Umm Omar was eight years old when Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists violently expelled her family from their farm in the village of Jusayr in May 1948 during the creation of Israel.
This week, she, along with millions of Palestinians, are marking 70 years since 750 000 indigenous Palestinians were driven from their land to make way for the creation of Israel. For Palestinians, this is the Nakba (catastrophe); for Israelis, it is 70 years of independence. “We used to grow wheat. I remember going out with my parents in the wheat fields when I was a little girl. We never saw another happy day after we left,” says the 78-year old great-grandmother. The family then fled to al-Majdal, a Palestinian town that is now the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
As Zionist terrorists continued to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, the family was forced to move to the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Her father returned to Jusayr to check on their land. “He saw that everything was OK. It was just like we left it.” But on the way back, Umm Omar’s father was killed when he stepped on a landmine planted by Zionist militias.
Denied the right to return to their original villages, the refugee camp in Gaza became permanent for Umm Omar and thousands of others. Today, seventy percent of Gaza’s population are refugees, meaning they or their parents or grandparents fled or were expelled from areas that became Israel – without their permission.
They have never been allowed to return, despite United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 guaranteeing them the right to return to their homes. Not surprisingly, the movement to return home has started in the besieged Gaza Strip. Known as the Great Return March (GRM), thousands of Palestinians have engaged in protests at the Israel-Gaza border fence since March 30. Makeshift tents, symbolising the right of return for Palestinian refugees, have been erected 700 metres away from the unilaterally-imposed Israeli military buffer zone.
Protesters are also calling for an end to the decade-long Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip that has strangled the economy and life of Palestinians. Since the protests began, 50 Palestinians have been killed and over 5000 injured from Israeli live ammunition and tear gas.
There have been no Israeli casualties. “With the Great Return March, Palestinians are demanding a life of dignity,” explains GRM spokesperson, Ahmad Abu Rtemah. “Nothing about life in Gaza is normal. The Nakba is not just a memory, it is an ongoing reality. We accept that we all must eventually die. But in Gaza, the tragedy is that we don’t even get to live,” says Abu Rtemah. It’s not just Palestinians in Gaza that long to return to their land. Abu Arab was thirteen years old when Zionist forces bombed his family’s home in Saffuriya in July 1948.
He is now an Israeli citizen, but cannot return to his village located less than two kilometres from Nazareth where he currently lives. As Israeli troops occupied the village, the family was forced northwards towards Lebanon, eventually ending up in a refugee camp there. His father made the dangerous journey back and found the village gone. Saffuriya had been fenced off and declared a closed military zone. Anyone entering risked being shot by Zionist terror groups. “We had nothing. Everything had been taken from us,” he says. The family hid in a friend’s house in the nearby town of Nazareth, and eventually settled there. Israel has built an exclusively Jewish community over the village of Saffuriya, and given it the Hebrew name of Tzipori.
Where the houses once stood is a pine forest planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – an environmentally-friendly way of erasing the Palestinian presence there. The Israeli government refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return home simply because they are not Jewish. Palestinians are viewed as a “demographic threat” to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. This is why Israel has not allowed Palestinians to return to their own homes, and they continue to be forgotten in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. While Palestinians are a threat, Jewish identity is celebrated and welcomed in Israel.
For instance, a South African Jew, who has never lived in Israel, can automatically gain citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return, while a Palestinian refugee whose family lived in Palestine for generations – and who still hold the key to their home – is unlikely to obtain even a visitors’ visa, let alone the right to return there to live. “We’re not calling for removing anybody from existence or displacing anybody from their place, we’re simply calling for justice. Our weapons are our rights and UN resolution 194, and we’re hoping that the international community will recognise our just cause,” explains Abu Rtemah. “I still hope that I’ll die in my home town.
I may be using a walker to move around today. But if they told me I can go back to Jusayr, I’d run all the way,” Umm Omar says animatedly. Abu Arab is equally determined. “I am sure one day I will return. If not me, then my son – and if not my son, then my grandson,” he says. Like Umm Omar and Abu Arab, the makeshift tents of the Great Return March are standing firm against an Israeli regime that has tried to break the spirit and erase the presence of Palestinians. Seven decades after the Nakba, Palestinians want nothing more than to return to their land and live in dignity. Suraya Dadoo is a researcher with Media Review Network in Johannesburg. Find her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo
VACANCY: President of the UDC
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Advocate Sidney Pilane says Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) does not have a President.
