by Julie Webb-Pullman
“Hamas leaders come from the people,” senior official Dr Salah Al Bardawil told a huge crowd who took to the streets Friday in Nuseirat camp, Gaza, to celebrate 27 years since the birth of the Hamas movement.
“Hamas does not seek power or government, just Palestine’s liberation,” he said. (more…)
This morning I called UNRWA Headquarters for an update on the situation regarding the suspension of their services in Gaza.
I have not yet been able to confirm that food distribution will continue, if and when relief and distribution centres in Gaza will reopen – or even if they already have.
Unlikely – only two out of eight UNRWA numbers called were answered, and one was to the mobile of a person who informed me they were on leave in London.
The other, to a Public Information Officer requesting information on the current situation, received the response that they will “get back to me.”
by Julie Webb-Pullman
Palestinian refugees from two of the most impoverished refugee camps in Gaza, Jabaliya and Shatti camps, today launched their own siege – of the UNRWA field office in Gaza City. Hundreds and men, women and children arrived around noon to protest at the cutting of ‘services.’
In reality, such ‘services’ are the bare essentials for survival – cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice, milk, clothing – in fact, just about everything.
As one woman pointed out, there are no jobs and they are trapped in Gaza by the siege so where else can they go to earn a living?
These are the people who were driven from their homes by Israel in 1948, and yet more in 1967. They have been living in some of the most overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on the planet ever since, in an artificially-created dependency on UNRWA handouts which are almost as difficult for them to swallow as the fact of their forced displacement.
Now, even those crumbs are being taken from them.
“We just can not survive on what they are now giving us,” one man told me. “There are 13 people living in our household. What are we to do? Where else can we get food? We can’t get jobs because there are none, we can’t leave, we can’t even grow food because Israel forces Gazans off the agricultural land to create buffer zones, and shoots us if we try to fish. They are just slowly killing us.”
As their frustration grew, some began banging on the doors and shaking the gates, using whatever was at hand – rocks, Palestinian flags – one woman even took to the door with her umbrella.
Suddenly a cheer went up – some men had climbed the gate, pulled the barbed wire away, and hoisted a Palestinian flag on the UNRWA roof, accompanied by loud applause from the crowd.
Palestinian security then arrived and asked the men to get down, which they did peacefully.
They may have left, but their problems haven’t.
The United Nations cannot just divvy up a country and give it away to someone else, without shouldering the responsibility for the effects on the original indigenous inhabitants – threat to their very survival.
As Maslow identified, warmth, food and shelter are the very basics in the hierarchy of human needs.
The United Nations has the responsibility to ensure these needs are met for every Palestinian refugee and their descendants, and in accordance with its own instruments, to ensure that they live with dignity, and self-determination, until such time as the UN meets its other pressing obligations – the right of return for every single Palestinian refugee that wants to, to their own independent state – without occupation, without a siege.
Then, and only then, can UNRWA cut its services, and this time, permanently.
By Julie Webb-Pullman
Palestinians are running out of patience. 65 years since they were ousted from their homes and lands following Israel’s unilateral declaration of itself as a state and the end of the British ‘mandate’, and 37 years since Land Day was established, they are saying, “Enough!”
And they are saying it loud and clear, men and women, old and young. “ENOUGH!!!”
Loudest of all are the cries from Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of refugees and their descendants still languish in cramped camps lacking the barest necessities, nary a tree for kids to climb, or a space to kick a ball in – the result of replacing one occupying power, Britain, with another, Israel, and all with the tacit endorsement of the United Nations (UN) and its never-implemented partition plan, and its scores of never-enforced resolutions.
Hamas today hosted an event in Gaza City, where people from all levels of society, the Palestinian Legislative Council to camp-dwellers, vented their frustration, and their legitimate demands to return to the homes brazenly stolen from them.
Abu Hussan Dugheeesh, a Palestinian refugee, was unequivocal in his condemnation of the British role in these shameful events.
“Our memory still maintains the history of our land, and how Britain participated in giving the land of Palestinians to the Jews in the biggest armed robbery in history,” he told the crowd to loud applause.
Abu Akram Bahar, of the Palestinian Legislative Council, insisted that the right of return cannot – and will not – diminish with time.
UN Resolution 194 guarantees Palestinian refugees the right of return. But as Palestinian poet Ghazi Kalakh pointed out, “The international community wants us to disappear, to make the refugee problem disappear. As a refugee, the only way I will disappear is when I return to my land. That is the how the refugee problem will disappear – with the return of the refugees.”
Issam Audwan, from the Hamas Division of Refugee Affairs, made it very clear that doing nothing is not an option. With only around 22% of their lands left, and settlements expanding daily, time is running out.
“We must be united,” he said. “We should not wait for another Arab Spring, we have to move.”
This view was vehemently endorsed by Ameena Abdullah Abusalmiya, an 83 year-old woman driven out of her home in Ashkelon in 1948.
“We need action, not talk,” she insisted. “Muslims and Arabs all have an obligation. We don’t need food, we don’t need aid – Allah will give us those. We need our land. Enough! Enough!”