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The forgotten heart of the Nakba


Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 15 May 2013

Palestinians who live in the Diaspora have a special word to describe it. The ‘Shatat’: An Arabic phrase that conveys the gaping wound of Palestinian dispossession, all resulting from the Nakba – a catastrophic series of events that led to the forced expulsion of 800,000 original inhabitants of Palestine from their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab countries and other countries of the world.

“We have all been thrown to the wind to find a place somewhere on earth,” said Susan Abulhawa, a renowned Palestinian author and thinker in a interview with Cii Radio marking the 65th anniversary of the Nakba.

“Most of us still languish in refugee camps that are not fit for human beings, they are not fit for animals quite frankly,” she lamented of the plight of millions of Palestinian scattered predominantly across the Middle East, who had been forcefully evicted from their homes by Zionist armed gangs in 1948.

“Most of these are proud members of families that have centuries, if not millenia of roots in Palestine. Their misery is being perpetuated so that every Jew in the world can have dual citizenship – one in their own country and one in mine”.

The former Jerusalem resident whose family were evicted from their homes during the hostilities of 1967 said the Nakba was a recurring tragedy of dehumanization. “Palestinians are being told, ‘You’re not quite human’ and there are human beings who are more worthy of what you heritage has been for centuries.”

“That’s the wound, it is being considered less human, or being vermin, and then having the world perpetually either being silent, or affirming that this is okay,” she added.

While the plight of Palestinians in Occupied Gaza and the West Bank is often acknowledged, far less publicised is the predicament of thousands of displaced families dwelling in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria often in the most dire of conditions.

According to information released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, refugees today make up almost half of the total Palestinian population.

While statistical data show that refugees constitute 44.2% of the total Palestinian population in Palestine, records by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) showed that there were 5.3 million registered Palestinian refugees by mid-2013, constituting 45.7% of the total Palestinian population worldwide, said the PCBS.

59% of the refugees live in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, 17% in the West Bank and 24% in Gaza Strip.

About 29% of registered refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 are in Jordan, nine in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank, and eight in Gaza Strip.

The PCBS said, however, that these estimates represent the minimum number of Palestinian refugees, given the fact that there are many non-registered refugees.

These estimates also do not include Palestinians who were displaced between 1949 and the 1967 war and do not include the non-refugees who left or were forced to leave as a result of the war in 1967.

The number of Palestinians who remained in their towns and village in 1948 after the Nakba was estimated at 154,000. Their number is now estimated as 1.4 million on the 65rd anniversary of the Nakba.

In 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages in historic Palestine. The Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba.

More than 800,000 of the population were driven out of their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab countries and other countries of the world.

The Palestinian population worldwide is estimated 11.6 million by the end of 2012, said the PCBS. This means that the number of Palestinians worldwide has multiplied eight-fold in the 65 years since the Nakba.

A total of 5.8 million live in historic Palestine and this number is expected to rise to 7.2 million by the end of 2020, based on current growth rates, said the PCBS.


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