Tag Archives: Right of Return

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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Honor Sabra and Shatila victims by working for Palestine today

This week, we are commemorating the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. Twenty-eight years ago, between the 16th and 18th of September, 1982, the lives of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon came to a brutal and violent end. Hundreds more were rounded up and crammed into trucks like cattle. They were driven to unknown locations and were never heard from again.

These are the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, carried out by the Lebanese Christian philangists with the approval, protection and support of the Israeli military, under the direction of Ariel Sharon.

Officials have never been able to determine the exact number of dead. The International Committee of the Red Cross buried at least 1,000 in a mass grave. But untold numbers were buried under the rubble of buildings the philangists militants demolished on top of them. Hundreds of survivors were carted off and never heard from again.

The massacre is one of the bloodiest and most heart-wrenching in Palestinian history; outpaced in genocidal violence perhaps only by the Nakba itself and the recent Operation Cast Lead, in which Israeli bombardment killed more than 1,400 Palestinians confined in Gaza – including at least 355 children – in December 2008 and January 2009.

But the real tragedy of Sabra and Shatila is the absence of justice for the massacre’s victims and survivors. Nearly 30 years after the event, those responsible were never called to account. After an investigation, Sharon was sanctioned and he resigned as defense minister, but then went on to become one of the most brutal Israeli prime ministers the world has ever known.

In fact, Israel has been allowed to act without consequences since its inception in 1948. From massacre to massacre, Israel – the so-called “only democracy” in the Middle East – has been allowed to violate international humanitarian law with impunity for more than 60 years. For more than 60 years, the United States has been supporting Israel – and consequently the occupation – with billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money.

After six decades, it’s clear the world is not going to speak up. It’s clear that U.S. cares more for the formidable and enriching pro-Israel lobby than it does for upholding our values of human rights, and the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s why it is up to us as Americans to work to bring justice to Palestine. It is our duty as Americans to work against injustice wherever we see it but especially in Palestine.

Start by educating yourself about the illegal occupation of Palestine and then speak up to your colleagues, friends and families. Write letters to the editor of your local papers and attend rallies, seminars and lectures.

I am the media director for the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), whose mission is to educate the public about Palestine and the occupation. We believe that once Americans understand the true facts on the ground, they won’t accept the U.S.’ unilateral support for Israel.

If you need materials or information, please contact me at AMP at media@ampalestine.org. We have produced numerous books, brochures, fact sheets and other materials for your use. We send them out free of charge.

The responsibility is huge, but we believe in the power of the Truth. There is strength in unity and in numbers and that’s why it is imperative that we all work together.

~ Kristin Szremski 9/15/2010

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Talk of a Greater Israel

Suddenly, within a span of five minutes, I received the transcript of a speech Professor John J. Mearsheimer delivered to the Palestine Center in Washington DC and a link to a blog post by Philip Weiss on Mondoweiss. Both address the idea of a one-state solution by the creation of a ‘Greater Israel’ where Palestinians would be citizens with full rights and privileges.

Mr. Weiss highlights comments by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

According to Mr. Weiss’ post, Rivlin said Thursday that he would rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution. “I would rather Palestinians as citizens of this country over dividing the land up.”

Prof. Mearsheimer, on the other hand, also talks about the eventuality of the current situation devolving into a “Greater Israel,’ but one that would be an apartheid state. Since apartheid is not sustainable in the long run, Greater Israel would eventually evolve into a bi-national state with equal rights and privileges for all, Dr. Mearsheimer said. The difference is that just due to demographic shifts in populations, Palestinians will eventually dominate Greater Israel’s political scene.

I will be the first to admit that I do not possess enough knowledge or wisdom to opine on these scenarios. But my gut is telling me that there is something inherently wrong with the one-state Greater Israel vision.  The obvious piece of the puzzle is missing. It’s called Palestine.

Before the United Nations partitioned Palestine, Jews owned less than 7 percent of the land. The Palestinians had been in the HolyLand for generations upon generations.  The state of Israel was crafted out of land taken and, in part, stolen from the Palestinians. So if there is ever one state again, why should it be called Greater Israel? Why not undo the injustice of the past 62 years and give the nation its rightful name again?

How about one state, with rights and privileges for all. called Palestine?

~ Kristin Szremski 14/29/2010

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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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US officials looking for an alternative Palestinian state

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.

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