Life in Palestinian Refugee Camps - by Stephen Lendman
Besides mass slaughter and destruction, wars create refugees, millions at times, uprooted, displaced and homeless, on their own somehow to survive. Israel's "War of Independence" was no different, dispossessing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, a story Western media reports don't explain or even mention.
In his book, "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story," Ramzy Baroud recounted his father Mohammed's story. Born in 1938 in Beit Daras village, he saw it conquered, leveled and erased, except from the memory he took to his grave. A captive in his own land, he lived years as a Gaza Nuseirat camp refugee, raising his family including son Ramzy, dreaming always of going home, struggling as a freedom fighter to end decades of conflict, violence, occupation, and oppression, what Edward Said called "a slow death," shattered hopes, and inexorable toll of its incalculable horror to so many.
Spanning over seven decades of history and survivor recollections, it tells a powerful firsthand story of those who lived it, not the airbrushed Western version of the new Israeli state, born in blood, mass slaughter, destruction, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of survivors, to this day oppressed, harassed, intimidated, humiliated, attacked and arrested for being Muslims, not Jews on their own land, in their own country, illegally occupied for decades.
In his book "Behind the Wall: Life, Love, and Struggle in Palestine," Rick Wiles recounts other refugee stories, people he encountered firsthand in the West Bank, connecting them to their original villages, expulsion, daily life and dreams of return.
Abu Gaush shared his own 1967 experience, saying:
During the Six Day War, "My family fled to the mountains as we were frightened that 1948 was happening all over again....The soldiers emptied all the houses in the villages and forced everyone out onto the streets. The only direction left was to Ramallah, and they told us to go there. Other soldiers were saying, 'Go to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) - all land before there is ours - and if you stop before (arriving), we will kill you.' "
Including poignant photos, Wiles' book includes seven sections, discussing: Memories of Exile, The Wall, The Spirit of Resistance, Purity and Love, Land of Palestine, Strength and Sumoud (steadfastness), and Dreams of Return, including his final image of a grandfather giving his original home's key to his son, symbolic of the continuing right to return struggle, what won't ever stop until succeeding.
Numbers of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
Al Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, says Palestinian refugees today are the world's "longest suffering and largest refugee population." In its January 2010 report titled, "Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, 2008 - 2009," the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (BRC) calls them "the largest and longest-standing case of forced displacement in the world today," numbering 9.8 million, increasing by about 100,000 a year.
Most are refugees, another 450,000 internally displaced. For over six decades, they've been denied solutions and reparations for their rights under international law and UN resolutions. An earlier article discussed BRC's report in detail, accessed through the following link:
Life in Occupied Camps
Besides those internally displaced, Palestinians have lived in forced exile for decades throughout the world, most within 100 km of their original homes. Those in camps comprise about 21% of the total. Hundreds of thousands of others are in 17 unofficial camps in Occupied Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. About 79% live outside UNRWA's 58 camps, including many in West Bank villages and cities, about 100 locales comprising over half the population.
In 2008, the European University Institute's Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies published a report titled, "Palestine Refugee Camps: Disciplinary Space and Territory of Exception," examining daily camp life in 59 camps: 19 in the West Bank, 8 in Gaza, 12 in Lebanon, 10 in Jordan, and 10 in Syria. Saying they're not "natural" settings, they become "slum areas" or under-developed urban sprawls, some "open spaces," others "closed."
In Lebanon, for example, "the gap between the numbers of camp and urban refugee dwellers....is enormous," compared to Jordan and Syria where differences are minimal, yet even "country-by-country analysis does not in any way suggest internal homogeneity, because the question of camp locations within the different countries matters as well."