Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Am I a Palestinian Refugee?!?

Palestinian Children playing in their Refugee Camp
Last night I had an interesting session with a group of Canadian/Israeli/Jewish friends. We met as part of an initiative to have conversations between people who are involved or related or have an interest in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Among the interesting talks that we had was the question "Why Am I still a Refugee till today?!?"

The interesting thing is that really, most Israelis and Jews don't really understand it, and they rarely try to dig into answers or facts about it, because the prevailing assumption among them is that it is a political thing, a political issue, maybe even a bit fabricated or so on!!

One from the group last night said: "I believe the problem is that Arab countries are keeping the Palestinians as refugees to keep the fire burning under Israel". This is probably a very common belief among Israelis and Jews. And I have been faced with this question so many times, and had to explain it in so many different contexts. So today I decided to actually explain it here, and keep it as a reference for those who want to understand "Why am I still a Palestinian Refugees?!?

As always, I remind you my friends, this is my explanation, my interpretation, and my analysis, being a Palestinian Refugee, and having lived and read and researched and interacted with so any elements in this regards :-)

First, the basic stuff: Just like Israel does not grant citizenship to anyone born in Israel, the same applies to the majority, if not all, the Arab countries!! So if an American is working in Israel or in Lebanon, and she gives birth to a child there, this child does not get neither the Israeli nor the Lebanese passport. And so, all Palestinian Refugees living in any Arabic country go under this same process!! No citizenship is granted, and the refugee status and documents are passed on to the children. Thus, the refugees keep growing generation after generation... Clear?

The other thing, Palestinians are proud of being Palestinians, and we are so attached to our culture and heritage and land, just like so many others around the world, including the indigenous Jews who lived in Palestine/Israel!! And so, it is only natural to keep the faith, the hope, the resistance, and the fight to go back to Palestine, our Homeland. Why would anyone just give up on Palestine and agree to become a citizen of another country. It has been 65 years, and Palestinians still hold on to this right to return to their homes, and no one can force them to let go. Again, generation after generation, Palestinian refugees continue to grow...

The next point is a bit harsh and complicated!! You see, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and all the remaining Arab countries, are indeed Arab countries, sharing the Arabic language, and the Islamic Arabic history. But, and this is a big BUT, every Arab country is different!! The Arabic language differs in each country, the traditions differ, the clothes, the demographics, the religions & sects, the economy, and the list goes on and on. The sad reality in fact is that there is no real harmony or unity among these Arab countries. And there are so many sensitivities specific to each country. All that adds more to the complex problem of the Palestinian Refugees!! So it is not as simple as you might think for any Arab country to take all those big numbers of refugees, and risk the stability or structure of their own country, for the sake of their Arab neighbors!! Unfortunately this is the reality on the ground, and you have to understand that, and respect this for each country!!

In fact, it is easier for a Palestinian refugee to travel to Western countries than traveling to Arab countries!! Weird right?

And so, for those who think that just because Palestine is an Arabic country and all neighboring countries are Arabic as well, this means those neighbors should solve the Palestinian problem, you are absolutely mistaken!!!

Without a doubt, there are so many more reasons and layers and explanations that outsiders, Israelis, Jews, Westerners, all of you won't understand about the hard, sad, and difficult situation that Palestinian Refugees go through on a daily basis in those host countries, as a consequence of the events of 1948. And because of that we, the descendants of the Palestinians who fled their homes 1948, still live as refugees, and still pass on our refugee status to our children, who knows till when!?!

My final comment, based on an article I read this morning, and based on the conversations last night: Palestinians did not kill Jews before 1948, Palestinians did not hate Jews before 1948, Palestinians are not invented people, and Palestine was not a land with no people!! Don't ask us, but ask the indigenous Jewish population of Palestine in the late 1890s and early 1900s till 1948!!

1948 changed the lives of millions of Palestinians, and created the longest ever Refugees problem in modern history. We have rights as Human Beings, the same way Jews and Israelis have rights as Human Beings. We are both attached to this land, we both have rights to this land... The way to solve this is by treating each other equally, feeling for each other, respecting each other, understanding each other... You survived the Holocaust and came to this land to build a new home, do it, but build next to us, not on top of us!!!

Peace & Love...

The Palestinian Refugee
BISS