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Home Article 74 Forced Secondary Displacement: Palestinian Refugees in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Jordan, and Libya (Winter 2010)
Forced Secondary Displacement: Palestinian Refugees in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Jordan, and Libya (Winter 2010)

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This issue of Al Majdal is the second of two issues focusing on the secondary forced displacement of Palestinian refugees. Both issues also start with poetry and prose from around the world which cover issues relating to colonialism, forced displacement, and oppression.

Hazem Jamjoum interviews lawyer Anis Qassem to understand the complex legal mechanisms through which the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinian refugees is revoked, Doug Smith chronicles the journey of Palestinian refugees resettled from the border camps between Syria and Iraq to Chile and Professor Bassem Sirhan tells the story of the expulsion of the small Palestinian community from Libya in 1994-1996. Also included in this issued is a photostory from Gaza by Anne Paq which gives an insight into the conditions of Palestinian refugees displaced again after the destruction of their homes by Israel.

Despite 20 years of peace diplomacy, the majority of the Palestinian people remain in forced exile, mainly as refugees and/or stateless persons vulnerable to persecution and renewed displacement in their host countries. The root causes of Palestinian displacement and dispossession remain unaddressed and there is no respect of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty and return to the homes and properties from which they have been forcibly displaced, despite the United Nations's assertion that “full respect and the realization of these inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the question of Palestine.[1] Instead, 20 years of peace diplomacy have resulted in a truncated Palestinian people, more than half of whom continue to be afforded the treatment of an “indistinct mass of refugees”[2] or a “surplus population” expected to find individual solutions and to disappear from the political agenda of the peace makers.[3]

Impunity continues to prevail in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), a state of affairs clearly evident in the international response to Israel’s military offensive in the occupied Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 in which more than  1,400 Palestinians and 14 Israelis were killed.[1]  83% of the Palestinian victims were Geneva-Convention protected civilians, most of them Palestinian refugees who had been forcibly displaced from their homes and properties to the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel's ethnic cleansing operation (the Nakba) of 1948.

Interview with Anis F. Kassim by Hazem Jamjoum
 
HJ: What legal status was afforded Palestinians who came under Jordanian control after the 1948 Nakba?
 
AK: On 19 May 1948, the Jordanian army entered the area of central Palestine that the Zionist forces were unable to occupy, and began the process of legally incorporating central Palestine into the Jordanian Kingdom. As part of this process, on 20 December 1949, the Jordanian Council of Ministries amended the 1928 Citizenship Law such that all Palestinians who took refuge in Jordan or who remained in the western areas controlled by Jordan at the time of the law’s entry into force, became full Jordanian citizens for all legal purposes. The law did not discriminate between Palestinian refugees displaced from the areas that Israel occupied in 1948 and those of the area that the Jordanian authorities renamed the “West Bank” in 1950.

From the outset, Chile is probably one of the last countries one would consider when trying to understand the effects of the Nakba and the depth of the ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis. Geopolitically, it could not be any farther away from the conflict and the displacement imposed on Palestinian refugees. However, recent events, as well as a long history of the world’s largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East, tell a different story.

In 1994, after the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, the Qadhafi government in Libya sought to show its objection to the agreements by expelling the Palestinian community residing in the country. One of the Palestinians living in Libya at the time was Professor Bassem Sirhan, we spoke to him about the Libyan policy of expulsion and the injustice that befell the Palestinian community.

It’s rare that books about Palestine focus on the Palestinian people rather than the territory or the issue, but here is one that does this skillfully while providing the reader with the relevant politico-historical framework. The author lives in the West Bank. This means that the people whose stories he tells are ones he has met many times over and often lived with. His gaze is warm and human, respectful and responsive.  His text conveys in all their complexity both a tentacular occupation, and the myriad resistances through which Palestinians mobilize themselves to survive and outlast it.

From the vantage point of his home in Aida camp, Rich Wiles experiences the occupation at first-hand. The frequent forays of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) into the camp leave dead and wounded, homes destroyed, youths and boys arrested. A military jeep comes upon 14-year old Mahmoud alone in an alley with his dog, scoops him up, beats him, and throws him into a military cell. From here he is transferred to Acion Detention Center, then to Ofer, then to Telmond prison. Charged with throwing stones and carrying a knife, he is fined $5,000, and sentenced to more than three months in prison.  Many similar cases have been documented, but Rich Wiles fills out the details and consequences of this typical Occupation event: the other child prisoners; the inadequate food; self-scarring in protest; a gas attack by guards; the visit of a 10-year old brother (but they can’t hug each other through the reinforced glass). There’s a welcome party with fireworks when Mahmoud finally gets home, but his dog has died, and he “doesn’t want to go out any more”.

A quick search for ‘Palestine’ on Amazon.com (the world’s biggest book retailer) reveals over 15,000 available entries. There is clearly no shortage of literature on the subject, much as there is no shortage of discussion or opinion around the world. Many of the books written pre-Nakba were structured within two main catagories. Some were traditional ‘adventurer’ type travel journals almost exclusively penned by authors from the ‘privileged minority’ of the colonialist states, whilst others looked through religious and political perspectives including the reams of early Zionist literature. Post-1948, Palestine-related literature was dominated by accounts lauding the establishment of the Zionist dream. Again, these works were almost exclusively written by ‘Westerners’, which is unsurprising when acknowledging the fact that the creation of ‘Israel’, and the ethnic cleansing that formed an intrinsic part of that process, was a European-style colonialist project.

Glasgow shops join boycott of all Israeli produce
30 August 2010 – Following a campaign by Friends of Al Aqsa and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Asian shops in a key area of Glasgow declare themselves free of Israeli produce. A number of shopkeepers were unaware that they were even stocking Israeli goods and thanked campaigners for helping them to correctly identify Israeli goods.

Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”, took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. Three weeks of almost uninterrupted Israeli aerial bombardments, artillery shelling from land and sea, and ground operations resulted in the killing of 1,414 people, including 313 children and 116 women, and over 5,000 injured. In addition, Israel’s attack also targeted public and private civilian property and infrastructure throughout Gaza, encompassing residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, universities, government ministries, water/sewer lines, electricity generating stations, greenhouses, commercial establishments, infrastructure and roads.

 

Special Poetry Feature incldues some of the pieces contributed by various poets and writers from around the world related to the theme of the Palestinian Nakba:

Canto Divino (pages 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5) by Nathalie Handal
Yaffa by Remi Kanazi
Ode to the Backpacker by Adam Hill
For Two Friends Murdered by Michael Burton
Wall by Dr. Max Lane
Where the Mangolia Tree Blooms by Valerie Khayat
A Tamil Mother’s Laugh by Bhagavadas Sriskanthadas
Untitled by The Narcissist
Of Palestine (a Fragment) by Danny Gardener
Shalom Salaam by Ehab lotayef
New Years Leaving Egypt by Andy Young
Redone by Mohammed Mohsen