JERUSALEM (AFP) – Diana Safieh was just seven years old when her family fled theirhome on a spring night in 1948 in fear of bloody clashes between Jewish and Arab forces.
Now at nearly 70, she wants to catch at least a glimpse of a fading memory.
"My father would say: 'We will never leave Jerusalem,'" the elegant and sprightly Palestinian woman from an upper middle-class Christian family tells AFP on an emotional journey of return.
On Saturday, the Palestinians were in mourning to mark the "Naqba," or catastrophe, of Israel's establishment 62 years ago in British-mandated Palestine and with it the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Arab inhabitants.
Safieh remembers that on the morning of May 13, 1948, she was picking flowers for the nuns of Saint Joseph convent.
"If we had known what was to befall us, we would have done something else," she says with a smile. By the end of the day, the house and its furniture as well as money and jewellery in the bank had all been lost.
Panic had been spreading in the neighbourhood for months, with people abandoning homes. "By May 13, it had become unbearable," says Safieh.
In the middle of the night, little Diana and her brother Jean were woken up by their father. The family was packed into the car and sped off to the convent where a relative was a nun.
On May 14, the state of Israel was declared and the firstbroke out in earnest the next day.
The Safieh family stayed three months at the convent before deciding, like many others, to move to Beirut. Father Emile decided it was time to return nine months later to Jerusalem, where they settled in the Arab eastern sector.
More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number more than five million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile by the conflict or driven out of their homes.
"We were very lucky," admits Safieh, whose two brothers live abroad. "We did not end up in a refugee camp, and we had the means to travel and to have an education."
Today she lives in the Beit Hanuna district of Middle East war., which captured in the 1967
Safieh has only seen the old family house once since Israeli independence, and that was a painful experience back in 1967 with parents Emile and Odette, who had both since died.
"I don't know if I will remember it. In '67, there was a palm tree and the house next door had a tiled roof," she says ahead of the trip down memory lane to what it now the upper-class Jewish district of Baqaa....READ MORE
Beyond negotiations: Palestinian strategies for advancing peace
by Hussein Ibish13 May 2010
Fayeq Oweis "The piano keys honor Edward Said’s artistic talent. They also honor his efforts in using music to bridge the Palestinian-Israeli divide (Riding 2006). Together with conductor Daniel Barenboim, he created the East-West Diwan Orchestra" Honoring Edward Said: Outline and Element Descriptions 9, featuring young Israeli and Palestinian musicians.
PLO: Palestinian Refugees’ Right of Return Is Indisputable
|13.05.10 - 21:34|
Ramallah – PNN - The Palestine Liberation Organization Department of International Relations reaffirmed the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their original homes is one of the inalienable national invariables.
In a press release issued today as part of the 62 anniversary of the Palestinian NAKBA commemoration activity, the Department asserted the cause of the Palestinian refugees is sacred and is one of the top priorities for the Palestinian leadership.
Additionally, the Department reiterated the PLO’s rejection to settle Palestinian refugees in the host countries where they temporarily reside. The PLO pointed out the refugees’ lawful right to return to their original homes from which they were expelled from as a result of the atrocities perpetrated by the Zionist gangs.
The right to return is in accordance with legitimate international decisions, namely UN Resolutions 194, 242, 338 and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.
In the same context, the Department of International Relations warned of the grave consequences of the Israeli Military Order 1650, describing it as a new means to banish more Palestinians. The Israeli military began implementing the said order by expelling dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip or to Jordan under feeble pretences.
The order 1650, effective last month, gives the Israeli military almost full control to detain and deport anyone in the West Bank who does not have permission from Israel to live in the West Bank.
This includes tens of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and those who returned to the West Bank and decided to stay or Gazans who are married to an Israeli Arab and lives in Israel. The order also includes non-Palestinians who are married to Palestinian citizens but do not have Israel's approval to stay in the West Bank.
The Department of International Relations called upon the international community demanding the mitigation of the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people forcing 6 millions –5 millions of them are refugees- to live in the Diaspora.
These millions of Palestinians are prevented by the Israeli authorities from returning to their towns and villages, and at the same time enact racist laws to effect systematic ethnic cleansing against our people, especially in the occupied city of Jerusalem.
"Eighteen million dollars from the donation will be used in the physical reconstruction of thecamp. The remaining two million dollars will go towards relief and recovery support ... to the displaced refugees," the US embassy said.
The donation brings to 91.8 million dollars Washington's total contributions to the reconstruction of the camp in northern Lebanon, which was levelled in a three-month conflict between the army and Al-Qaeda-inspired.
