The Ongoing Nakba: Qasem Ahmad Qasem Abu Qutnah-returning to his olive trees in al-Mansi

From my journal, interviews, 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 are based on my latest sojourns in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Currently, the Covid-19 pandemic prevents me from returning. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah, West Bank, Occupied Palestine)


The Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history … not even in their own religion.

—Malcolm X (Zionist Logic — Malcolm X on Zionism)

Speaker notes and from the audio recording:
Photographed with grandson Mojahed and an unnamed boy, possibly not in family
In Jenin refugee camp
85 years old, 14 during the Nakba, in 5th grade
Jews lived nearby, good relations with them
From the village of Al Mansi, now in Israel near Medigo, about 20 km/12 miles northwest of Jenin
Harvested his olive trees for years, last visit in 1982, family had planted them about 3 years before the Nakba

Al Mansi, before the Nakba

Now can go freely because over age limit—50
Trees still there

Al Mansi

During the Nakba, he brought his animals into the refugee camp, after traveling thru 4 intermediary village
No one from family was injured during the flight, altho villagers were killed and injured
In Jenin, first resided in tents, then after 2 years built houses, UNRWA began administering the refugee camp in 1953
Never politically active, 3 sons in prison, reasons not explained


Two years after fleeing Mansi, now living in Jenin, the Israeli army raided his home and stole papers proving his land ownership in Mansi
Unaware of international mandates about the right to return, says “Mansi is my home, I own land there, I have the basic right to return, I continue to hope”
Jewish Israelis have asked to buy his land but he refuses
One son killed during intra-camp problem, prefers not to speak about it
Survived the Israeli assault on Jenin in 2002, known as Operation Defensive Shield, house damaged or destroyed
Been interviewed many times, especially by Palestinian university students studying the Nakba
Dreams regularly about his village and returning, feels the pain of helplessness

July 4, 2019, Thursday, West Bank, Jenin, Freedom Theater guest house

Slowly again now [July 3, 2019] I’m in the refugee camp (outskirts, not the heart of the camp as I was in Aida with its noise and crowdedness) and can return to my Nakba project. One interview yesterday with a dark-skinned man (M, my colleague who introduced us, translated, and helped interview) in front of his son’s butcher shop and restaurant newly opened. With M I like the balance between me the interviewer and he the translator and interpreter, meaning beyond translation to interpreting my questions. Such as my question, what have you done to resist the occupation and struggle for the right to return?

M was puzzled by my question. I tried to explain—political activism, in prison, etc? That registered. Three of Qasem’s sons are in prison (I didn’t ask the reasons, a question some people do not appreciate.) He has been distant from the struggle. His lands are on the West Bank border. I needed M to explain that. You mean where the wall sits now? Yes. For years he returned to his olive trees to harvest them. I believe he said the trees are still there but his last visit was in 1982. The number of years is sometimes hard to translate. I believe M said I could go with the man to the area. Which is a possibility; I’ll ask M about that.

Personal pronoun confusion is frequent. Who is the referent of he, him, them? I ask M for clarification (I recall that my dear friend Louise often chided me for my ambiguous use of pronouns.)

The man’s son and grandson (or daughter, with long hair I couldn’t quite tell) gathered around, as did a few neighbors or friends. One young man about 13 videoed the entire session with his phone. The man had been interviewed many times, usually by other Palestinians. I included all this in my photos, as I had with Yousef Albaba in Hal Hul (which I believe was my first interview in the series, wondrously set up and translated by Eman who I miss, and attended by Rebecca, who I also truly miss.)

Grandson, Mojahed

Yesterday we were to have interviewed a second person. But he or she was ill and we wouldn’t know until 4 pm whether yes or no. After my walk into town (when I developed the bruise on my toe), returning by 4, rested, I waited: no word. Except from Amos Givrtz with whom I’m trying to arrange a visit to Bedouin people. Maybe I’ll go there this afternoon, depending on interviews in the camp, or Sunday which is also a demonstration to free the imprisoned village sheik. I could meet Amos in the Negev at the village of Al Araqeeb.

July 5, 2019, Friday, West Bank, Jenin, Freedom Theater guest house

About M, my colleague in Jenin: I know he tried, but he wasn’t invested in the project the way Fareed and Ayed, my previous partners, had been; the project didn’t seem to penetrate his heart. Maybe because of his connections with the Freedom Theater he felt I’ve seen this before, nothing new here. He also seemed inordinately busy and distracted. Unlike Fareed and Ayed, he didn’t regularly keep me posted about developments, delays, new ideas, etc. He failed to understand that Adnan’s father could be a good candidate for my series, even tho he was only 3 during the Nakba (did I get this correct?) nor has M sent me the details I’ve requested, names of persons and places.


Life at al-Mansi, by Sabri Al Jubri (2001)

Al-Mansi: Location and Description, by Sabri Al Jubri (2001)

Al Mansi (Zochrot)

‘Ayn al-Mansi (Zochrot)

1948 Destroyed Palestinian Villages, by Moslih Kanaaneh

Palestinian Refugees and International Law (second edition, 2020), by Francesca Albanese and Lex Takkenberg “Offers a clear and comprehensive analysis of various areas of international law and their relevance to the provision of international protection for Palestinian refugees, including current interpretations of Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the various definitions of Palestinian refugees”

The Alienation of a Homeland: How Palestine Became Israel, by Stephen P. Halbrook

How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland, by Ramz Baroud (2018, Aljazeera)—with videos

Jenin, Jenin (Mohammad Bakri, 2002)

For Palestinian filmmakers in Israel, it’s loyalty or silence, by Suha Arraf January 15, 2021

Lift the ban on Mohammed Bakri’s Jenin, Jenin: please sign this petition

Checkpoint into Jenin (July 2019) by Skip Schiel


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