Letter from refugee Aida Camp, Bethlehem, 2008
Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 20.09.2008:
Dear Mr. The President of the Palestinian Authority
My name is Abdelfattah Abdelkarim Hasan Ibrahim Mohamad Ahmad Mostafa Ibrahim Srour Abusrour. I was born in Aida Refugee camp, on a rented land for 99 years by UNRWA from Palestinian owners of Bethlehem. My two eldest brothers as well as my father and his father and all those who were born before them, originate from Beit Nateef, a destroyed village on 21 of October 1948. My mother was born in Zakareya village, destroyed as well in 1948 by the Zionist bandits. These were 2 of 534 villages destroyed by these Zionist bandits.
I grew up in Aida refugee camp. When I was 4 years old, I remember most of the people in the camp hiding in a cave behind our house. I remember the old people talking about the war. I remember the sky full of planes, and all of the young children covered by black blankets, and cherished by their mothers.
I remember the first curfew after the Israeli occupation in Aida camp in 1968. I remember the first Israeli soldier, who was an old Iraqi Jew of about 60 years old who took position in front of the door of our house. I remember the day my second brother was invited for an interview by the military occupation administration in 1972, and never returned back to the house. I remember that he was exiled 6 months later, without any confession, without any judgment or court sentence.
I remember the first collective water distribution point in the camp. There were four points with four taps each for the whole population in the camp. I also remember the first collective WCs in the camp. There were 4 points. Each point was composed of one for males and one for females. I remember the field around the camp, where we used to play, to perform our plays in the open fields. I remember the big holes in the ground, when they were filled with water, they became our swimming pools.
I remember the first colony around us, the Gilo colony… the cranes are still working in it since the early seventies. I remember the Jewish worshippers coming to the Mosque Bilal ibn Rabah, which was transformed into Rachel Tomb Synagogue to pray their prayers. We were no more allowed to wash our deads and to make last prayers for burying them in the cemetery next to it.
I remember the first Israeli checkpoint between Bethlehem and Alquds-Jerusalem. I remember the first permits requested by Israelis, and all the alternative roads and all the passages to go around the military checkpoints that we have to take since we didn’t have permits.
I remember the evolution of the wall from the state of masses of dirt, to big holes in the roads and streets, to blocks of barbwires, or blocks of cement of 2 meters high, then 4 meters then 8 to 12 meters high. I remember all the times I was caught by Israeli soldiers on my way to my family in Alquds – my wife is from East Jerusalem-. I remember all those 6 years where I took every known and unknown road from Bethlehem to Alquds, by the East or by the West, on main roads or through valleys and hills.
I remember the space shrinking in the camp, and the population increasing to 5000 people now who originated from 41 different villages destroyed by the Zionists bandits, where 66% are under 18 years old, and the street their only space for play. Walls have been built, encircling the camp from the East, the North and part of the West.
I remember of this Jericho agreement, where the checkpoint at the entrance of Jericho should have been only symbolic because you accepted that it remains, and where we Palestinians are stopped for hours by any simple Israeli occupation soldier. And now, we discuss a passage to the old city of Jerusalem, under the control of this same Israeli occupation army.
I remember that we were fed the love of this occupied country, because it is ours. I remember the rusty keys of our houses in Beit Nateef, keys for doors that exist no more, but keys that have their doors in our hearts and our imagination… keys for doors that were real and have exited, for real houses that were built and have exited, in which real people lived in and brought up children. These rusty keys are still with me. I remember that we were brought up with this eternal belief that the right is the right, and nothing can justify ignoring it. I remember that our right of return to our original villages and homes is eternal, and nothing can change it, neither realities on the ground nor political agreement, because it is not only a collective right, but is as well an individual right… it is my right Mr. the president, and the right of my children and grand children and all those who come after wherever they are born.
Dear Mr. the President
I remember the death of my mother, on September 9th, 2003. She was 75 years old. I remember the death of my father on December 26th, 2006. He was 96 years old. My mother and my father were hoping to be buried in their village, where they got married, where they brought up their children, where they irrigated their land with their sweat, blood, and tears; where they filled their land with joy, happiness, laughs and whispers.
My parents are buried in the cemetery of Aida camp. My mother’s tomb is next to a military tower, and surrounded by Israeli barbwire. My mother’s tomb is not accessible… I can’t visit it in a day of feast to recite on her tomb Alfateha or a surat of the Holy Coran.
Dear Mr. the President
I was full of hope that after 60 years of occupation, after 60 years of armed and non-armed resistance we could achieve something other than shallow promises. I was full of hope that we will never give up our rights, these rights which are recognized by the whole world, even if the whole world remains complicit with injustice. I was full of hope that nothing can justify giving up such rights, with all the realities on the ground as they say…otherwise what heritage we are leaving to our children and the generations to come. Should we say to them: Go to where the wind takes you… never stand up and resist the oppression… the importance is to stay alive even if it is a life of humiliation and non recognition of belonging to a human race?
Where are you talking us Mr. the President? To what desert are you leading us? To what catastrophe? How dare you deciding how many refugees can or cannot return? Who gave you permission to speak in my name, and in my children name? Who asked you to make sales on our rights? What is the price for such sales on people’s rights and sacrifices for 60 years?
