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Friday, June 23, 2006

 

Effective Resistance from Arab Bloggers On World Refugee Day

On World Refugee Day, June 20, I was apprised by my friend in an e-mail that CNN was running a promo for world refugee day- "and will visit a Palestinian refugee camp." This was indeed exciting news and so I immediately went downstairs to check it out and wrote about it here. And while the feature on the Abu Nidal Abu Akar family of Dheishe Refugee Camp was excellent, CNN did not include in its report on the world refugee population information about the largest and longest suffering refugee community. That glaring error prompted a message to their feedback form from my friend:

2 errors
Roberts announced the largest refugee group- and got it wrong- largest is Palestinian- and it is the longest running refugee crisis.

Also your list of relief agencies Totally forgot UNRWA- as if the Palestinian refugees do not exist!

In addition we sent CNN thank you messages which included information about "right of return."

My friend and I were in contact all day, checking out the media's coverage of World Refugee Day; however, neither of us thought to check SLATE. Their abysmal coverage first came to my attention on June 21, when I checked out the beautifully designed blog, Ohoud's Arab Rhabsody. And I was thrilled to see that several bloggers, including Qwaider of Memories Documented, Hamzeh of Scatter Load, and Dadan, had resisted Slate's efforts to feature the oppressor prominantly on World Refugee while ignoring the largest and longest suffering refugee population:those registered with UNRWA number 4,255,120 and if one includes unregistered refugees the total for 1948 refugees alone is 6,400,000.

What started from a post on Qwaider's Blog:

"I was shocked and appalled by Slate.com for the way the have absolutely disregarded the Palestinian refugees. The hundreds of thousands that were driven out of their lands, forced into the conditions worse than Auschwitz and suffered ethnic genocide by their oppressors. These opressors were rewarded today by Slate which showed a picture from "Sha'ar Ha'aliya" in Haifa in 1950. For those who don't know "Sha'ar Ha'aliya" was just a triage point to manage the huge influx of Jewish occupiers that were flocking from all over the world to take over the ancestral land of the Palestinians. The Palestinians were consequently driven from their homes, farms, schools universities and businesses into the humiliating life of refugees. Helpless and hopeless in scattered refugee camps."

Found its way to Mazin Qumsiyeh's widely circulated e-mail of June 22 (although Qwaider's term "occupiers" should replace "refugees" after Jewish) below:

"-(this action is from a reader Iman)
Slate Magazine highlight forgets largest remaining refugee population in the
world while highlighting Jewish refugees
http://todayspictures.slate.com/20060620/?GT1=8295

Submit your comment:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/admin/help/popup/frame_pageSlateQC.htmlWhat some bloggers did:
http://scatterload.blogspot.com/
http://blog.sweetestmemories.com/default.asp?Display=110
http://arabesquerhabsody.com/blog/?p=270"

This is an excerpt from Hamzeh's excellent letter to SLATE:

It is impossible to imagine a good reason why Slate would choose to commemorate the stories of several refugee populations from across the world, and fail to honor the story of 4 million Palestinian refugees. It is obvious that the conflict that led to the displacement of Palestinians from their homeland was not absent in the mind of the people that prepared this "Today's Pictures" piece, as they clearly did not forget to feature the picture of a Jewish absorption camp in Haifa in the year 1950.

While this camp was mainly setup to act as a triage point to help in absorbing the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who were then settling in the newly established Jewish state, other camps were being setup across the Middle East and in the new Jewish state itself to handle the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and were driven out of their villages in the process. Today, there are 59 Palestinian refugee camps recognized by the UN, opposite Jewish populations living in the cities and villages that these refugees originally came from. Slate Magazine today chose to commemorate the Jewish refugees of the past and completely ignore the Palestinian refugees of both past and present.

This is mine:

SLATE is irresponsible in refusing to acknowledge the longest suffering and largest refugee population, the Palestinians, 4,255,120 of whom are registered with UNWRA. Ironically, the European Jews at an absorption center in Haifa that SLATE depicted, may be living in the 675 totally depopulated towns and villages of Palestinian Arabs. Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, expert on Palestinian refugees, describes the Zionist process for depopulating some of these villages:

"In the spring of 1948, some Jewish mukhtars (headmen) of Jewish colonies in Palestinian went over to the Arab Palestinian mukhtars in the nearby villages which maintained good neighbourly relations with them and whispered in their ears, 'we are your good friends and neighbours and we must give you our sincere advice. Those vicious Palmach soldiers who just landed from Europe have no mercy. They intend to clean out Arab villages. Take your family and run for your life before it is too late.' That was no 'sincere' advice. This ‘whispering campaign’, was ordered by Palmach commander, Yigal Allon (Paicovich) and it resulted in the depopulation of at least 12 villages."

Sderot, for which Israel's government uses as justification for its slaughter of Palestinian innocents was founded in 1951 on the village lands of Najd, one of 418 ethnically cleansed and defaced Palestinian villages described by Princeton historian, Dr. Walid Khalidi in All that Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948.

Unfortunately, based upon SLATE's coverage of World Refugee Day,seems as if Palestinian lives and history are not just irrelevant to Israel's government.

http://www.amin.org/eng/uncat/2006/june/june5-0.html

http://umkahlil.blogspot.com/2006/06/sderot-built-on-ashes-of-ethnically.html

Mabrook to all the resolute Arab bloggers who effectively resisted SLATE's misleading and irresponsible coverage of World Refugee Day. It is my hope that we continue to work together to both challenge and, when due, praise the media. Check here often for what you can do, and I will check out your blogs as well.

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