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Tuesday, June 20, 2006


World Refugee Day: Palestinian Refugees Featured on CNN

The plight of the longest suffering and largest refugee population in the world, totals 4,255,120 through 31 March 2006, according to United Nations Relief and Works Association (UNRWA) records. However, if one includes unregistered refugees the figure for refugees from 1948 alone is 6,400,000, according to Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, an expert on Palestine's refugees. Today seventy-five percent of Palestinians are refugees. Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan do not fall under the protection of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), hence are sometimes mistakenly not referred to as the oldest and largest refugee population in the world.

Israelis like to talk about reality and CNN's Paula Hancocks, bantering with Shihab Rantissi, said today that the Israel government and the US government have stated that right of return for Palestine's refugees will "never happen."

However, Abu Sitta talks about the Palestinian refugees' reality: "There is a reality that the refugees have never given up, nor will they give up, their right to return home. There is a reality that 97% of them are within 100 km of their homes, 50% within 40 km and many are within sight of their homes. The reality is, in spite of wars, raids, occupation and Israeli brutal policies, they have not surrendered or given up, all three generations of them."

Certainly the Abu-Akar family featured today by Paula Hancocks on CNN doesn't share Israel's reality. And so it was heartening to see this family from D'heishe Refugee Camp featured by Hancocks on CNN's World News throughout the day. Hancocks interviewed sixty-three year old patriarch Abu Nidal Abu-Akar, provider for an extended family of sixteen. He works two jobs, a furniture painter by day, and a gas station attendant at night. Abu-Akar, a distinguished looking man, tells Hancocks that his sons are in jail. He points to a picture and says, "It reminds me of my land and suffering I experienced. This picture of my land reminds me of my history," he continues. Um Nidal, Abu-Akar's wife, says "Inshallah" (God willing), she has faith that if not she and Abu Nidal, her children will return to their home.

CNN reminds us that on this day of refugees, there is no cause for celebration; however, it is hopeful that a Palestinian family is featured throughout the day in the mainstream media. In a preceding feature, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said that former president's Charles Taylor's trial before the World Court will "enable [us] to put the ugly past behind us." She noted that of 233,00 Liberian refugees, all but 69,000 have returned home from Sierra Leone.

And so will the Palestinian refugees return home. The noble nature informing their efforts for implementation of the inalienable right to return to their personal property and native villages and towns, will put the ugly past meted out by political Zionism's enforcers behind them. Or as an internal refugee from the ethnically cleansed village from Bir'im says:

Your people, Bir'im have not died
And will not forsake a grain of sand from you
As long as you have men like these
As long as you have men like these
Who continually strive for justice
they do not care what others may say
And they always say to the oppressor
Our Bir'im is more precious than money.
And the return will never disappear
We will return contented
We will forget the bitter days.

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