insurance. Currently, 95 percent of refugees in Lebanon cannot afford healthcare, making specialized treatment and extended hospital stays impossible.

For refugee women in Lebanon, life-threatening diseases like breast cancer go undetected and untreated. Sadly, most women don’t survive.

Over half the refugee women in Lebanon diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 50, meaning most of their children will face growing up without a mother. Let’s break this cycle of despair.

Breast cancer does NOT have to be a death sentence. With early detection and appropriate treatment, refugee women in Lebanon can beat this disease and go on to live long and healthy lives.

Please show them that they deserve a fighting chance by supporting AFU’s groundbreaking campaign to promote breast cancer awareness, screening, and treatment in Lebanon.

For only $50.00 you can provide one refugee woman in Lebanon with the appropriate breast cancer screening and potentially save her life.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and during this time of heightened awareness, we ask that you please give the refugee women of Lebanon and their families hope for tomorrow. Breast cancer doesn’t care if these women are refugees, but we know you care. Please show your generosity and compassion by making a tax-deductible donation today.

With great thanks,

Abby Smardon

Acting Director
American Friends of UNRWA

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EMERGENCY APPEAL: Palestinian refugees from Syria in desperate need of emergency care

More than 7,500 Palestinian refugees have been displaced by ongoing fighting in Syria. Of the displaced, an estimated 5,500 are from the refugee camp in Latakia, which came under attack by Syrian forces on Aug.14. Dozens were killed, and UN officials have voiced grave concern about the deteriorating situation. These refugees, particularly women and children, are too frightened to return home, and their numbers are steadily growing, making it difficult for UNRWA to provide emergency services to those displaced from Latakia, as well as Homs, Yarmouk, and Aleppo.

With the cooperation of local authorities, UNRWA staff has set up a temporary emergency office outside of Latakia in order to continue providing critically needed services. UNRWA is currently providing cash grants for food, medicine, and temporary accommodation to more than 6,000 refugees who are sick, hungry, scared and in serious need of help.

Since protests began in mid-March, more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria. But despite this ongoing violence, UNRWA remains committed to serving the half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria. If you would like to contribute to the Syria emergency appeal to provide grants for desperately needed food, medicine, and temporary accommodation, please click here.

American Friends of UNRWA (AFU) is an independent nonprofit organization that provides support for the humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) through advocacy, fundraising and education.

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The country of refugees is no refuge for others

Israel is a country comprised of refugees.  And Jews around the world are given instant citizenship if they wish to relocate there.

In another ironic twist that shows Zionists’ true color – and the racist nature of the Jewish State of Israel – refugees from war-torn countries – especially Sudan and Eritrea – are not welcome. In fact, they are so unwelcome, Israeli officials are considering a bill that would annul Israel’s adherence to and compliance with the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Israel has an abysmal record when it comes to accepting refugees.

The Knesset’s 1950 Law of Return grants every Jew worldwide the right to live in Israel as a citizen. Yet no refugee law exists, despite Israel being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention. Instead, unpublished Ministry of Interior procedures and secret inter-ministerial determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.

As a result, Israel has the lowest percent of requests granted (for temporary, not permanent status) compared to western states – 1% in 2005, under 0.5% in 2006, and in 2007, 350 refugees got temporary protection, 805 others were denied, and 863 were under review, after which most were rejected.

