I want to return to be free to choose whether I want to be a bird-as I have always loved to be- or a tree as my grandfather had always wanted me to be.
Mona Zaaroura (12 years)
I Want to Return to Palestine
Everyday, the newspaper carries the scenario of our destiny (future) as Palestinians in Lebanon.
The first scenario holds that the Palestinians in Lebanon would leave to Iraq which will need cheap labor after lifting the embargo imposed on it. The second scenario holds that the Palestinians in Lebanon would be deported to Jordan where they will live in camps without constituting a threat to the sectarian balance there.
The third scenario holds that the Palestinians will be naturalised in Lebanon after receiving compensations for 50 years of suffering and homelessness, and that they will be given the Palestinian identity card stamped with "Permanent Residents in Lebanon" or they may dump us in some isolated place in Lebanon.
The fourth scenario holds that after displacing big numbers of Palestinians to Canada and other foreign countries, the remaining ones would be nationalized in Lebanon.
Everyday, we receive new scenarios and varied news concerning our future from newspapers and radio-stations. Everyday we hear statements from the officials of the different countries declaring their country’s refusal of receiving the refugees. The Lebanese do not want us because we disturb the sectarian balance, Jordan does not want us because we cause problems, Israel wants our land for itself, and the Palestinian Authority abandoned us years ago.
Every time I read and hear that others will decide our future for us, I feel that the refugees are like a herd of cattle lead wherever their shepherds, the USA, Israel, the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority, see appropriate. I feel that we are a herd of cattle that is incapable of expressing its view concerning its future. I then wonder: "Who has told our shepherds that we want to constitute cheap labor in Iraq or that we want to immigrate to Canada or some other country, or even that we want to stay in Lebanon? Don’t we have the right of self-determination or the right to choose what we want to be or where we want to be? Even the ones responsible for us and who negotiate on our behalf did not bother to ask us about what we want.
Has the world become so determined to humiliate and look down at us? Where is the people’s right of self-determination? Where is our right to return to our land?
Personally, I neither want to go to Jordan, Iraq, Canada nor to Norway. I have a land and a country and I have the right to return to it. I also have the right of self-determination…. I, like many other Palestinians, want to return to Palestine.
Wissam Ahmad (16 years old).
The Tale of our Return
The tale began with my grandfather who, upon being evicted from Palestine, found refuge in Lebanon in 1948. My grandfather did not want to stay there. He lived in a tent believing that he would return to Palestine in a day or two. That is why he locked his door well, carried the house’s keys and left all his belongings in Palestine hoping to return soon. At the beginning, he was helped by the Red Cross. Then the UNRWA took over the responsibility of aiding the refugees until they return to Palestine. So when UNRWA decided to build cement houses for Palestinians, my grandfather, like all Palestinians, objected because they wanted to return to Palestine and not settle in Lebanon.
My father was born in the camp but my grandfather told him that he was Palestinian and that there were in Al-Saffouriyeh vast fields and big houses awaiting his return. He also told him that the Israelis have usurped our land and that the Arab countries betrayed us. When the revolution broke out, my father joined it wanting to return to Palestine. There he would not wait for a United Nations Organization to provide him with educational and health services…The revolution was over and my father died in the Camp Wars. The Lebanese war was over but a new war flared against us: UNRWA started to cut down its educational and health services gradually. Moreover, the Lebanese state has forbidden the Palestinians who have come to this country around half a century ago from working, while it did not forbid the foreigners who arrived to the country two or three years ago from working in any profession they choose.
The Lebanese government states that the siege imposed on us aims at encouraging us to return to Palestine, as if we are still here willingly. We have never surrendered our right to return; my grandfather called for its implementation and so did my father. The Lebanese are showing off now refusing our living on their land, but who told them that we want to stay here. I neither want to stay here nor want the Lebanese identity. I want to return to Palestine. However, to continue what my father started and realize my dream of return, I want to feel that I am a human for me to be able to think of a way to returning to Palestine. I want my civil rights in Lebanon to ask the world for my right to return to Palestine.
Ismail Zaaroura (15 years)
No Land, No Honor
"Who doesn’t have a land, does not have an honor," that was what the elderly in the camp always used to say, but I never comprehended its meaning. I only comprehended when I joined a Lebanese school.
When I reached the Elementary level at school, my father put me in a Lebanese school thinking that the educational standard at UNRWA schools was not good enough; he and my mother had learned there without benefiting much. When I joined that school, I met a lot of friends but as the days passed, I started to lose them as a result of my being Palestinian. And because my accent was so different from theirs, they would leave me and go play with the others. Once the teacher asked me: "What does your father do?" When I told her that my father was a garbage collector, she changed and stopped loving me while my friends not only mocked and despised me but also called me "daughter of the garbage collector." This was a great source of pain for me and for my brothers and sisters and as a result of our daily weeping and complaining, my father quit his job.
When I reached the intermediate level I moved to another Lebanese school. At the beginning, I used to talk to most of my classmates who, upon their knowing that I lived in Shatila and that I walked to the school situated next to the Makassed Hospital, started to mock me saying that I had a "complex." Once, a classmate told me that she did not talk to me because I was Palestinian, and Palestinians were the cause of the Lebanese war, and because we were refugees with no land or identity.
I always beg my father to let me join UNRWA schools with the Palestinian students but he says that I have to bear the difficulties in order for me to learn and return to Palestine. That is why I concede and bear people’s harsh words. But when I knew that they might naturalize us, I was afraid that I would become like my friends at school.
I want to return to Palestine to have a land and an identity. Then nobody would dare mock me and say I am refugee. I want to return to Palestine because people there are kindhearted and simple.
Farah Obeid (14 years old)