All posts tagged refugees

Letter from Jerash, Jordan: A visit to the Gaza Refugee Camp

Children from the Gaza Refugee Camp, Jerash Jordan / Munir Atalla

Munir Atalla, +972  - Last month I worked at the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan.  The camp is home to about 24,000 Palestinian refugees who left the Gaza Strip in 1968.  Most of the families living there were also displaced in 1948, meaning that they have lost their homes twice in one lifetime.  The majority live on less than $2 a day.  About a quarter live on less than one.

The camp starts unexpectedly.  After the stone ruins of Jerash, one turns left into a valley.  The streets become narrower and the pedestrians more numerous.  Like a punch in the gut, the air begins to smell of hot sewage and rotting fruit. Sweaty and dusty from walking through the camp in the scorching summer, the one word that wouldn’t leave my mind was “hellish.”  The market on the main road is very crowded.  Amongst the frying falafel and bread baking, an old man was selling homemade perfumes.  “Come here young man, I’ll make a personalized scent that will make you irresistible to young women,” he grinned and advertised.

If anything can be said about the inhabitants of the many refugee camps in Jordan, it is that they have shown remarkable resilience in the face of unspeakable injustice.  The people at Gaza Camp are warm and welcoming, albeit suspicious.  Numbers haunt the life of every refugee.  There are passport numbers, national identification numbers, and social security numbers that are denied to them.  There are the statistics that their lives have been reduced to: 24,000 refugees, 2,000 makeshift shelters, 50% unemployment, 0.75 square kilometers.

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Beinart’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Proposal Leaves Out Palestinian Refugees

A young boy in the Palestinian refugee camp of Talbieh in Jordan

A young boy in the Palestinian refugee camp of Talbieh in Jordan / Omar Chatriwala, Flickr

Writing in the New York Times, author Peter Beinart writes in support of a boycott and divestment campaign against illegal settlements in the West Bank.  His proposal is to boycott the products of settlements but to strongly support Israel proper and to oppose efforts to boycott Israel within the green line.

Beinart sees Israel’s expansion into the West Bank as creating “an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy, given that millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.”  He proposes calling the occupied territories “non-democratic” Israel, in distinction to the “democratic” Israel inside the Green Line.  Thus, he favors boycott and divestment against settlements, but not against what he terms “democratic” Israel.  Beinart is right that it is time for pressure on the non-democratic elements of Israel.  But Beinart doesn’t go far enough in recognizing what those non-democratic elements are.

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From MLK to Nablus: Fighting Institutionalized Racism and Ongoing Discrimination

Clare Herceg - This week’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day offers us a unique opportunity to reflect on the significance of the Civil Rights Movement, the current situation of race relations in the United States, and some of the parallels that can be drawn between discrimination in the United States and Palestine.

The Civil Rights Movement was active from 1955 to 1968 and used a series of nonviolent tactics and methods of civil disobedience to secure equal legal rights for African Americans.  The movement culminated in the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which reaffirmed the right of minorities to vote; and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlawed discrimination in renting or purchasing housing.

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Palestinian refugees weathering the Syrian storm

Bachar al-Assad _MG_2493

A Western states backed UN Security Council resolution threatening “targeted measures” against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad may have been crushed this week by Russia and China’s veto, but that is hardly an indication that major world powers have grown unconcerned about the seven-month long uprising that has now been estimated to have cost 2,900 lives. From the US, to the European Union, to Russia and Iran, to Turkey, and the Arab states of the Gulf, officials have either been cautiously treading their ties with the government of President Bashar Assad in his growing international unpopularity, or blatantly calling for his resignation. Analysts and academics the world over are also watching carefully, gauging the impact on the politics of the entire region should the international community intervene, by broad implementation of sanctions or otherwise.

Notably guarded in their public stances, however, are the many Palestinian refugees who have enjoyed some of the unique freedoms in access to employment and education unavailable to them elsewhere in the Arab world. The refugee camps in which they reside have also evolved over the years from haphazard temporary shelters to full fledged neighborhoods near major cities. Historically, Palestinian refugees have been content to follow the Syrian government because they recognize how well they have been treated and try to behave in a manner fitting the hospitality of their Syrian hosts.

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