~ Stephen Lendman, Palestine Chronicle, April 15, 2010

Being called “one of the most dangerous bills ever presented in the Knesset,” the Infiltration Prevention Law would make it legal to jail refugees who had never committed a crime, deport refugees back to their home countries despite the risk of death or torture, and make it illegal for social service agencies to provide aid to refugees. Even offering a single glass of water could become illegal, according to a report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Main Aspects of the Bill
• Every “infiltrator” may be imprisoned for up to five years (Article 2)
• An “infiltrator” who is a citizen of an enemy country (including residents of Darfur, which
is in Sudan) may be imprisoned for up to seven years (Article 3)
• An “infiltrator” carrying a weapon, including a knife, may be jailed for up to 20 years
(Article 4)
• Anyone assisting those who violated the Infiltration Prevention Law in order to ease their
stay in Israel may face the same penalties as those who broke the law (Article 5)
• Officers along the border may deport “infiltrators” back to Egypt, without giving them the
opportunity to file for asylum (Article 11)
• An “infiltrator” will be detained for an unlimited period of time, even if there is no practical
possibility of deporting him or her from Israel. “Infiltrators” may not be released from
detention if any hostile activity takes place in his or her country or place of residence
(Darfur, for example) (Article 15)
• An “infiltrator” may be detained for up to two weeks before being brought to court (Article

Again, all this is being debated under the blind eye of the global community. What other supposedly developed country would be allowed to debate – and most likely deploy – such racist and inhumane policies?

If the Bill is Passed:

• Israel will shake off all its obligations based on the UN Refugee Convention, a conventionthat Israel initiated and helped formulate in 1951, as a lesson of the Holocaust.
• The immediate deportation of anyone who enters Israel illegally, including refugees ofgenocide and their children, will be authorized.
• All refugees from Sudan (including those from Darfur) may be imprisoned for at least seven years, because they are citizens of an “enemy country.”
• Assisting refugees will become a criminal activity. Any activity that assists the “infiltrator,” including medical and legal assistance, housing, giving food or a glass of water – could become a criminal act punishable by a prison sentence.
• Refugees could be subject to arbitrary and extended administrative detention, without the appropriate judicial proceedings or judicial review.
• Children could be detained for an unlimited period of time. The law makes no mention of this group being particularly vulnerable.

According to statistics Israel has supplied to the United Nations, more than 90 percent of asylum seekers are indeed refugees. But officials tell the public a different story, according to the civil right association’s report. In fact, Yaakov Ganot, the former head of Israel’s Immigration Authority told Haaretz newspaper on June 21, 2009 that “99.9 percent” of those seeking asylum aren’t really refugees, they’re migrant workers.

Considering that the majority of asylum seekers comes from Eritrea and Sudan – including those seeking to escape genocide in Dafur – and so meets the UN requirements for refugee status, it’s ‘odd’ that Israel would classify them as migrant workers. They could be doing this for only one purpose: To absolve the state from any moral or internationally legal obligations to care for them. After all people from Africa don’t meet the pure race standard Israel has set for itself. To further keep Africans out of the country, Israel is constructing a wall on its border with Egypt.

Note: The reports The Infiltration Prevent Bill – Lies and Reality and The Principle of Non-Refoulement Of a Person to a Place in Which He Is Expected to Suffer Danger to Life, Liberty, Persecution or Torture can be found on Zatar and Spinah’s Reports page.

~ Kristin Szremski 5/10/2010

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AMP Nakba events begin May 15

Nakba commemoration events begin May 15 in California. Speakers to include former British Parliamentarian George Galloway; Dr. Hatem Bazian, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, Sheikh Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna Institute; Alison Weir of If Americans Knew. For more info, go to www.ampalestine.org.

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JPost: Army may release all Deir Yassin docs

State: Publication could harm Israel’s foreign relations


Are the events that took place in Deir Yassin so sensitive that 62 years later, the state still refuses to release all of the documents and photos stored in the IDF archive to the public?
That is the question facing Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin and Justices Edna Arbel and Neal Hendel in the wake of a petition heard earlier this week.

The petition was filed by Haaretz, its reporter Gidi Weitz, and Neta Shoshani, a student at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem.

The battle of Deir Yassin, a village on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, was one of the most controversial of the War of Independence. It took place in April 1948, one month before the State of Israel was declared. There have been charges that units of the Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi (Stern Group) undergrounds massacred dozens of Palestinian civilians in the village and forced the survivors to flee. …

… The state told the court that publication of these documents could harm Israel’s foreign relations…Attorney Paz Mozer, representing the petitioners, argued that not only had the state extended the ban only after Shoshani had asked to see the documents, the public had a right to obtain more information about the battle, whose details have been in dispute all these years.

