Rumble: Palestinians: Refugees for Life.

Warning: this piece is highly opinionated. It is nevertheless my honest opinion. My impression of the reality, my interpretation of the facts, and my reflection on the state of affairs. Mine only.


Today's headlines: "Mortar strike wounds Israeli troups", "Lebanon camp offensive continues!", "Seven US soldiers killed in Iraq"... The Middle East... How did we ever let it come this far?

In a previous post, I stated that today, 5.7 million people in the world were long term refugees. That excluded the Palestinians. 4.3 million Palestinians have been "Refugees for Life" since 1948. 4.3 million... That is about the whole population of Norway. Or half of New York city.

Since 1948, time and again, the "Palestinian Issue" became front page news. An excellent historic overview, you find in
this summary. But have a look also at the UNRWA overview of the issue, which includes a lot of pictorial data.

According to me, the "Palestinian Issue" has been at the basis of most conflicts in the Middle East, as well as at the root of the artificial split the US foreign policy has made in the world since 9/11: on one hand they put the Muslim world, and the other hand, the non-Muslims. "With us or against us..".

Turn back time: August 2001. One month before 9/11

Why am I saying that? In one of my short stories "M- Requiem for Baghdad", I wrote: In August 2001, I told Tine just before I left home: “I do not have a good feeling. The stars are not right. Something is up.” That feeling was in sharp contrast with the one month holiday off the beaten track in Hawaii we just had. But the sixth sense was there, with big warning signs.
That feeling was mostly based on something that happened a year before that:

Turn back time again: September 2000.

The US was in full presidential elections battle, and after years of a US (and an international) push for peace in the Middle East, there was less attention on "the Palestinian Issue". "At last", Sharon, the then leader of the hard-line opposition party Likud, must have thought, and he took the opportunity of the distractions to provoke the Muslim community, inspired by his political ambitions: In September 2000, he visited the Temple Mount, a site in Jerusalem sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. This visit was internationally seen as a direct provocation amidst a very volatile situation.

That particular day of his visit, was to me the start of re-newed trouble in the Middle East. Fighting started during his visit, resulting in several days of back and fro firing fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. Amidst the fighting, there was one occasion where a young Palestinian boy, called
Muhammad al-Durrah, and his father got caught in a cross fire..

Video footage, shot by France 2, showed the father and son hiding behind a barrel, until in the end both were shot. Muhammad died, and his father was seriously injured. There is a lot of controversy if this was all a clever media setup. Still, the picture of a father trying to protect his son, in the midst of a violent shoot-out, stuck in my mind forever. A father, who could have been any father, trying what any parent does: protect his child. And the overwhelming violence resulted in what must be the greatest sorrow of any parent: not being able to provide safety for your child. Muhammad died in the hands of his father, he himself half shot to pieces. In a conflict they had no part in.

That picture, those thoughts, did not only stick into my mind. The picture of Muhammad Al-Durrah and his father squatting for cover, was painted on walls all over the Middle East. They became a symbol of oppression. Senseless violence.

So, Arafat called for an intifada, a civil upraising, and the umpth Middle East civil war started.

Al Qaeda jumped onto the media frenzy, claiming to act on behalf of the oppressed Palestinians, and off we went. 9/11 here we come! After that, Bush took the opportunity to bash El Qaeda in Afghanistan, and while at it, went for the oil in Iraq.

We can all guess what would have happened (or preferably NOT happened) to the world, if Sharon did not visit Table Mount in September 2000. But to me, that one single act, and the attitude behind it, is one of the reasons why we still have 4.3 million Palestinians without a home. With millions of children without a future. Lost generations. Lost opportunities. And why? Because of political ambitions. International ill-meddling.

A sad state of affairs.

Suggested reading: Hanan Ashrawi's Miftah site: a Palestinian initiative for the promotion of global dialogue and democracy.

Pictures courtesy UNRWA, Wikipedia


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