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“We want to return to our land”

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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

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BMC secures beef market in Seychelles

Dikarabo Ramadubu

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Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) will soon start to sell its beef to the Island of Seychelles. Not only will they sell frozen raw meat, but will also send corned beef for trial in the Island.

All this is thanks to last week’s visit by President Mokgweetsi Masisi who included in his delegation executive management of the BMC, led by Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale.
The agreement signed between BMC and two leading Seychelles companies, will see BMC exporting at least 48 tonnes of raw beef to the island possibly from October. The names of the two companies that BMC signed an agreement with are Seychelles Trading Company which is a quasi-government organisation, and Rosebelle Company which is privately owned.

Although both have agreed to trade with each other, BMC cannot start immediately, as they have to wait for the green light from Seychelles companies who still have to apply for import permits in accordance with the law of their republic.

Speaking to The Midweek Sun, Tombale expressed gratitude that they managed to get good business in Seychelles through the assistance of President Masisi. “We are ready to export any time from now. As you know Seychelles is an island surrounded by mountains and cannot produce much if not anything. “They therefore depend much on imports even from as far as Brazil and Europe. Their economy is driven by tourism and they do not differ much with the European market in terms of the demand for beef as most tourists come from Europe and United States.”

Dr. Tombale said they agreed with the two companies that since “we are not sure about the logistics we will start by selling 24tonnes to each company per month, meaning we will be supplying the Island with a total of 48 tonnes per month. The idea is to start small and grow bigger as the people get used to our beef.” BMC has also negotiated to sell small stock meat to Seychelles and successfully negotiated for local chicken farmers to start selling their range chicken to Seychelles as well.

According to Tombale, he negotiated the deal after being approached by local chicken farmers amongst them Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete, who requested that “we should try to find a market for chicken farmers as we go around the world searching for the beef market.” Tombale revealed that for a start both range chickens and small stock will not be supplied in tonnes or large quantities as they will be sold on a trial basis.

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G-west community reunion-walk a resounding success

Keletso Thobega

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Multitudes turned up for the Mosengwaketsi community walk and braai session this past Saturday in Gaborone West. The walk was held in the morning and was preceded by football games and a braai session that went on until late in the evening.

According to the event director Tshenolo Palai, the aim of the community day event was to revive community spirit and address crime and social ills. “The Mosengwaketsi community reunion will be held not only to create a platform to build unity but also address the social ill of passion killings,” he said.

Palai said that they had also invited health stakeholders for a wellness segment because they had realised that there are many health related conditions that affect the quality of people’s lives hence they had joined forces with religious organisations, the business community, neighbourhood outreach policing and other stakeholders in the area to encourage a culture of unity and create dialogue between all the parties.

He noted that they had wanted to create a relaxed environment conducive for different people to engage and strengthen their networks. He said they were also concerned with the high rate of crimes of passion in Botswana and also wanted to create a platform for both men and women to open up on issues that affect them because most people tend to be more relaxed in a social setting.

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