I can say firmly that the details of the Deir Yassin massacre have never been in dispute to those who lived through it and survived. Now, even after 62 years, the people I interviewed on this topic remember everything in crystal clear detail, as if it happened yesterday.  You will be able to read their testimonies next week when the second edition of the booklet, “The Nakba: Preserving our Narrative” is published.

~ Kristin Szremski, 5/5/2010

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Why I’m blessed to work for this cause

Most people who know me probably wonder what in the world I am doing with my life. They’re probably wondering because most people who know me – including my own family – haven’t asked. And I haven’t gone out of my way to enlighten them, either. This awkwardness is probably a byproduct of my conversion to Islam; we’re still trying to learn how to negotiate each other on the new playing field I’ve unexpectedly thrust upon those who love me.

For some, my conversion from Christianity is difficult enough to grasp. But my decision to leave a stable job (as stable was can be in this economy) as a newspaper editor to work full-time on the Palestinian cause is unfathomable to them. To my mostly Republican-leaning, quasi-pro-Israel  family and friends, I must seem like I’ve gone off the deep end and am swimming toward an irrevocable island of no return.

Sometimes I try to explain myself but get nowhere, or I find that an emotional and irrational argument will erupt where I tried to bring clarity and understanding.

C’est la vie!

It’s all just part and parcel of the new life I’m carving out for myself.  Perhaps those closest to me are the most resistant because they know me best. They are my bell weather. If I can help them see the truth, then I can help others, inshaAllah.

My mission in life  now is to educate the American public about the horrors and injustice of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. I am living proof that education works. Ten years ago, I may have questioned some of Israel’s decisions – such as announcing new settlement construction the day the Oslo Peace Accords were signed – but I kept it all hidden. I, too, had been afraid of being labelled an anti-Semite for questioning Israeli policy.

But as I covered the Chicago-area Arabs and Muslims for the newspaper I worked for at the time, my eyes were slowly opened.  I started to listen to the message I heard over and over from the Palestinian community here. I looked to verify their words in neutral academic research and international news articles. You know – it’s all there. The truth is there for anyone willing to look.

The truth is irrefutable. The conflict is not thousands of years old and therefore impossible to understand as Zionists say and Americans accept. The formation of political Zionism in the late 1800s, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the United Nations partition of Palestine in 1947 are all logical starting points. The Jews are not returning to the historic homeland of the Biblical Hebrews. Most Jews in Israel are descended from European and Slavic peoples who converted to Judaism. And Palestinians are not hell-bent on violence, intent on sending their children off to die. I haven’t met more family-oriented, generous, loving people anywhere. What human being doesn’t want to live in peace?

Eventually, I accepted that the American government and media don’t tell us the truth about the Middle East, Palestinians or the pro-Israel lobby that has 75 percent of our congressmen and congresswomen  in their back pocket.  I also had to accept that the country I hold so dear, the country founded upon the inalienable rights  of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness behaves as if these rights are only inherent to Americans. I had to accept the cold, hard fact that we send billions of dollars every year in military aid to a country that uses weapons manufactured in the United States or are paid for with U.S. tax dollars against innocent, unarmed civilians – including children,

It is a lonely place to be.

But, I would rather be here than anywhere else. Silence in complicity. Ignorance is deplorable. Fear of being labelled anti-Semitic is not a valid excuse – especially since so many Jews and Israelis also work to bring justice to Palestine.

Though my work is all about education – a few months ago we became involved in helping to resettle Palestinian refugees from Iraq. The families coming to the United States, in many cases, are being made refugees twice over. The older members fled to Iraq in 1948 during the Nakba. Now they and their offspring – who were rounded up and stuffed into UN camps outside of Baghdad after the United States invaded in 2003 – have become refugees again. They are starting all over again – with nothing but their belief in God and a few small suitcases of personal items.

