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10 Facts About Palestine Refugees
The Arab-Israeli conflict has continued for more than 65 years. The absence of a Palestinian state has led to major difficulties in providing aid for their refugees. Palestine refugees differ from other refugee populations in the world and have a unique status as a result. In order to understand the struggle of refugees involved in this conflict, consider these 10 facts about Palestine refugees:

1. One in three refugees is Palestinian.

There are nearly 7.2 million Palestine refugees worldwide. The number of Palestinian refugees is nearly double that of Syrian refugees (3.8 million).

2. There are three main groups of Palestinian refugees.

The largest group is comprised of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. Another major group are those who were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The third group refers to internally displaced Palestinians.

Internally displaced refugees include both: Palestinians who remained in areas that later became the state of Israel, and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who lost their homes due to demolition, revocation of residency rights or the construction of Israeli settlements.

3. There is a specific U.N. relief organization for Palestine refugees.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) began operations in 1950. All other refugee populations worldwide are protected by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

4. There are specific criteria for qualifying for UNRWA assistance.

The UNRWA provides aid for Palestine refugees who “lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The other primary groups of refugees do not qualify for aid under the UNRWA mandate.

5. Palestinians are one of the only populations whose descendants also qualify as refugees.

As a result of Palestinian descendants gaining refugee status, there are currently 5 million refugees who qualify for UNRWA services. When the UNRWA began operations, the agency responded to the needs of only 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

6. There are 58 UNRWA recognized Palestine refugee camps.

There are 58 official and six unofficial refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

One-third of the registered Palestine refugees live in refugee camps. Camps typically have poor socioeconomic conditions, are extremely overcrowded and lack adequate roads and sewer systems.

7. Palestine refugee camps in Gaza comprise one of the highest population densities in the world.

More than half a million Palestine refugees live in the eight recognized refugee camps in Gaza. The number of refugees in the area continues to rise due to wars and bombings. Over 70 percent of Gaza’s total population are refugees.

8. Jordan has the most Palestinian refugees of any country.

There are over 2 million registered Palestine refugees living in Jordan. The number of refugees living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank combined is fewer than the amount living in Jordan.

9. Palestine refugees are granted citizenship in Jordan.

Jordan is the only host country that has granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Other host countries have been known to bar Palestinians from basic rights, such as health and educational services.

10. No Palestinian has ever lost their refugee status.

Palestinian refugees have been refused the right to return to their place of origin; Israeli officials have declared that such a right is not legitimate. The number of Palestine refugees has increased by more than six times the amount originally accounted for in 1948. This is a result of Palestinians being able to retain their refugee status.

These 10 facts about Palestine refugees are by no means an exhaustive list, however, it offers insight into the current situation. Palestinians are the largest and longest-standing group of refugees in the world. Palestinian refugees have suffered for over six decades and will continue to suffer until their basic needs and rights are met.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Pixabay

GazaEarlier this month, football clubs from Gaza and the West Bank traveled to face one another in the Palestine Cup for the first time in more than 15 years. Shijaiyah United of Gaza faced West Bank’s Al-Ahly squad, and more than 2,000 fans of both teams alike were in full attendance at Gaza’s al-Yarmouk stadium.

League winners from Gaza and the West Bank were previously allowed to travel and meet for the Palestine Cup; however, this has been restricted by Israel since 2000 due to security risks and concerns. The Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the governing body in charge of Palestinian travel, granted the clubs’ requests.

Prior to the contest, COGAT announced in June that it would be easing travel restrictions to and from Gaza and the West Bank. The change was made to accommodate Palestinians traveling to celebrate during the month of Ramadan. Residents were allowed to apply for travel visas, which allowed them to visit immediate family members. For the first time, bus services and airports were open to transport residents between Gaza and the West Bank.

Upon the team’s arrival at al-Yarmouk stadium, Al-Ahly’s Khaldon al-Halman said, “I am full of honour and pride, this is the first time I have ever visited Gaza and I can’t find the words to describe my feelings.”

Geographically, the two regions are only separated by a few dozen miles, but the match was momentous due to Israel’s strict travel restrictions for Palestinians. The meeting was even more noteworthy considering the recent history and events of just this past year.

Hostilities erupted between Israel and Palestine this past Summer. Throughout the course of the conflict, the United Nations estimated that approximately 18,000 homes and structures of Gaza were destroyed by airstrikes and shelling. The structural destruction has left an estimated 108,000 Gazans homeless.

“We are all coming from underneath the rubble. Every player knows someone who was killed or injured, every player has had their house destroyed,” says Ibrahim Muajib Wadi of Shijaiyah.

