THE 15th of May 1948 was an extraordinary day for the Palestinian people, it was the day when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homeland, with all their belongings and became refugees, as Zionist militias attacked the country to make way for Jewish migrants to replace the indigenous Palestinian population.
Two months after this most heinous event in the history of the Palestinian people, a new chapter of suffering and displacement began for nearly 1,500 Palestinians from the abandoned village of Tirat Dandan, in the then district of Lod.
The displacement and suffering have been going on for 72 years now, with no end in sight in the near future.
Omar Saeed al-Tirawi, who hails from Tirat Dandan, was 14 years old at the time he and his family were forced to leave the village and flee to the West Bank, fearing the barbarity and massacres of the invading Zionist militias.
Al-Tirawi, 87, went with his family to the Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus where he still lives now as a refugee. He recounts the events that led to the forced emigration of his village’s residents, saying: ‘The spread of rumours was the cause for loss of our homeland and our displacement.’
The beginning of the displacement of the village’s population started with the news of the Deir Yassin massacre by Zionist militias west of Jerusalem in April 1948
Soon after, most of Tirat Dandan’s residents were also forced to flee to the nearby mountains after the Zionist militias attacked the village with heavy gunfire, according to Al-Tirawi.
Like the rest of the villagers, Al-Tirawi, carrying his four-year-old brother, fled with his family on foot towards the nearby village of Deir Tarif, then on to the village of Deir Ammar. Following the displacement, he says all the families became homeless and were forced to sleep in the open.
Farming and raising livestock were their main source of livelihood – like the rest of the Palestinian population in the countryside. Al-Tirawi says he tried to return to the village to retrieve his seven sheep which used to graze on the lands and mountains of the village, but he wasn’t able to because of the intensive bombing by the attacking Zionist militias.
Al-Tirawi, a.k.a. Abu Nabil, describes his father’s land, confiscated by the new state of Israel, as a paradise that was planted with wheat, cactus, olives, figs, corn and grapes. His father was a well-known cattle merchant, yet ‘he joined us barefoot, on foot, with only a small amount of money on his possession.
‘If I were to choose between a palace in the refugee camp and a tent in Tirat Dandan, I would choose the tent in my hometown. For 72 years, I have never felt comfort. Our whole life is full of fatigue. We have not breathed the fresh air of our land for 72 years,’ he continues.
The 87-year-old man sighs, ‘The story of displacement is inherited from one generation to another. We were a five-member family when we were displaced, but today we have dozens of children and grandchildren. My children and grandchildren today total 83 individuals, and we must return one day.’
In Jenin refugee camp, north of the West Bank, the belief that the refugee issue is inherited across generations is confirmed by Rashid Mansour, 64, who is from the second generation of the Nakba, and whose family took refuge in the camp in 1948 after they were displaced from the village of Ijzim, near Haifa.
‘We grew up with our grandmothers talking in the evening about the displacement, killing and destruction that befell our people in our stolen country,’ he adds.
Mansour says that Ijzim was known for its livestock and agriculture industries, and that his grandfather had 500 sheep at the time of Palestine’s fall, in addition to 50 dunums of land.
Mansour has returned to Ijzim twice; first in 1983 after he was released from the Israeli occupation’s prisons; and the second in 2012 when he visited the abandoned village with his wife, children and mother – but only as a visitor not as a citizen.
He believes that the return of the Palestine refugees will take place one day, saying he believes in the return as he believes in God.
Mansour also believes that the refugee camp, inhabited by about 11 thousand people who took refuge there from 70 villages after being displaced in 1948, is only a ‘return’ station, and that the right to return is inherited and established from one generation to another.
- Palestinians worldwide commemorated the annual Nakba day last Friday (15th May) to remember the ethnic cleansing that occurred during Israel’s creation.
Over 600 towns and villages were demolished by Jewish paramilitary groups and then by the state of Israel itself during months of violent raids which triggered a mass exodus of the indigenous population, marking a key milestone in the Zionist take-over of Palestine.
Rallies and speeches are usually held across Palestine to mark the event. However, this year’s commemorative events in Gaza and the West Bank have been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Palestinians worldwide are nevertheless marking the event in different ways, remembering the pain of countless victims of Israel’s brutal occupation and to assert their rights.
British-Palestinian groups have joined in the remembrance, issuing a strong statement in solidarity with Palestinians across the world. Below is their statement.
‘Today, on 15 May, 2020, Palestinians around the world remember the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. Al-Nakba, meaning “the catastrophe” in Arabic, represents the Palestinian exodus and the displacement of roughly 700,000 Palestinians from historic Palestine in 1948 at the behest of the Zionist occupation and British colonialism.
‘On this occasion, we affirm that the inalienable rights that Palestinians hold under international law will not be compromised, and that the Palestinian people will never concede on their right to return to the homes forcibly taken from them and their ancestors.
‘Despite the systematic suffering, displacement, and oppression that has aimed to eradicate Palestinian identity and the right of return, Palestinians will continue to resist and remain steadfast in defending their human rights.
‘While occasions remembering the Nakba are not necessary to remind Palestinians of their collective suffering, it is an occasion where all Palestinians can emphasise the absolute belief and confidence in both the just cause for which we are all fighting, and the belief that we will inevitably return to the land and holy sites that have been forcibly appropriated from us.
‘Indeed, Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa remain key pillars of the unified struggle of the Palestinian nation and are at the heart of the fight for justice and human rights in Palestine. We affirm that those ceding these pillars and calling for, or pursuing, acts of normalisation with the state of occupation are a stain on this struggle for justice and human rights.
‘On this anniversary, it is essential to renew the unbinding covenant of the Palestinian people in the fight towards liberation. In this context, we affirm the following:
‘Return to Palestine is an inalienable right of the Palestinian people and will not be reneged and comprised just as the mountains of Safad, Eilaboun and Nablus remain immovable. All unjust Zionist procedures that seek to change the identity of the land upon which our fathers and forefathers resided on will fail.
‘We affirm our categorical rejection of all initiatives and projects designed to liquidate the Palestinian issue or diminish the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Foremost amongst these projects is the so-called “Deal of the Century”. In this regard, we affirm the right of the Palestinian people to resist these projects using any and all available means within international law.
‘We affirm our total rejection of all acts of normalisation with the state of occupation. Whether political, cultural, artistic, commercial, or in the sports, we consider such acts detrimental to the pursuit of justice in Palestine. We also note that such acts serve to rationalise the crimes and human rights abuses of the occupier and provide the state of occupation with a carte blanche for the furtherance of these crimes.
‘We salute the steadfastness of the thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, 1948 lands, and in the diaspora, and we invite them to participate in activities pertaining to the commemoration of Nakba72 using all available means (including social media campaigns and physical demonstrations where possible). Foremost amongst these initiatives is the international campaign ‘Return… My Right, My Decision’ and the International Campaign for Preserving Palestinian Identity (Intimaa).
‘We send our warm greetings and well-wishes to the 5,000 heroes of Palestine languishing in uninhabitable conditions across Israel’s jails. We urge our people to provide all forms of support to these heroes, including but not limited to resisting and rejecting the proposed initiative by the occupation state to compel banks in the West Bank to close the accounts of Palestinians spending time in Israel’s jails.
‘We call for our people to remain steadfast and united around the key and fundamental principles underpinning our cause: identity, the sanctity of land, and the right of return.
‘Upholding these principles, we urge the Palestinian people to find unity at this crucial moment as ending fragmentation is key in overcoming this brutal occupation.’
Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB)
Friends of Al-Aqsa
Palestinian Youth Organisation (Olive)
Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)
European Palestinian Communication Forum (Europal)