Today, I helped register three young children into the public school system. We arrived during recess, which was a joyous scene to the newest pupils traipsing up the sidewalk with me. Their happy smiles of anticipation never left their beaming faces for the nearly 90 minutes it took to complete all the paperwork. At one point, one of the little girls – an 8-year-old with long lashes framing her dancing eyes – reached around my neck and said in English, “I love you.”

And this is exactly why I am so blessed and honored to work for this cause.

~ Kristin Szremski 04/30/2010


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Reports examine ongoing impact of the Nakba

Two reports that came out at the end of last year seem especially appropriate now as we head into May and the events planned to commemorate   the Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Sixty-two years ago, on May 15, 1948, Zionist Jews declared independence on land the United Nations gave to them after taking it from the indigenous Palestinians. Not content, however, with the 55 percent of Palestine they received, the mostly immigrant Zionists – under the ruthless tactics of the Hagganah, the Stern Gang and Irgun, waged war with the aim of taking land that the UN Partition had left for the Arabs. By Jan. 1, 1949, “Israel’ held 78 percent of historic Palestine. (Source:  The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe, Oneworld Publishers 2006; and All that Remains, the Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, edited by Walid Khalidi, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.)

The Nakba, however, was not a one-time, historical event. It is perpetual. Because  the state of Israel was founded upon an ideology that calls for the complete ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine.

Plan Dalet, adopted on March 10, 1948, was the blueprint for the ethnic cleansing and transfer of Palestinians. It is the plan upon which the Haganah – the forerunner of today’s Israeli Defense Forces – and Zionist leadership based their strategy of conquest and dispossession. The ideology is still in place today as is evidenced by the siege on Gaza, the Apartheid Wall, military checkpoints, restrictions on movement, and random arrests  and detentions, to name a few of the many human rights abuses inflicted upon the Palestinian population.

It may seem hard to accept, especially to those who know nothing about Israel except what they read and hear in a mostly Zionist-compliant media. Consider these quotes:

“It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people … the only solution is a Land of Israel … without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise … there is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries … not one village to be left, not one tribe.”
~Yosef Weitz, director of the Jewish National Fund’s land department and founder of the Transfer Committee, 1944.

And from contemporary history, we have former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:

“It is the duty of Israel to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” ~ former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, quoted in the Agence France Presse, 11/15/1998.

So the reports added to the Report section of Zatar and Spinach examine two very real results of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies. The first one, A Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2008-2009 by Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, looks at the plight of  Palestinians and their descendents who became refugees – some even in their own land – because of the Nakba.

“Not only do Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons continue to constitute the largest and longest-standing unresolved case of refugees and displaced persons in the world today, but their numbers continue to grow in light of Israel’s policies and practices that result in more forcible displacement of Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.” ~ Badil

The  second report looks at the spoils of war, or in other words, the effect of Israel’s confiscation, seizure and obliteration of vast amounts of Palestinian land and property. The report attempts to quantify how much was lost during the Nakba and makes recommendations to the United Nations for a resolution to this injustice.

“There is nothing like it in the pages of history books. A foreign minority, descending upon a national majority of a country, fortified by colonial political, military and financial support and a hostile ideology, emptying the country of its people, seizing all their land and property,obliterating their landscape, history and memory, claiming that this crime is an act of divine intervention, and persisting, unchecked by force of justice in committing this crime, according to the same plan for over 60 years with no end in sight, is unprecedented in the history of the world. This is the recent history of Palestine. The records of the United Nations, and before it, the League of Nations, contain a detailed chronicle of this long, violent history.” ~ Palestine Land Society

Both these reports deserve attention. The more we understand the broad implications of the Nakba and how it is still occurring today, the better we can work to bring justice to the Palestinian people. After all, our tax dollars support these human rights abuses. If we don’t arm ourselves with knowledge and work to change the situation, we are complicit in the oppression of an entire nation of people.

~ Kristin Szremski 04/28/2010

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