More than 400 people, including 168 soldiers, were killed in the fighting, and the camp's 31,000 residents were transferred to nearby camps. Some of those people have since returned.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which is seeking 450 million dollars to rebuild the camp and 15 nearby villages, said on Wednesday that some 209 million dollars were stilled needed.
|Date posted: May 12, 2010 |
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
As strange as this may sound to an outsider, there is no day out the year that I despise more than Jerusalem Day. I live in Jerusalem, my children were born there and to me, it is the city closest to my heart. Still, tell me "Jerusalem Day" three times and I might just start hyperventilating. This is because Jerusalem Day is when the government of Israel, followed by hundreds of thousands of Israelis celebrate the "reunification of Jerusalem". To Palestinians, this is retranslated into "the day the rest of Jerusalem fell". Jerusalem Day marks the day in June 1967 when Israel occupied the eastern sector of the city along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. It is the day when Jerusalem was "returned to them" and it is marked with celebrations from the morning until after sunset.
Sometime in the late afternoon, Jerusalem Day reaches my doorstep. Tens and thousands of young, overzealous young Israelis march through the streets of the Old City on their way to the Western Wall in what they call the "Flag Dance". As my neighborhood is en route to this Wall (not to be confused with the "other" wall designed especially for the Palestinians), the neighborhood's entrance is cordoned off by Israeli police and border guards and shop owners are ordered to close shop in order to "keep the peace." Again, this is translated into trying to keep the friction between these hostile Israelis and Palestinians at a minimum by keeping the Palestinians indoors.
Let me just say one thing. Palestinians are used to seeing armed and often belligerent Israelis walk the streets of their neighborhoods' and quarters in Jerusalem's Old City. In addition to the suffocating presence of Israeli military personnel throughout the alleys and gateways of the Old City, Palestinians are constantly plagued with the menacing company of Jewish settlers, who roam the streets night and day. However, on Jerusalem Day, instead of 10 or 20 Israeli police or settlers, Palestinians are drowned in a sea of thousands. And these are not left-wing Israelis who come to Jerusalem to protest Israel's occupation of the city or to defend the rights of Palestinians who have been evicted from their homes by extremist settlers. No, these are swarms of Israeli youths mostly who have come to claim the city as their own, banging on Palestinian shop doors as they dance and shout through the streets, knocking over kiosks and hanging Israeli flags provocatively on bolted Palestinian doors.
It is unsettling, to say the least. After the initial mistake of trying to make my way home in the late afternoon hours one year on Jerusalem Day, I have since decided it is not worth it and now stay home while they stampede through my quarter. But as bad as it is for me, I can only imagine the stinging pain those who were exiled from their homes in Jerusalem – both from the western sector in 1948 and since 1967 as a result of Israel's ongoing cleansing of the city from its Palestinian inhabitants must feel each year. As Israelis celebrate the "reunification" of Jerusalem, Palestinians from the city experience a reopening of a wound that has yet to heal 62 years later. These Palestinians, who were made refugees in 1948 and in 1967 and those who have experienced expulsions, home evictions and ID confiscations, will not be rejoicing today, nor will their plight be part of the many speeches in honor of Jerusalem. Neither will those who now live on the street or in tents set up for them by strangers because Israeli settlers evicted them from their homes. The fact that 74 percent of Palestinian children in Jerusalem live in poverty will not be an issue nor will the fact that the quality of education between east and west is morbidly lopsided. No, these are issues that taint the image of a unified Jerusalem for Israel's government and the majority of its people. Anyway, the plight of Palestinians is hardly a concern for many Israelis, especially those in the higher echelons of government. Dismissing their presence is obviously a much more fruitful policy.
On this day, I propose that the Palestinians designate their own Jerusalem Day. On this day, those whose villages were destroyed, whose homes were demolished or taken over and whose land now houses illegal Jewish settlements, should be given a voice. The world should hear the other side of the story of Jerusalem, the story of Lifta, of Malha and of Ein Karem. It should hear of the people of Jerusalem who were forced into a life of refuge and of exile or those who, if they peer out of their window into west Jerusalem, can see their stone house in Katamon, now inhabited by European Jews. Our Jerusalem Day should be about Ma'man Allah Cemetery, a Muslim cemetery in the city that has been desecrated, built on and leveled to ironically make room for a Museum of Tolerance. It should be about the Moroccan Quarter, which was completely destroyed in 1948 to make room for the Jewish Quarter inside the city walls. It should be about the Palestinians who struggle everyday to stay in the city and not fall within the cracks of Israel's racist policies against the Palestinians that allow them to be kicked out of their own homes and their own city.
