3Israel Obstructs Refugee Reunions
- Jun 9, 2000Assalamu'alaikum,
---------- Forwarded message ----------
BADIL Resource Center
For immediate release, 9-6-2000.
Palestinian Refugee Reunions at the Lebanese Border Fence:
When Will the Time of Embracing Be Due...
Following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Palestinians
on both side of the border line were quick to grab the historic
opportunity for family reunions across the make-shift border fence.
The air was filled with joy, yearning and despair as thousands of
Palestinian refugees from camps in Lebanon were able - for the first
time since 1967 or even 1948 - to touch their relatives living in
Israel or in one of the West Bank refugee camps, exchange news and
get a glimpse of the landscape of Palestine.
"You could see that people were wearing their new clothes, fit for
the occasion. It is a family visit flooded with love and prevention.
From inside the one meter separating both sides, you can hear a flow
of names flying through the air, "My name is so & so..., I'm looking
for such and such person...do you know him?" Words were not directed
towards a specific person, but only hoping for a positive reaction
from the other side. The only clue was the name of a father or
grandfather to re-unite the families. "Are you the son of ...your
grandfather's name was....I'm your relative...whom did you
marry...how many children do you have..."Talks about marriages and
deaths were overshadowed by fixing dates. "Meet me tomorrow...meet
me Friday after prayer, tell the others to come..." They never
failed to come. News was flying so fast. Those absent suddenly
appeared, and those present don't want to leave. A girl and a boy
arrived with their mother. They cried waiting for their grandfather.
Nour, the little boy, kept asking for his grandfather. He knows him
very well. His mother told him a lot about him. He knows him, but
only needs to see him for the first time. The grandfather came at
last, rushing, causing more tears to flow. Imagination became
reality, breathing and talking, but not allowed to survive. Nour
went on crying, calling his grandfather until the Israeli soldier
told him to shut up and keep away from the fence to allow the "legal"
distance, maybe to protect the wire from the warmth of a meeting that
might melt it into pieces, the meeting that they feared most. Not
scared at all, Nour kept crying and coming nearer until he was able
to touch his grandfather's hand. His grandfather said, "Don't cry my
dear, Habibi Nour...don't come and wait for me in the hot sun. I
will send a message for you to come and see me again. I promise."
Nour's face shone to hear that promise. He left with his mother
shouting, "You see mother, he will send for me again. Don't forget,
don't forget..." Nour continued to say. Hands and bodies were
penetrating the fence, the thorns of the wire were piercing its teeth
inside their hands, chest, even faces, tearing their clothes, but
they did not mind as long as they could have one touch from an
outstretched hand. Letters, addresses, and dates were flying
everywhere. Bottles of water, pieces from torn clothes, photos were
exchanged across the fence, but tears were the master of the
occasion. They couldn't cut the iron fence for sure, but they made
it more flexible. They had been waiting all their lives to exchange
such a long look, but how long will they wait to embrace each other?"
(ASSAFIR newspaper, Beirut, May 31, 2000; forwarded by Beit Atfal al-
News of the open access to the border spread rapidly, and the
initially random meetings started to be replaced by coordinated
visits organized by Palestinian committees and NGOs on both sides of
the dividing fence. Refugees of Burj al-Barajneh camp in Beirut were
planning to meet their relatives and friends of the destroyed village
of al-Bassa, and the children of IBDA'A Cultural Center of Deheishe
camp (West Bank) took the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the
children of Shatilla camp (Beirut), whom they had known only via
email correspondence in the framework of their joint Across-Border
Internet Project (www.deheisheh.acrossborders.org).
Scenes and stories of Palestinian refugee longing for the
implementation of their right to reunite with their families and to
return to Palestine were extensively covered by the local and
international media - a fact which caused much disturbance to the
Israeli authorities. Anxious about media pictures and stories which
will remind the world about the fact that Israel continues to deny
the right of return to Palestinian refugees, Israel's army started to
obstruct the Palestinian refugee reunions on Sunday, 4 June 2000 by
adding fences which prevented physical contact between the people
arriving from both sides. On Saturday 3 June, a young man of the
Bedouin village of Arab al-Aramshe, the main site of these meetings,
was injured by an Israeli soldier who had fired at him, and the head
of the Northern Command of the Israeli Army, Brigadier Gabi
Ashkenazi, had declared the area a closed military zone. Protest by
Palestinians on the site, joined by Knesset member Issam Makhoul,
resulted in violent clashes with the Israeli soldiers on June 5, and
more troops arrived to take control. Israeli Minister for Public
Security Shlomo Ben Ami explained to journalists that "these
concentrations of thousands of people may create a dangerous
situation. We are trying to find an official solution and Knesset
members should not turn every such situation into a Stalingrad."
(Ha'aretz, 6 June 2000). Pending such an official solution,
Palestinian refugees are no longer able to embrace each other and
glance at their homeland.
Note: PHOTOS documenting the Palestinian refugee reunions ARE
AVAILABLE on BADIL's website: www.badil.org)
BADIL Resource Center aims to provide a resource pool of alternative, critical and progressive information and analysis on the
question of Palestinian refugees in our quest to achieve a just and lasting solution for exiled Palestinians based on the right
PO Box 728, Bethlehem, Palestine; tel/fax. 02-2747346; email: info@...; website: www.badil.org
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