Right of return borne in Palestinian refugees minds, hearts

13:18, June 21, 2011      

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by Saud Abu Ramadan

Sitting on his wheeling chair, sick and unable to talk, the 80-year-old refugee Zaki Atteya al-Sherif negatively shook his head as his wife Zakeya, 75, asked him if he prefers to be buried in Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza Strip, when he dies.

"He doesn't want to be buried here, he prefers to be buried in our town Yebna," his old wife explained to Xinhua, referring to their hometown located between Tel Aviv and Ashdod. She said she was 14 years old when they left the town, which now is called Yavneh, in the summer of 1948.

Zaki, Zakeya, their seven children and their grandchildren have been living in their tow-room house in Jabalia refugee camp since they left Yebna during 1948 Arab-Israel war. The ceiling of their humble and poor house, in the narrow alleys of the refugee camp, is made out of asbestos.

Jabalia refugee camp, which was built in the early 1950s by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency in the Far East (UNRWA) on a 1,448-dunum area northeast of Gaza city, has now a population of 176,286. It is the largest and most densely populated refugee camp in the region.

RIGHTS TO RETURN

"I still remember the night when we left Yebna. My father told us that we should leave for a day or two until the war ends and then we would come back. We left, but I never imagined that the two days would extend to 63 years," the old lady recalled, "it feels like a nightmare."

"Life in the refugee camp is harder than the life we used to have in our town. We used to work in our own fields, grow up citrus and olives as well as wheat and barley. Life here could never be an alternative to the life in our hometown, and we want to go back sooner or later," said Zakeya al-Sherif.

According to an official UNRWA report on the Palestinian refugees issued in mid 2010, the Palestinian refugees number in the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan is 4.8 million, which represents 43.4 percent of the total number of the Palestinian people living all over the world.

Thousands of Palestinians left their towns and villages in historic Palestinian territories, when the state of Israel was established in 1948, who became, according to the international terminology, "Refugees." Since then, their cause has been debated and remained unresolved for decades.

Husam Ahmed, an official in the Refugees' Department of Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, told Xinhua that there has been a series of UN resolutions to fairly resolve the problem of the Palestinian refugees, but "Israeli occupation ignored and didn't implement these resolutions."

"We have been always saying that the issue of the Palestinian refugees is an international responsibility and it should be on the top of the world's priority," said Ahmed, adding "The UN has been talking about the question of the refugees for 63 years and nothing so far has been achieved."

The independent Gaza-based Refugees Right Group said in a press statement that the Palestinian factions, mainly Hamas and Fatah party, that once a unity government of technocrat is formed, "they have to bear in mind the refugee's right of return."

INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE DAY

On June 20, the United Nations marks the day as the international day of the refugees. The Palestinians, who have been involved in the issue since 1948, usually mark this day with rallies and statements, reiterating that the right of return for the Palestinian refugees is a basic right that can never be dropped.

"We have to force the recognition of our legitimate right of return by all means of struggle and all means of sacrifices despite the international negligence of the Palestinian refugees' right of return," said the Refugees' Right Group statement. "Right of return can only be gained through resistance."

Zakeya al-Sherif, who kept recalling the hard days when she and her family as well as the residents of the town had left and walked on foot until they reached the Gaza Strip and lived in Jabalia, said that since then "the world has been all the time giving promises that have never been implemented."

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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