“Palestine for us is not just a country on the political map. For us, Palestine is a history, identity, life texture, living, breathing; it is absolutely unique. You made me cry by remembering it. We no longer have relations with Palestinians. The Palestinian families that lived with us are scattered now. Some left and some immigrated. I always ask my father to tell me stories about it, because I can’t even find a book with these facts. I started to seek my soul and my history, I no longer know where I am. I was watching a TV show when my father was telling me how the Zionists invaded. I no longer connect with this feeling. I feel that I am in a different world.
In the last week of April 1948, combined Irgun-Haganah forces launched an offensive to drive the Palestinian people out of the beautiful port city of Jaffa, forcing the remaining inhabitants to flee by sea to Gaza or Lebanon; many drowned in the process. My Aunt Rose, a teenager at that time, survived the trip to began her life in exile on the shores of the Lebanese coast.
Each Palestinian refugee family grows up hearing again and again the stories of those final moments in Palestine, the decisions, the panic, as we live in the midst of their than 50 massacres carried out over the summer of 1948 by various armed Jewish forces as a means to drive out others who were determined to stay, the physical demolition of the villages after the expulsions occurred to ensure the refugees could not return, all this is summed up in a single word for Palestinians - Nakba, the catastrophe.
Everybody knows Sharon had a dark past. For us Palestinians, for me as a Palestinian, he is our dark present. The entire destruction of the fabric of our civic and political society over the last five years had the looming presence of Sharon at its black heart. That single moment when Ariel Sharon went to Haram al Sharif to light the chaotic atavistic fuse of his return to political power, the moment which sparked our revolt against everything that he represented, which began to generate his rise to power, that single moment was the essence of his persona, the uniquely ruthless relentless dynamic of his role as conqueror.
The aim of the Civitas collective research project, based at the University of Oxford, is to assess how Palestinian refugee communities living in exile in the Middle East, Europe and further afieldcanstrengthencivic mechanisms to enable better communication with their national representative the PLO and its institutions, the host country, the humanitarian agencies that serve them, and other refugee communities, both inside and outside of Palestine.
A series of publicly convened debates and workshops to assess how Palestinian refugee communities living in exile in the Middle East, Europe and further afield can build civic structures and mechanisms to enable better communication with their national representative and its institutions, the host country, the humanitarian agencies that serve them, and other refugee communities, both inside and outside of Palestine began in March 2005 and will continue until June 2005.
-7 November 2004, Larnaca, Cyprus
The Civitas Project convened a workshop with members from Palestinian refugee and exile communities from all over the world. Those invited were either delegated by their communities, or elected heads of their communities, or grass-roots community activists who had spent many years serving them in various roles. All who attended were interested to facilitate a process whereby the voices of their people, and their rights and needs, are brought to the attention of all the different bodies that serve them: their national representative the PLO, the host countries where they currently reside, the humanitarian agencies that serve them, the refugee communities worldwide and those inside Palestine.