Gill’s blog from the West Bank

Living Under Occupation – West Bank, Palestine

A Visit to the Askar Refugee Camp Nablus

It’s my 3rd time in Palestine and for 3 weeks my emotions were on an even keel. I tune in and connect with the Palestinians, whether they chose to live out the occupation with a degree of acceptance or continue to resist; no more feelings of me being overwhelmed in the face of their oppression.

But then I visit the Askar Refugee Camp kindergarten and the juxtaposition of the political graffiti and the kids, kids just behaving like kids anywhere in the world – playing and learning – brings on the tears! These are 3rd generation refugees, 60 children including 7 that are disabled.

ASKAR Camp Background

The ‘old camp’ was founded in 1948, the core families coming from the villages destroyed by the Zionist forces in 1947/8, Haifa, Jaffa and Lydd. The camp has grown exponentially and a ‘new camp’ was built as an extension in 1965 (this is not recognised by UNWRA – United Nations Works and Relief Agency). Influxes have come from, for example, the 1967 war aftermath and displaced Bedouins from the Negev.

The camps suffer from overcrowding, unemployment and poverty – 30% in extreme poverty.

SOME STATISTICS

Out of the 11.2 million Palestinians worldwide, 1 in 4 are refugees – 4.7 million living in camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In 2011 UNWRA recorded 848,494 registered refugees living in the 19 West Bank camps. There are an unknown number of unregistered refugees. On average the Palestinian population is young – 40% being under 14.

THE RIGHT TO RETURN

The right of Palestinian return to their land is enshrined in international law and historical precedent, and affirmed repeatedly by the UN. Resolution 194 was passed by the UN general assembly in December 1948 and called on Israel to repatriate those “displaced by the recent conflict” with compensation for their losses. The 1948 universal declaration of human rights states that those who leave their homes for whatever reason have the absolute right to return to them.

Quote from UNCHR 2006 ”one of the most protracted cases of forced displacement in the world today”.

Useful References:

Ilan Pappe The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

www.palestineremembered.org

www.prc.org

www.unrwa.org

www.imeu.net

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/Jan/24/palestinians-refugees-right-return

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