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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/19/18

"A place I do not recognize": Palestinians mark 70 years of Israeli injustice

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When it became clear they would not be allowed home, Saffuriya's refugees slowly re-established their lives on the outskirts of Nazareth, in a new neighborhood they called Safafra, named after their former village and on a hillside overlooking it.

"They were forced to suffer a second indignity -- watching their beloved village disappear only to be reinvented as a Jewish moshav [the agricultural community of Tzipori]," Pappe told Middle East Eye.

Almost overnight, the influx of refugees from Saffuriya and other destroyed villages doubled Nazareth's population.

The refugees were only spared further expulsion when the Israeli commander who attacked Nazareth failed to drive out the inhabitants.

"Present and absent"

Israel keeps no public records, but it is widely believed that nearly a quarter of Israel's Palestinian minority are internal refugees or descended from them.

Israeli law even provides them with a special, Orwellian designation as "present absentees" -- present in Israel, but absent from their villages.

These Palestinians find themselves in a similar position to refugees outside Israel.

They have been stripped of any right -- even as Israeli citizens -- to reclaim their property or return to their lands.

Ameen Muhammad Ali was 13 in July 1948, when Israeli forces attacked Saffuriya and expelled its more than 5,000 people.

"Anything we could not take with us was seized by Israel," he told MEE. "We had to begin our lives again from scratch."

Today, the 83-year-old, better known as Abu Arab, owns a small shop in Nazareth's old city market, but still considers Saffuriya his true home.

"I can see Saffuriya from my home in Nazareth, and there is not a day I don't think about it and what it meant to us. I have watched it change before my eyes into a place I cannot recognize."

March of Return

As they have done on every Israeli independence day for three decades, the Palestinian internal refugees will commemorate their Nakba with a March of Return to one of the destroyed villages.

This week tens of thousands are expected to walk in procession to a site on the coast south of Haifa where a series of Palestinian villages were razed by the Israeli army in 1948 as part of operations to prevent the refugees' return. The marchers will congregate near Atlit, today a small Jewish town.

Abu Arab, one of the founders of "Adrid" -- the Association for the Rights of the Internally Displaced, the main body representing the internal refugees -- said the March of Return had played a vital role in raising awareness among the younger generations of what had taken place during the Nakba.

Ziad Awaisi, a 43-year-old physiotherapist whose grandparents were expelled from Saffuriya and who was raised in Nazareth, is one of the organizers.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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