Darwish Addassi wishes his fellow Americans could spend a day in his shoes. Maybe then they would know what it feels like to be a refugee. The 72-year-old retired chemist still remembers the day he was expelled from his home 58 years ago and became a refugee.
In May of 1948, 14-year-old Wilhelmine Baramki and her family packed a few of their bags and fled their west Jerusalem home. For several months prior, Zionist gunmen had been shooting at the bus that carried her father to and from work and the occasional bullet came through the windows of their home.
Mahira Dajani knows what it is like to lose everything. Born into a large, wealthy family in what is now West Jerusalem, Dajani fled her home in 1948 during the Palestinian “Nakba,” or catastrophe. In April 1948, 16-year-old Dajani returned home one afternoon after completing her high school exams to find her mother and younger siblings gone.
Ibrahim Fawal was 15-years-old when he woke up in May of 1948 to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees streaming into his small West Bank town of Ramallah. It is an image he still cannot forget. “They were pitching tents anywhere they could: churches, schoolyards, open fields and cemeteries,” he said.
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The IMEU asked prominent Palestinians to share their thoughts on the day that more than 700,000 of their brethren became refugees. The IMEU also asked the panel, ranging from business leaders to comedians, what comes to mind on the 58th anniversary of the Nakba and why Americans should care?
… I move from confusion to sadness to anger that the world allowed this to happen, and permits it to continue, Khaldoun Baghdadi, a lawyer and Chair of San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission.
… more than five million Palestinians live almost within a stones throw of their homes and their homeland, and their right to return has been consistently recognized by the international community, yet nothing has ever been done to effectuate that right, George E. Bisharat, a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco
… What instantly comes to mind is the fact that the people who became refugees in 1948 are still refugees now; that the situation 58 years later has still not been solved. Did these people who left their homes thinking they would go back in a few days have any idea that generations later their great grandchildren would be living in camps? Maysoon Zayid, an actress and professional stand-up comedian.
Why should Americans care about the Nakba, 58 years later?
The Nakba is not a memorial for the dead. It is a remembrance of the living, of a proud and steadfast people yearning to return home and begin the bitter and difficult process of repatriation. Every US citizen who would like to see a stabilized Middle East — one that does not breed violence, but vehemently breeds tolerance, should use this Nakba Day remembrance to make their voice heard and call for Israel to let the refugees return home, Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman and activist based in Palestine.
…while the U.S. advocates (and even fights for) the return of Bosnian and East Timorese refugees, Palestinian rights are extinguished by the U.S.; while the U.S. claims that it supports civil rights, the U.S. also supports a state that advocates superior rights for a certain class of people; while the U.S. is opposed to the taking of property without compensation, it supports regime after regime in Israel who make no secret of the fact that they have stolen property in the past and will continue to do so in the future, Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer based in Gaza.
Read more of the interviews at IMEU.