Open letters from Palenstinian refugees

Two open letters from a 22-year old and 86 year old Palestinians who have lived all or most of their lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon but have no citizenship there. Currently on a speaking tour in the US, these two letters were hand delivered to 11 US congress members.

Thanks to DissidentVoice for bringing these to attention.

April 25, 2016
Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I know that you asked John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to report to you about gross human rights violations committed by Israel.  My entire life is the result of such violations, so I would like to report to you about it.

I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as were my parents and some of my grandparents.  My family and the families of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine were expelled in 1948, a crime that continues until today.  This expulsion has a name.  You call it ethnic cleansing or genocide.  We call it al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I was born in Lebanon, but I do not have Lebanese citizenship because I am not Lebanese, and Israel does not let me return to my home in Palestine.  I am stateless and have no citizenship in any country.  No one defends my rights. Without citizenship, it is very difficult to travel, even to neighboring Arab countries. It is even more difficult to work, because we are considered foreigners and do not have the rights of Lebanese.

I am currently on a speaking tour of the US and Canada with 86-year-old Nakba survivor Mariam Fathalla.  We were invited by a US human rights organization to tell our story in more than 30 cities over two months.  We have met many kind and sympathetic Americans during this time, but we are very disappointed in US and Canadian policy.  Your country is supporting criminal behavior towards Palestinians.

We have also met many Palestinians who are living good lives in America.  We do not enjoy the same privileges in Lebanon. But living good lives in other countries is not a solution for us. We are Palestinians, and however much our rights are respected or abused in other countries, we demand our right to return to our homes in Palestine, as guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter and other international law.

If you respect human rights, you have to enable all Palestinians to return to their homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom and dignity. I am 22 years old, but when I am 86 like Mariam, I hope to be living in my home in Palestine. If not, I will return with another 22-year-old Palestinian to remind Americans of unkept promises and the support of your country for human rights violations.

Amena Ashkar
Resident of Bourj el-Barajneh Refugee Camp
Beirut, Lebanon

April 25, 2016

Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I hope you care whether US policy supports human rights violations. I want to tell you about such violations, because they happened to me.

On May 14, 1948, the “birthday” of “Israel”, my village of al-Zeeb in northern Palestine was invaded by heavily armed Zionist troops, and all of the inhabitants were expelled. I was 18 years old. After some of my unarmed neighbors were massacred by the invaders, I and my husband and our families fled to Lebanon along with the rest of the town. By the end of the year, our 4,000-year-old community had been leveled to the ground.

[title] [name], this is a gross human rights violation known as ethnic cleansing or genocide. More than half the Arab Palestinians in Palestine were killed or expelled and more than half of the cities, towns and villages of Palestine were made to disappear, a crime that we Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I have lived for the last 68 years in a refugee camp in south Lebanon called Ein el-Helweh, waiting to return to my home in al-Zeeb, as US and international law requires.  During that time Israel has invaded south Lebanon multiple times and even bombed our crowded refugee camp, killing lots of unarmed civilians, including children. Al-Nakba did not end in 1948, and it continues today.

Some good American people invited me to come to the US to tell our story to the US and Canadian people.  I have seen your beautiful country, and I have met many Palestinians who have made the US and Canada their second homes.  Our situation in Lebanon is not as good. We are stateless and have few rights.  But we are not seeking another country.  We have a home and a country, and we want to return to it, and this is our right.

[title] [name], US support is enabling Israel to continue its violation of our rights. We want only to return to our homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom.  I want to see my beloved town of al-Zeeb again and to watch my children and grandchildren continue our family there. What is the US policy about this?  What can you do to help us?

Mariam Fathalla
Resident of Ein el-Helweh Refugee Camp
Sidon, Lebanon



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