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75 Years Homeless: From Expulsion from Palestine to Persecution in Lebanon

“The British and Israelis bombed Nazareth and attacked families in their homes. They entered our house, tried to stop my father and forced my mother and sister,” Abu Mohammad recalled. His family fled together with other residents of Nazareth, who, driven by fear, came to Lebanon on foot.

news about recent murders, Like Deir Yassin – A city near Jerusalem, from which the inhabitants were driven out and a hundred of them were executed – was overtaken by gunpowder.

Among them were the residents of Nazareth 100,000 Palestinians who in 1948 They moved to Lebanon, thinking they could return to their homeland. They took the keys to the houses that would become a symbol of resistance, but these houses were destroyed. The Israeli authorities and their allied militia destroyed it About 600 cities which was left empty to prevent 750,000 refugees from returning. This is what is known as the “Nakba” or the Palestinian disaster.

Abu Mohammad could not set foot in Nazareth for three quarters of the time, his mother tried twice: other people lived in the family house and the Israeli uniform prevented him from getting there. The old man has idyllic memories of his brief childhood in Palestine, unclouded by the tensions that took place during the last throes of the British Mandate in the territory. The family’s neighbor was killed after a confrontation with British soldiers, and his grandfather was arrested and tortured by them because of his association with people “who were fighting for the liberation of Palestine,” as his parents later told him.

He remembers the sense of community that united the inhabitants of Nazareth: “We didn’t even take into account each one’s religion,” he naturally tells “We lived together and used every opportunity to meet.” The young people of the city volunteered to build a house for married couples; Neighbors brought gifts to weddings and families helped each other during the three days of mourning. Abu Muhammad still talks enthusiastically about the meetings around TabooThe traditional oval oven where his mother used to cook Arabic bread and, like the rest of the Palestinian refugees, the inability to return home leads him to idealize this forbidden land.

They were also persecuted in Lebanon

In Lebanon, Abu Mohammed’s family was sent to the desert without services near the city of Tripoli (north), where the Naher El Baredi refugee camp will eventually be built. One in twelve who settled As a temporary solution for several thousand people. Today, some host more than 25,000 Palestinians in different parts of the country.

Tents gave way to dilapidated buildings, and these parcels became ghettos, with narrow paved streets and no basic services. The density of population on an area that often does not exceed one square kilometer means that the streets are as narrow as the people: the closeness between the walls and the tangle of cables prevent sunlight from illuminating the ground, and dirty water circulates in the same way. Unsanitary alleys where the population walks.

Extreme poverty, unemployment and neglect are not the worst part of life for Palestinians in Lebanon, where they have never had peace. In that country, they did not throw off the yoke of the same army that drove them out of Palestine, as Kasem Aina recalls. “I felt that if we stayed at home, they would kill us,” this 77-year-old Palestinian, who survived the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982, told He escaped with 180 children. , which he placed safely in the mountain: “We lived under the trees for a week; I had a really bad time, I divided the children into groups so that something would happen,” he explains.

Between 1,500 and 3,000 people are believed to have died in Sabra and Shatila, a massacre carried out by the Lebanese Phalanx under the supervision of the Israeli army. who took advantage of the sectarian war in the neighboring country to occupy part of the Lebanese territory and to arm and train Christian phalanxes. Both Phalangists and Israelis joined forces against Palestinian resistance groups operating from Lebanon, including Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Aina had already experienced a similar massacre six years earlier in the Talzaatar Palestinian refugee camp, also in Beirut, after a 57-day siege. After this massacre, he founded the organization “Beit Atfal AsomudTo give shelter to 180 orphaned children: the same children he brought to safety in the mountains of Souk el Gharb in 1982. “It was a very sad experience,” concludes Aina, looking down at the ground: “The children have already lost their parents and their home, and they have lost them for the second time.”

Right of return

Almost half a million Palestinians live in Lebanon, some born in the country, surrounded by Palestinian cultural references and feeling alienated. “When I was little, I thought we were living in Palestine!” laughs Fatima to “When you get old you realize you’re in Lebanon,” explains a young woman who lives in Burj El Barajneh, a refugee camp in southern Beirut.

The United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA), established a year after the creation of the State of Israel, continues to recognize refugee status for descendants of those who fled the Nakba. However, even though their rights are recognized, it is practically impossible for them to return to their land. “We are the forgotten refugees, we demand compliance.” Resolution 194 of the UN General Assembly in 1948,” says Aina.

The Lebanese government denies them citizenship, bans them from dozens of trades, and prevents them from buying property outside the refugee camps. Refugees in Lebanon often say that “the Lebanese government loves the Palestinian cause but hates the Palestinians.” One of the reasons for this policy of the Lebanese government is the sectarian power distribution that has been in force in the small country since the end. 1990 civil war. Most of the Palestinian refugees are Sunni Muslims, and if granted citizenship, this religious group would gain more weight in the fragile balance of power between Sunnis, Shiites and Maronite Christians.

“Many Palestinians speak with a Lebanese accent to avoid being noticed when they leave the refugee camp,” says Fatima, referring to the discrimination they face in Lebanese society. UNRWA and organizations such as “Beit Atfal Assumoud” help Palestinians in the absence of state services, but it is difficult to change the figures: 90% are unemployed and 93% are poor. “It is the dream of any Palestinian to leave Lebanon, but it is our right to return to Palestine,” says Aina.

Abu Muhammad’s second son, Hadar, decided to return after his firstborn was killed in the Tal Zaatar massacre and his father survived the Sabra and Shatila massacres. The Israelis imprisoned him for 16 years, today he lives in the Gaza Strip and has a 10-year-old son. His grandfather from the Lebanese camp says his grandson is “already talking about fighting the Israelis.”

Source: El Diario





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