The birth of a new nationalist movement, advocating creation of a Jewish state in the First Zionist Congress of 1897, resulted in exodus of about 750,000 Palestinians. With the creation of Israel, these Palestinians became refugees in what is known as the “Nakba”, Arabic word for catastrophe. This led to enmity between the native Palestinians and the immigrating Jews from Europe, giving rise to one of the most problematic conflicts in modern world – the Arab-Israel conflict.
The concept of being away from their land still emphasises on their right to return – the most basic humanitarian law. It has been on every leader’s list, most recently, in John Kerry’s framework of peace, who actually wanted a quiet diplomacy in the Arab world.
Politically, the Oslo Accords of 1993 and Taif Agreement of 1989 were actually jolted by the intifada of the common people. In 1940, the British actually ended the mandate of Palestine and left the country on 14th May 1948. The ruling Jewish leader, Yitzhak Rabin, at that time, had signed an order expelling Palestinians from two towns of Lyyda and Ramala. By the end of 1949, in ‘Deir Yassin’ massacre, the war expelled 700,000 to 750,000. Only 150,000 remained in Israel. Over 150 towns were destroyed. Many were even forcibly expelled by Israeli forces.
The 1954, ‘Prevention of Infiltration Law’ allowed Israeli government to expel any Palestinian. The Battle of Karameh in 1968, however, resulted in a propaganda victory of Palestinians over Israelis, which actually establishes the cause of Palestinian nationhood. It gave Yasser Arafat’s Fatah group international attention, and propelled the cause to an international scale. King Hussein was so emotionally aroused by the Palestinian guerrilla victory that he branded all Palestinians as ‘martyrs’.
In context of Arab-Israeli conflict, many Arab countries like Jordan helped these refugees with temporary settlements, which has ultimately made them permanently homeless. There are also nearly half a million Palestinians living in refugee camps in Syria: entire refugee camps were established about 65 years ago. The people in these camps were either killed or fled safely elsewhere. Many shiver in snow, without a dwelling. In many of these camps, the refugees who were kept under military seize literally got starved to death.
Most recently, an investigative book ‘Refugees of the Revolution’ (2013) by author Diana Allan ascertained the plight of Palestinian living in exile, where she argued about the common assumption of their identity – from their credit associations, debt relations, emigration networks, electricity bartering and NGO planning.
In many parts of Palestine, what is now Israel, everyone is more or less a refugee. When PLO’s provocation invoked a civil war from 1975 to 1990, including a horrendous ‘War of the Camps’ between 1985 to 1988, it did not integrate them with the Lebanese and even till now, Israeli military is creating more Palestinian refugees, who are actually being thrown out of their ancestral homes. In West Bank, people’s homes are demolished almost every week for a while. Palestinians, ironically, are a bunch of people who do not hold any citizenship or any right of return. The influential and the rich segment of the population have migrated to better countries due to a sense of isolation and neglect.
Palestinian refugees, however, are getting regrouped – near Handarat camp in Aleppo Syria, to 3,000,000 strong community in Chile, Lebanon, occupied Jerusalem, France, Australia, United Kingdom to Balata camp in Nablus, Deraa camp in Syria and Al Amari camp in Ramallah. To initiate some sort of political courage, many Palestinians, today, are raising the flag of return under the banner ‘Return Unifies Us’, through an amalgam of civil coalitions from the besieged Yarmouk camp of Damascus. The Yarmouk youth band hold concerts in candlelight near the Turkish border.
Posters, exhibitions, lectures, rallies and marching scouts define Palestinian unity, their sense of humanity and dignity. They have the power to fashion their fate, and this has rejuvenated the cause of their liberation and return.