Home with no return
“Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Article 13(b) of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). This simple human right is denied to people who constitute the world’s largest refugee population. As one of this population, please allow me to introduce myself, it’s me: The Palestinian Refugee.
As with many other Palestinian refugees I have never seen my ‘real’ home, as my home is opaque, its there but it isn’t. I’m not even allowed to travel there. All I can do is visualize it, yet what do I visualise? My parents had a house in the ancient city of Acre yet is it even there? Is it rubble of broken dreams, is it a Jewish settlement, I cannot say.
After the ‘al nakba’ or ‘the catastrophe’ of 1948 where some 700,000 Palestinians were displaced through intensive fighting from Zionist groups Irgun, Lehi, Hganah and Palmach: Homes are destroyed and refugees are created, over 500 villages are completely depopulated with the inhabitants violently expelled and their possessions confiscated. The goal of the violence was to create the nation state of Israel; the side effect of this is to create the largest displaced population in the world.
For every Jewish immigrant that came to create “Israel” is now a homeless Palestinian. The expulsion of the Palestinian people has forever damaged the psyche of Palestinians and shaped our identity into refugees without a country.
All these families have been forced to leave their homes and moved to camps or surrounding Arab countries carrying the deeds and keys to their homes. These rusty keys no longer have locks to open, as the homes attached to them are gone (what were previously Palestinian villages have been replaced with Israeli ones). However, these keys have become a symbol of the refugees’ aspiration to return, they are transferred from one generation to another because these refugees still have the faith that one-day they will come back to their homeland.
With a travel document for Palestinian refugees I have moved from one place to another to find the shelter. Looking for a temporary place till I gain my right of return to my home. With this document, I have adopted the life of uncertainty: Knowing the simple act of crossing countries’ borders will never be as easy for me. I’m not welcoming the idea of resettlement since that might compromise my right to return. I really appreciate the fact that the Palestinians are among the only nations in the world whose descendants also qualify as refugees.
For me and all other Palestinian refugees, all that remains of Palestine is a country woven from memories, songs, stories of elders and some old pictures. I can’t compare such a place where one belongs and feels at home with other places; places where I witnessed discomfort in an alien and inhospitable environment especially in some Arab countries. This feeling of inhospitality is increased with the introduction of what’s called “the Arab spring” where the situation of Palestinian refugees is becoming even worse. Our wounds are deepened either by the siege of Palestinian camps in Arab countries or by the rumors which whipped up by official media that led to a change in attitude both from officials and many citizens of some Arab countries. What are the options I have? Actually, options are limited. The only option left for me and some people who have the capability: immigration, others are not so lucky as I have a choice. At this point I realized that I’m a lucky refugee. However, it’s incredible that I don’t have the option to go to what remained of Palestine (West Bank and Gaza). Israel denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees who have been displaced from towns and villages under Israel occupation. In addition, it objects the return of refugees to West Bank and Gaza, as this would destroy the Jewish character of Israel.
However, I have to accept the truth of being part of Palestinian refugees who are now officially “The world’s unwanted people”. However, this fact will never weaken my determination and my struggle to gain my right. Many people will never understand this attitude and the reason behind this determination. Some people may ask: What’s the reason behind this, although we have never seen our home? How these people are carrying all these feelings toward a land they have never seen? All the memories they have are stories that have been told to them by their parents or grandparents. I really can’t understand this linkage to this land, but I’ll ensure that these stories will be transferred between generations. These generations must understand their right and must have the faith and patience to overcome all the difficulties to gain their right of return to home.
For Palestinians, it’s not enough to remember their home; when a person is a refugee they are without a home.
They believe in the future their land will be liberated and they will be able to return. Then, they will no longer be called refugees.
This is a part of the story of people who took the decision to fight for their right to come back. The right for any human being, to go home.
Weaam Mostafa Bayaa is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt.