From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019.
(Thanks to Ayed Al-Azza)
Of all the ironies of history none throws a more sinister light on human nature than the fact that the new-style nationalist Jews, on the morrow of the most appalling of the many persecutions that their race had endured, should at once proceed to demonstrate, at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs whose only offence against the Jews was that Palestine was their ancestral home, that the lesson learnt by Zionists from the sufferings which Nazis had inflicted on Jews, not to forbear from committing the crime for which they themselves had been the victims, but to persecute, in their turn, a people weaker than they were.
—Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, abridged ed, vol 2, 1957
June 10, 2019, Monday, Bethlehem, Palestine-Israel
From my speaker notes:
Abdul Qader Hassan Monjid Al-Lahham
Interview assisted by Ayed Al-Azza, my colleague from Aida refugee camp
June 9, 2019
In Deheshe/Dheisheh refugee camp
From the village of Beit Etab/Bayt Itab 11 miles west of Jerusalem
- Like other refugees, he is reluctant to engage in yet another interview.
- Age 29 when expelled.
- Ayed didn’t know him (but referred to him as uncle, an honorific, even tho not-blood related).
- Lives with 2 unmarried daughters (about 68 and 72), sons and daughters, including great-grandchildren.
- He’d worked for UNRWA in charge of water.
- At first, he was separated from family, including his wife.
- After a few days, the family reunited.
- He was devoted to his sheep.
- He’d been arrested near the village of Beit Nattif when with his sheep. The Israelis confiscated all his sheep and never returned all of them.
- He sold his remaining sheep at a price less than their worth.
Ayed and I met him as Abdul left a small store with a bag of fruit. He was much bent over, walked next to Ayed. I photographed as they walked thru the camp to home. He looks easily the part of an aged refugee. He didn’t change facial expression much, looked down mostly, and his thick long eyebrows tended to conceal his features.
I was with Ayed from 9:30 am when he generously picked me up in front of the Manger Square hotel, and, nearly 6 hours later dropped me there after the interviews. Generously he bought me lunch. I raised the question of payment. At first, he asked me what I thought fair. I returned the question to him. $200, he said. $200 seems high, I replied, and suggested half. Oh no, can’t. So we settled on $150 which I calculated to be about $40 per working hour (because the other 2 were largely social and not directly related to the project).
I hope you don’t hate me now, he said. No, not at all, I can appreciate all that went into the organizing before the interviews. And he explained: finding people, overcoming people’s reluctance, deciding times, etc. Lots of unpaid work, like a teacher not paid for preparation and follow up.
Today I meet Fareed [my colleague on this project, helping me find and interview people] in Ramallah, traveling thru the Valley of Fire that so terrifies my friend Alicen and me. Someone told me death by auto accident is the largest category of death in the West Bank. So, if unlucky today, this might be my last journal entry. Will the photos survive? Will anyone be able to work with them to continue or complete the project?
March 15, 2000
…The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is a fundamental right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the European, the American and the African Conventions on Human Rights;
The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is an inalienable right and has been affirmed by the UN Resolution 194 over 110 times since 1948;…
TO BE CONTINUED, WITH MORE DETAIL TO COME LATER FROM MY AUDIO RECORDINGS