Just how significant Jerusalem is to Palestinians can only fully be understood by Palestinians themselves. It goes beyond words and lies in a coveted and cherished place in every Palestinian heart. Every day is Jerusalem Day for us, every day a reminder that our loss of Jerusalem only makes our resolve to regain it that much stronger.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The President spoke today with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The President congratulated President Abbas on the start of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks. He reiterated his strong support for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel. The President and President Abbas discussed the need for both parties to negotiate seriously and in good faith, and to move from proximity talks to direct negotiations as soon as possible in order to reach an agreement on permanent status issues. The President expressed appreciation for President’s Abbas recent outreach to the Israeli people by appearing on Israeli television, and urged that President Abbas do everything he can to prevent acts of incitement or delegitimization of Israel. The President confirmed his intention to hold both sides accountable for actions that undermine trust during the talks. He said he looks forward to receiving President Abbas at the White House soon.
|An UNRWA school in the capital. Proceeds from a concert by Marwan Abado on Sunday in Amman will support UNRWA educational projects in Jordan (JT file photo )|
By Jonah Shepp
AMMAN - As UNRWA observes the 60th anniversary of its operations this month, the agency is working to raise awareness of the continuing need for its services amid significant financial challenges, UNRWA Director of Operations in Jordan Richard Cook said earlier this week.
At a press conference on Monday with Austria-based Palestinian musician Marwan Abado, who is touring the region next week to raise funds for UNRWA’s education programmes, Cook acknowledged that the agency’s 60th anniversary “is not something to celebrate”, as it is a reminder that the Palestinian refugee crisis remains unresolved.
Instead, he said, UNRWA is celebrating the achievements of Palestinians like Abado, describing him as “a great example of what Palestinian refugees have done around the world”.
Next week’s series of concerts is one of several events the agency is holding this year to commemorate six decades of service to Palestine refugees, through which it hopes to raise badly needed funds as well as awareness of the persistent urgency of its humanitarian mission both in the Middle East and in Western countries, Cook explained.
Fritz Edlinger, secretary general of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations, stressed at the press conference that much work remains to be done to increase the profile of the Palestinian cause and rally support for Palestinian rights in the international arena, particularly in Western countries.
“Everybody’s talking peace, but on the ground, the train is going backwards,” he said. “We have to put pressure on our people to take [the Palestinian issue] seriously.”
Edlinger, whose NGO is co-organising Abado’s tour along with UNRWA, said the purpose of the concert series is in part to remind people of the ongoing plight of Palestinian refugees, and in part to “give some hope and encouragement” to refugees living in the region.
Abado himself told the press that although he has lived in Vienna for over two decades and holds Austrian citizenship, he grew up with, and still holds, a “strong sense of belonging, not to a political programme or party, but to a homeland”.
Born as a refugee in Lebanon, Abado received part of his elementary education at an UNRWA school in Dbayeh refugee camp, according to a statement from the tour organisers.
As a child, the oud player and composer said he was always taught that “education was the only route to a better life”, a maxim he has followed and now seeks to pass on.
He explained that all proceeds from his upcoming concerts in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon will go to support UNRWA’s various educational projects in these countries.
Today the agency serves up to 4.7 million registered refugees. The majority of its 30,000 staff members are teachers working in schools across the Middle East for some 500,000 students, according to UNRWA.
Abado and his band will perform at Al Hussein Cultural Centre on Sunday, May 16 at 8:00pm. Their regional tour will also include performances in Damascus, Aleppo, Sidon and Beirut, the last of which will also be broadcast live in Bethlehem.
The Palestinian Human Development Report 2009/10, written by an independent team and sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), explores different facets of human security – economy, food, health, environment, political, personal, community – from the perspective of establishing freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity.
It argues that sustained development will not be possible until Palestinians are afforded economic and environmental control, particularly on issues such trade, water resources and borders.
The Report notes that while many Palestinians are given enough food aid to sustain themselves, they remain in a state of dependency because they are unable to make enough money to feed themselves – what the authors refer to as a “poverty of disempowerment.”
The education and health care system are cited as examples of areas in which Palestinians, given a window of opportunity, have made progress. On the other hand, the national economy has consistently weakened over the reporting period due to stringent control.
In addition, Palestinians have no authority over their air space, territorial waters, natural resources, movement and the macro-economic instruments that enable economic autonomy, according to the publication, the fifth in a series of human development reports focusing on the Palestinians.
“Human security is the platform for development, the aim of which is to create an environment where people can enjoy long, healthy and creative lives,” said UNDP Special Representative Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, who launched the Report in Ramallah along with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
“This report is a reminder that Palestinians continue to face many challenges including the occupation and internal fragmentation.”
Another major hindrance is the territorial fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory, which the authors contend has severely weakened the central authority and governance institutions of the Palestinian Authority and intensified internal Palestinian political polarization.
This has resulted in more political violence and the suppression of civil rights by the various authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they add.
The Report recommends devising a strategy to promote territorial contiguity, economic integration, social cohesion, sovereignty and political reconciliation. It also suggests establishing a Commission for Representative Governance to monitor the implementation of the strategy and boost transparency and accountability.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue