40-60 Call to Action (issue No.34, Summer 2007)

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Commentary and analysis in this issue focuses on recent political developments and the consequences of these developments for the Palestinian political system shaped by the Oslo accords. In particular, writers examine the basis for the failure of the National Unity Government and the events following the downfall of that administration.

The latest issue of al-majdal pays particular attention to the Nakba, with writers arguing that it has become a powerful symbol of the continued plight of the Palestinain people, representing, as it does, the quest for justice, redress, and the right of return. To this end, reports of the popular commemoration in the OPT of this year's 59th anniversary of the Nakba, a potrayal of refugees in the media and various personal recollections of the Nakba that highlight the historical significance of this event and its place in Palestinian consciousness are featured.

Elsewhere, other writers examine the Nakba as an ongoing event. Here, reports and analysis of the recent armed conflict in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon, the continued suffering of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Iraq, and an account of the efforts of the Palestinian villagers of Artas (Bethlehem) to resist the illegal confiscation of their land, underline the continued vulnerability and hardship faced by displaced Palestinians.

The 40/60 Call to Action issue also represents a call for expanding the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. An update of recent developments in the global BDS Campaign is included in the documents section.

The latest events in the 1967 occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have led many to consider a possible end of the Palestinian political system shaped by the Oslo Accords, and they have caused despair at the West’s approach to human rights and democratic principles in the Middle East (see: “The End of National Unity of the Palestinian Elites...”).

Events in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon have also demonstrated, once again, the vulnerability of Palestinian refugees and the complexity of the political scene in Lebanon (see: “The Ongoing Nakba: Sickness and Health Among Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon”, “Lebanon: A Proxy Way in Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp?” and “Commemorating Palestine in Lebanon”). At the same time, the persecution suffered by Palestinian refugees and the Iraqi population in Iraq is reaching unprecedented levels and requires immediate protection; a protection that is, unfortunately, not forthcoming (see: “Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: The Lost Protection”).

 Amidst 40 years of Israeli occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the worsening political, humanitarian and human rights situation in the region, Palestinians, however, remain steadfast. In May, Palestinians commemorated the 59th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 while becoming victims of “a new Nakba”, i.e. Palestinian inter-factional armed conflictintheoccupiedGazaStripandWestBank.TheNakbaofalmost60years ago has become a powerful symbol of what continues to happen to Palestinians until today. It symbolizes the Palestinian quest for justice, redress, and the right of return (see: “The Power of Memory”).

 In this year’s 59th commemoration of the Nakba, Badil organized the the first Al-Awda Award.Popluar marches, rallies and conferences were held in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Europe and North America in memory of past displacement and with the demand for future return. The 40/60 Call to Action is an appeal from displaced Palestinians to global civil society to address the root causes of 60 years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people and join the quest for new principled vision and struggle (see: “BADIL’s 40/60 Call to Action”). The civil society Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which is being joined by an increasing number of persons, unions and organizations, is also part of this strategic effort to pressure Israel and states to respect the rights of Palestinians under international law (see: BDS Update).

Next year, in 2008, the Palestinian Nakba will turn 60. Individuals and organizations who wish to make this anniversary a meaningful event, and thereby support the Palestinian people’s quest for justice and freedom, are welcome to contact Badil for further information (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

 Since 2001, the reality created “on the ground” in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) by the Oslo Accords has been erased de facto as a result of Israel’s re-invasion of the semi-autonomous Palestinian areas (“areas A and B”), destruction of Palestinian Authority infrastructure and the subsequent imposition of an ever tightening military regime employed for more colonization and annexation of Palestinian land.

Now, six years later, this “post-Oslo reality” appears to devour also the political system that has shaped the Palestinian struggle for decades. Shattered by the breakdown of the Hamas-Fatah led National Unity Government in June, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO are discredited, dis-functional and dis-empowered, and the political system of the Palestinian leadership elite appears beyond repair.

the period of 2007 – 2008, Palestinians commemorate 60 years of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, when 78 per cent of Palestine was ethnically cleansed of its indigenous Arab population in order to make room for the “Jewish state”, and 40 years of Israel’s occupation and colonization of the remaining 22 per cent of Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip). A series of additional landmark anniversaries also fall into this period: 90 years since the Balfour Declaration of British support for a “Jewish home” in Palestine; 25 years since the massacre of Sabra and Shatila committed by Israel’s Lebanese allies, which symbolizes the impunity for crimes against the vulnerable, stateless Palestinian refugees; 20 years since the first Palestinian intifada, the revival of popular resistance in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (OPT); and, 5 years of construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall, which is putting an end to the project of Palestinian statehood in the OPT.

Although Palestinian memory was silenced and has remained largely excluded from official historiography dominated by the powerful Zionist narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the experience of the Nakba, in particular, has remained alive in popular memory and culture. Collective memory thus preserved and passed on from generation to generation - through oral history, songs and poems - affirms identity, manages trauma, and raises political and moral claims.

On Thursday morning, 10 May 2007, the inhabitants of Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, woke up to find some walls of their cities covered with photographs of the kind they are not used to seeing. Over night, some 1600 pictures representing 40 copies of the photo exhibition “40 to 67” had been hastily put on more than 200 walls in the streets by dozens of volunteers.  Since then the photos have been exhibited on many other occasions and events, on Israel’s Wall in Anata and in Aida refugee camp, as well as during demonstrations and events against the occupation in Israel and in various countries of the world.

Visitors of Artas are amazed by the beauty of this small village located South-East of Bethlehem. Artas is renowned for its water sources and fertile lands that run throughout the valley covered by greenhouses and trees. It has around 4,000 inhabitants and hosts and annual Lettuce Festival. Artas, however, is also located close to the ever-expanding Gush Etzion settlement bloc and the route of the Wall. Last year, construction started on the hills surrounding Artas. In May this year, inhabitants discovered with concerns that the bulldozers were moving increasingly down, in the direction of the valley. The first land threatened with confiscation and destruction was a plot covered with beautiful apricot trees belonging to the Abu Sway family.

Our new book, Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory is about what 1948 has meant for Palestinians, as refracted through their memories, individual and collective, rendered public through being elicited by researchers and grandchildren, volunteered creatively, or presented in conventionalized memorial practices. The essays by a group of established and emerging scholars, all of whom are doing research on Palestinian memory, contribute important material to the ongoing historical reconstruction of the events of 1947 and 1948 and supplement the careful oral historical work that is being done by Palestinian research centers.

ut that is not the main purpose of this book. We are less concerned about what these memories tell us about what happened in the past than what work memories do, and can do, in the present. Among the important work that memory does is to affirm identity, manage trauma, and make political and moral claims. We look especially at how memories are produced, when people are silent, when collective memory proliferates, and what forms Palestinian memories of the cataclysmic events of 1948 take, recognizing that no memory is pure or spontaneous.

I am a Palestinian refugee, born in one of the refugee camps in the south of the Gaza strip. Khan Younis was my home - from there I have my memories. As a child, I did not think or even care about knowing my origin, although I had heard my parents and my grandparents mentioning the word “Al-Majdal”. But to me, Al-Majdal meant nothing, an illusionary place with special memories for my parents. One day this changed: Our teacher at school asked us, his students, to write an essay about our origin place of birth. At home, I told my father about my homework, and he was very anxious and exited – finally he had been given the chance to tell me about his own treasure. He asked me to prepare myself to write his story.

 Update on home demolition in the Naqab

Last edition al-Majdal (issue No.32) reported on demolition of Bedouin Arab homes in the Naqab and since publication there has been no let up in this government policy of displacement. On May 8, the entire village of Twail Abu-Jarwal, 30 tents and huts, homes to over 100 people were destroyed on Israeli government orders. The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev (RCUV) reported that at 9.30am two bulldozers, dozens of armed police, alongside demolition workers, entered the village at a time they knew men would be out at work.

Palestinian refugees & the media

In the seven years that I have been monitoring British media coverage of Arab issues, I can confidently say that Palestinian refugees constitute the most maligned, misunderstood and under-reported aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is not only unfortunate but baffling, given its centrality to a just and lasting solution.   The refugee issue is maligned because certain proprietors, editors and journalists embrace Israel’s viewpoint; it is misunderstood because it is viciously targeted by a pro-Israel lobby that does not face a similarly strong pro-Palestinian, and particularly pro-refugee lobby (sadly, the two are not synonymous); and it is under-reported because, as a problem that will be 60 (yes, 60) years old next year, it has long ceased to be ‘newsworthy’.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not support Fatah al-Islam nor are they involved in the fighting raging in Nahrel-Bared camp since 20 May 2007. They have, however, bore the brunt of the conflict. Since fighting began in Nahrel-Bared camp, between 45 to 120 civilians have been killed and 6,265 Palestinian refugee families (over 31,000 persons) were internally displaced as of 4 July 2007. Most of the displaced refugees found shelter in the Beddawi refugee camp, which has an impoverished population of around 16,000 and now hosts an additional 25,000 persons (5,045 families) from Nahr el-Bared. By the end of June, up to a thousand persons were still stuck in the camp although no exact number was available.

Sickness and Health Among Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

 A regime of insecurity and poverty

Public health expert Michael Marmot underlines the relation between health and two fundamental human needs: autonomy and full social participation, adding that “deprived of a clean safe neighborhood, meaningful work, freedom from police harassment and arrest, and freedoms from violence and aggression, it is harder to have control over one’s life or be a full social participant.”(1)

Commemorating Palestine in Lebanon

Laleh Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), Hardback.

In recent months thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have found themselves forced to flee yet again as instability and conflict engulfs Nahral-Bared camp. While Palestinians share a common displacement and longing for their land – including those remaining in the 1948 historic homeland – numerous factors such as country of exile, class, gender and educational opportunities, have contributed to vastly different experiences for Palestinian refugees. Campaigners for the right of return, both Palestinians and their international supporters, work for the common goal of recognition of the right of return for all Palestinians, regardless of current status or location.

A Parastatal Institution Chartered to Dispossess and Discriminate

 UN Rejects JNF Application for Consultative Status

On 18 May 2007, the United Nations’ Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) rejected the application of the JNF for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) by a vote of 8 to 7 with three abstentions. Consultative status enables NGOs to circulate statements and participate in relevant international conferences convened by the UN and in the meetings of their preparatory bodies.

A pleasant surprise awaited us at the 1948 depopulated Lajoun village this year. Approximately ten thousand people from all generations and political loyalties, five times the number of people that were present last year at the Carmel village of Um Al Zeinat, attended the demonstration that intentionally and challengingly coincided with the Hebrew date of “Israel’s independence” to express the living memory and power of legitimacy.

Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: The Lost Protection

Damascus – ‘Aidoun Group. Since the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, sectarian militias, Iraqi and U.S. military forces have launched several campaigns systemically targeting the Palestinian population living in Iraq, campaigns that, according to international organizations, have used methods that include expulsion, imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killing. As a result, many Palestinian refugees have fled to neighboring countries and refugee camps on the Iraqi borders.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel

 Group of British doctors call for a boycott of the Israel Medical Association

April 28, 2007 - A group of British doctors has called for a boycott of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) and its expulsion from the World Medical Association (WMA). The petition, signed by 130 doctors, argues that by refusing to criticise Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, the IMA is failing to uphold international medical ethical standards.