This is a collection of pictures and quotes from various linked sources. Thanks to all the photographers who made this possible, as well as journalists who interviewed the refugees. Most of all, thanks to the steadfst refugees of all ages, who continue to this day to hold the keys and titles to their land.
At 70 years of age, Ali has the dubious honor of recalling the full 62 years of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ali has lived most of his life in the Ein Beit el Ma refugee camp in Nablus, but he never passes up an opportunity to revisit his childhood memories of Yazur village, from which he and his family fled in 1948 during al-nakba when he was a young boy.
“We were simple people, farmers,” Ali recalls. “Everyone knew each other in the village, and we worked together as one. My family’s home was two kilometers from the sea, and there on our land we grew oranges, apples, vegetables – everything that we needed.”
It was after the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the British government’s first formal policy announcement of support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, that Jews first came to the area of Yazur. “There was a Jewish village established five kilometers from ours,” says Ali. “In the beginning we lived in harmony; we would even drink tea together and share our food with them.” (See http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/91/memories-nakba.html
Food was left still warm and uneaten on tables, clothes left hanging in cupboards, and toys, photos and papers were all left behind in the rush to escape. But the 750,000 Palestinian refugees, who barely locked the doors to their homes behind them, all thought that they were coming back. (SEE http://ziomania.com/articles5/The%20Ghosts%20of%20Deir%20Yassin.htm)
lutching a rumpled package wrapped in a shopping bag, Ali Basyuni carefully peels back the layers of plastic and paper to reveal a heavy scroll of faded documents – the deeds to his family home in Yazur, a small village that once lay five kilometers east of Jaffa, Israel. The deeds date back over 120 years, through the Ottoman era and the British Mandate, but the Basyuni family’s history in the village can be traced back even further. The family had lived on the land for centuries. Somewhat ruefully, Ali sifts through the papers to find the crowning glory: the ancient key to his home in Yazur. He places it around his neck. Since the implementation of Israel’s Absentee Property Law of 1950, a law that legalized the annexation of over two million dunums of land belonging to Palestinians who fled during al-nakba (the catastrophe), the artifacts of Ali’s childhood home have become mere emblems of a promise: the Palestinian right of return. http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/91/memories-nakba.html
The scale of the devastation was overwhelming: four in five Palestinian villages inside the borders of the new state were ethnically cleansed, an act of mass dispossession accompanied by atrocities. Around 95 per cent of new Jewish communities built between 1948-1953 were established on the land of expelled, denationalised Palestinians. See http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/05/201151593642551148.html
The transfer of the Palestinian population is still ‘encouraged’ through highly discriminatory policies, some visible, such as home demolitions, closures, checkpoints, attacks on peaceful demonstrations, and others less so, such as the system of registration, permits, etc., special to Palestinians in the Occupied Territory (including Jerusalem) — a bureaucratic process straight out of Kafka’s nightmarish world. http://rabble.ca/news/2010/05/al-nakba-expelled-home-and-native-land-not-history
“Oh, how I yearn for my childhood days. Today, I am 75 years old. I remember our home and family. Now, they are but a fading memory. We have been displaced and killed. We will not forget. Our grandchildren will be given the keys,” Um Anaam told Al-Safir. [Clarification: the reference to keys is to those which will unlock the houses left behind by the Palestinians in 1948.] “Every day is Nakba to us. Our children are being killed and imprisoned. Our houses are being demolished and our land stolen, yet, the world does not lift a finger.” http://uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com/2012/05/particularly-bitter-nakba-day.html
Not far away from Hajja’s house in the camp lives 78-year-old Mohamed Ibrahim. The long years have taken their toll on the old man. The years weigh heavy on him, forcing his head to the ground. “Today, I do not feel like I exist. Although I still live among my family here, I am not at home. My house there was taken away from me. But I must return one day,” he told Al-Safir. http://uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com/2012/05/particularly-bitter-nakba-day.html
I never forget that 2003 Spring when my grandmother and I “went back” to our destroyed village Beit Jibrin. We managed to get there despite the checkpoints and high level of security. It isn’t easy although the actual distance that separates my refugee camp from the village is less than an hour’s drive. I’d been there a few times before but never with her. This was the first time. I walked behind her climbing up a hill in the village. She seemed much stronger and able to walk faster than I remembered. She knew where exactly we were going as if she was there yesterday.
Her memories dated back to 1948. She was nearly 10 years old. Despite her young age, she remembered. She remembered her school, the lovely summer evenings she spent with her family in the village. She remembered the harvest time and travelling to Haifa and Yafa with her dad to sell their produce. She also remembered the nights when the peaceful village was first attacked. “We never saw a fighter jet before”, she said. Maybe they had, I thought, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same sight as the one that was now spreading death and fear into people’s hearts in 1948. This was the same year that witnessed over 750,000 of the native Palestinian population expelled from their homes and villages. So far, to this day, they have never been able to return.