Where UN resolutions talk about Right of Return AND Right of Compensation for all this suffering in exile and refuge, for all this exploitation of lands and properties, for all this humiliation and torture that worsens every day, you dare to say that not everybody wants to return? Even if this is the case, they have their right to their homes and lands, whether they want to return or not. They can sell it to others if they want, but it is not you or anyone else besides them who decide who want or not to return. It is not your right or anyone else to say “those who don’t want to return should be compensated”. Every single refugee and son of a refugee and grand son or daughter of a refugee have to be compensated for these 60 years of Nakba, those who left or forced to leave; those who are owners of lands, those who had their fields and oranges and fruitful trees. Yes, the oranges of Jaffa were before Israel and they will stay after Israel, if they don’t end by destroying them, as they dead with the olive trees old of thousands of years.
You were not elected Mr. le President to give away our rights… to give away the hopes and dreams and rights of people who are still in refugee camps, living on rented lands, refugees in their own country or outside their own country, and who still wait to return to their original homes and lands for the past 60 years.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we are living in lies… and broken promises of change… well, change comes but to the worse and not to the better. Nothing improves with all these negotiation Mr. the President? Should we undress ourselves and show our nudity so that Israeli leaders and occupation forces be satisfied that we have nothing to hide?
Yesterday, Israelis have distributed papers in East Jerusalem using the Holy Koran and their Bible to say that they are fulfilling the promise of God to populate Israel and chase away every other non-Jewish. And we should understand that and help them, by leaving the country because we have so many other Arab countries for us? And after that we can live in peace and our children will be happy with their children, and things will be great. Is this the next step Mr. the President? Is it because colonies on the ground are expanding, and that we can’t force our presence on Israel, and that we should be nice so that the whole world be sympathetic to us, that we do whatever Israel wants us to do? And then we talk about horrible compromises and difficult solutions, so we should be the nice ones who make the compromise, who forgive, who forget, who give up, who leave or die because that would solve it for all?
Mr. the President
I am not ready to leave. I will never leave, even if it is the only way to earn a living. I will never give up my right to return to my village, even if I have a castle in UK, and a chateau in France, and chalet at the red sea, and a property in Bahamas. My right is mine, and neither you nor anybody else have the right to erase it and exchange it or play with it.
We were hearing RED LINES that will never be crossed. What remains from these red lines Mr. the President? We heard about the green line… it became the gray line of the separation wall. Red lines became pink, and they were mixed with white till they became invisible. Is this what remains of our struggle history, and all the blood of martyrs and years of imprisonment?
I do hope that you leave your tower of ignorance to the needs of your people and descend a little bit on the ground and look in the eyes of those who still have a passion for this country despite the disasters that we sank in with such futile and fruitless negotiations, while the Palestinian blood is shed daily by those with whom you negotiate. Have we no more shame to stop such circus from going on?
I would have loved Mr. the President that such energy in negotiation with Israelis be invested among Palestinians who are still in dispute, and because of such stubbornness from our political leaders, it is not you leaders who suffer, but your people. Are we in such a way so worthless that we do not deserve your time and energy to stop this circus and unite your people instead of searching always what divides such tortured spirits? Is it not enough that we are considered only as a humanitarian case, that worth no more than a sack of flour or a bottle of oil or an expired medication? Is it not enough that a whole population is transformed into beggars and put in poverty, depending on charity rather than helping them to be producers and keep up their dignity? Isn’t the humiliation by the occupation enough that we are forced to have more humiliations to come?
I am full believer in peace and non-violence. I am a full believer in hope and right and justice. I am a full believer in the values that make of the humanity what it is. I never learned to hate. I never hated any one. My parents were full of love and peace. They never taught me or my brothers anything other than respect of others and endless love to give and help the others. They taught us that when you practice violence you lose part of your humanity. But in the same time, they taught us to defend what is right and to stand against what is unjust and wrong. Therefore, Mr. the President, I do dare to say that you have no right, even as president of an authority which has no authority on anything- except maybe on us- which cannot protect us or protect itself even in front of any male or female Israeli soldier, to give up our rights, the rights of two thirds of your people to return in dignity to their destroyed lands and properties and to be compensated for all this suffering and exile, and the use of their lands and fields and the stealing of their funds in British banks or other banks by the Zionists.
Mr. the President
I don’t know if you will read these words or not… If I will stay alive when you read them or not… but I do hope that such words which come from the heart, reach your heart Mr. the President, and you can find the hope and strength our people still have in him. We do not give up our rights. We will never give up our rights. Peace can be built with justice. Real peace can be built with real justice… anything else is just a joke in the face of history.
My name is Abdelfattah Abdelkarim Hasan Ibrahim Mohamad Ahmad Mostafa Ibrahim Srour Abusrour. I am still a refugee in my own country with 2 rusty keys in the house.
AbdelFattah Abusrour, PhD
Director of Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center
Alrowwad is an Independent Center for artistic, cultural, and theatre training for children in Aida Camp trying to provide a “safe” and healthy environment to help children creativity and discharge of stress in the war conditions they are forced to live in
Mobile: 0522 401 325 or 0599 255 573 Telefax: +970 2 275 0030
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
web site: http://alrowwad.virtualactivism.net
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