Either return..or return
This month Palestinians mark the 58th year of their ongoing dispossession.
58 years since Yousuf's grandparents were forced out of their villages of Wa'arat al-Sirris and al-Yajur, both of which were completely destroyed and ethnically cleansed.
Now this fourth generation carries on the torch of dispossession; Like his father and grandparents before him, Yousuf, too, is a refugee. And like it or not-he, and the millions like him, will not "disappear", much as the government of Israel would like them to, whilst trying its utmost to render their return unfeasible and their plight irrelevant: it lives on. And American passport or not, "Palestinian" is stamped on his forehead (and in my identity document, to which he is added and thus rendered "Palestinian", not "American", by Israeli forces, meaning he is not alloweed to return or visit Haifa)... as the Palestinian Gazan poet Haroon Hashim Rasheed said.. "Filisteeni ana Filisteeni..naqashtu ismee ala kulil mayadeeni"
There is so much to write and say on the occasion of al-Nakba, and what it means to each of us as Palestinians. I decided to search my archive for three pieces I wrote last year while visiting Yassine's refugee camp and others like it in Lebanon.
The first is an interview with the veritible godfather of right of return, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta; the others are features, one on the plight of Palestinai refugees in Lebano, the other about a Palestinian heritage museum in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon-and the amazing man who runs it. His words echo stronger than mine could, at least right now.
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta: Palestinian Right of Return is feasible
"There is nothing in international law or in our sense of morality that says racist or ethnic exclusive considerations should overrule principles of justice."
"By what scale or measure is it that the refugees in Gaza live only five kilometres away from their homes, to which they cannot return, and Israel is seeking out obscure tribes in India and Guatemala, and bringing them over in a hurry to populate the land which belongs to the refugees?"
"[W]e have found by looking at maps, both old and new, that 90% of village sites are still vacant today."
Safeguarding Palestine's Past
Hidden away in a squalid Palestinian refugee camp is a historical treasure trove that keeps the dreams of many alive.
In a corner of the Palestinian refugee camp of Mashook in southern Lebanon, 68-year-old Muhammad Dakwar shows the way into a dusky two-room gallery that he guards with his life.
Inside, ragged pieces of traditional Palestinian garments hang on thin metal racks; decades-old clay pottery and copper plates are neatly arranged on shelves amid a melange of traditional Palestinian household items.
Rustically preserved samples of Palestinian earth - soil, rocks, and olive tree branches - are displayed on poster boards, crudely taped and labelled according to city or village of origin.
All are part of what Dakwar says is the only Palestinian museum in exile, and by some estimates, the only Palestinian heritage museum in the world.
Dakwar insists on using the year 1948 - the date of the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, as a benchmark for dating items on display.
"This is no coincidence, to centre the museum around 1948," he explains eruditely. "I want to make sure people forever remember this date and what it means for Palestinians. This is part of the museum's purpose."
[See link for rest of story...]
Lebanon's Palestinians keep dream of return alive
Um Muneer Utoor fought back tears through wistful eyes as she told of a dream in which she was returning home to Palestine.
In it, the 67-year-old refugee was going back to her house just behind a young almond tree on a small, breezy hill in the village of Jish.
"Just the way I remember it when I was little," she recalled.
And for a moment, Um Muneer's eyes were not so sad.
Then she woke up.