He revealed this week that UDC leader, Advocate Duma Boko was given the leadership of the coalition on a temporary arrangement. Advocate Pilane who was addressing the media this week, following the expulsion of his party from the UDC stated that in the buildup to 2014 general elections it was agreed that Advocate Boko should be presidential candidate for UDC, an arrangement that ended at the time when the UDC lost the 2014 general elections.
“It was decided that Botswana National Front (BNF) should be given the presidency so that Advocate Boko could be our presidential candidate. The late Gomolemo Motswaledi of BMD was to be his running mate. We made this arrangement in preparation to taking over state power.
So, all that has passed, we contested and lost so it is all in the past,” said the BMD leader. He stated that constitutionally, the UDC has no president because the president has to be elected during the UDC elective congress. Advocate Pilane pointed out that UDC according to the Constitution should hold its congress every three (3) years.
He stated that even all the members of UDC National Executive Committee have to be elected at the congress and as it stands, “there is no president or Vice Presidents because they were not voted into those positions.”
Advocate Pilane said instead of building the UDC brand their colleagues at Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana National Front have resorted to petty issues. He told the media that the leadership of the two parties have taught their members to insult BMD leadership and its members on social media and any other forum.
He had no kind words for the BCP, calling the party a divisive party that thrives on insults and divisive tendencies. He said the BCP leadership had encouraged its foot soldiers to use social media to insult him and members of the BMD.
According to Advocate Pilane, these are some of the things that have made the two parties remain in opposition for far too long without even coming close to toppling the ruling party. He described them as dishonest people who will plunge the country into chaos and that is why Batswana do not want to give them power.
VIDEO: A Gaborone hotel Prophet caught in the act
In a matter that closely resembles that of a South African Cabinet Minister, Melusi Gigaba’s masturbating video clip, a visiting Zimbabwean Prophet, Ronald El Melchizedek of Altar of Grace this week denied that he has been sending nudes to church sisters and demanding same from them.
In fact, the ‘man of God’ has earned himself the name, ‘Botswana’s Omotoso’ by girls that allege he has sexually exploited them. Pastor Timothy Omotoso is a Nigerian clergyman accused of sexually exploiting over 30 young girls from his church in South Africa.
“He is an Omotoso and even though they hide it at his church, some of us have received messages from him asking for our nudes. Actually, he has asked for my nudes several times,” says one church sister.
The Midweek Sun has gotten hold of a 34 seconds video clip of the youthful prophet playing with his manhood. Looking like he is in a hotel room, the man stands fully naked in a muted video that, depicts him speaking and teasing the recipient. In a standing position, he starts off by caressing his manhood, giving it a close up and ends up lying on the bed, facing up.
At least three young women say they received the video from the prophet and that he usually asks for nudes from them. One of them actually says he has been pestering her, demanding to have sex with her. “He likes to send me messages of how horny he is for me. But again, he likes asking for nudes from women.
Even married women at his church have fallen victims of his sexual harassment. I left the church because he disgusted me by doing such things yet calling himself a man of God,” she says.
The woman however says that Melchizedek, a Zimbabwean who holds services at Gaborone Hotel when he is in the country, is a man of accurate prophecies. “He moves mightily in the prophetic but he likes harassing church sisters. It is known in his church. He is married but controlled by the spirit of lust,” she says.
The Prophet responds
Melchidezek told The Midweek Sun that he was aware of the video of him doing the rounds through WhatsApp, but was quick to label the whole thing a scam.“Yes we are aware. Those are scammers from Benin who hacked into my wife’s Facebook account and phone and stole our videos and pictures. So they wanted to blackmail us and we refused, that is why they are doing that.
It is just an effort to harm the work of God but God is in control,” he told The Midweek Sun. He would not be drawn into responding to, or even discussing the allegations levelled against him by church sisters, but instead gave this reporter a mobile number of a person he said was his wife.
The said woman confirmed that the video was posted by scammers. “That was done by scammers. We have reported them to Benin police,” she said. She however would not give the name of the police station nor go into further details.
This incident follows on last week’s revelations reported by this publication, where several girls spoke anonymously about pastors, prophets and ‘men of God’who were using them sexually in church. Many were uncomfortable to reveal their names, forcing this paper to also conceal the identies of the accused churches and pastors involved in the dirty acts in the name of God.
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