For an area that has endured decades of turmoil and violence, the local football clubs have inspired a common pride, and Palestinian unity has blossomed as a result. This has provided hope in a form unavailable anywhere else.

“I support both teams! It’s one country, and both will represent Palestine if they win, It’s a celebration for Palestine, for all of us,” says Mohammed Yahya, a young spectator at the second game of the two-part series final.

The ruling powers, Hamas and Fatah, govern Gaza and the West Bank respectively and are, in theory, striving towards a unified Palestine. Relations, however, have not always been smooth between the governing bodies as they share a history of political gridlock.

This divide has left Palestine separated physically, as well as politically. However, despite the geographic and diplomatic split that currently exists, the politicians’ unification has manifested itself among the people in an unconventional way.

Palestinians are hopeful that the match symbolizes a continued sign of freer movement through Israel. For now, Palestinians are reveling with pride from the ability to support their football teams in person.

While Shijaiyah won the second and deciding match 2-1 over Al-Ahly, the experience provides the people with an invaluable boost to morale and generates a hopeful optimism. In regards to the final score, Wadi understood the contest’s importance, “In the end, the only winner is Palestine.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: Washington Times, The Guardian, Yahoo, New York Times
Photo: The Guardian

Israeli Hospitals Treat Palestinians
An Israeli Defense Force (IDF) reserve unit has been specifically tasked with providing medical and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. The unit is staffed by medical professionals who administer training exercises designed to mimic potential emergency situations in the field.

In addition to realistic conflict and disaster training scenarios, there is an emphasis on providing unquestioned care to any and all patients regardless of nationality or religion.

Capt. (Res.) Dr. Yishai Lev, a commander in the company, comments on its conceptualization, “The idea of adapting the unit actually came from our soldiers who recognized the need for it in the field.” This implies the civilian impact of the conflict was clearly witnessed by multitudes of IDF forces who were inclined to work toward a solution.

In reference to the humanitarian motive, Lev adds, “This medical care stems from our commitment to the Jewish and modern value of human rights.” The IDF company also collaborates with Palestinian medical services in an effort to help establish a more robust medical infrastructure.

An unfortunate truth, however, is that some Palestinian patients are reluctant to receive care from Israelis in fear of the cultural backlash from their societies back home. Israeli hospitals are aware of these concerns and have emphasized that doctors must provide all patients with exceptional treatment and care.

Yazid Fallah, a medical coordinator at a hospital in Haifa states, “We calmed them down and said there is no such danger in an Israeli hospital. We see humans and not antagonists. Israeli patients try to make the Palestinian patients feel comfortable. They believe that they are all in the same boat.” The hope is that upon their release, patients will share their experiences in efforts to change prevailing attitudes.

The IDF reserve company is not an isolated instance of Palestinian aid, as there is a recent precedent and history of aiding impacted civilians. During the midst of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict this past summer, the IDF opened a field hospital intended to treat Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.

The wounded civilians in Gaza far outnumbered the capacity for the region’s hospitals. Facilities were ill-equipped and often under siege during operation. This unfortunate truth was realized by the IDF and was the catalyst for setting up the field hospital.

The hospital was strategically placed in between Gaza and Israel at the Erez border crossing. Situated in Northern Gaza, the Erez border is the only legally sanctioned crossing to and from Israel, which at the time, received a heavy influx of foot traffic. Border patrols were said to have been prepared for 5,000 crossings per day.

It is also the location of the first casualty of the summer’s conflict after an Israeli volunteer was killed by a mortar. The primary function of the field hospital is to extend emergency type care to patients, but it was capable of servicing other medical needs as well.

A statement released by the IDF read, “The hospital will include an emergency clinic, pediatric and gynecological services, a delivery room and even overnight hospitalization when needed. The staff will include doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and lab technicians.”

Regardless of diplomatic allegiance, efforts of preventing innocent suffering are always commendable. In reference to this sentiment, Lev states, “When people are in need of care, we can’t afford to be indifferent.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: Breaking Israel News, Doctors Without Borders, United With Israel
Photo: Flickr

reconciliation

Olive oil: in a salad, it brings together flavors and nutrients with healthy and delicious results. In the Middle East, it brings together farmers in Israel and Palestine to change a narrative typically consumed by violence and hatred.

Olive Oil Without Borders is a project of the Near East Foundation, which has spent the past 100 years promoting reconciliation and development in the region. So far the project, which ended its first iteration in 2014, has brought more than $20 million into the Palestinian economy and involved more than 3,000 Palestinian farmers.

The project, which is also supported by USAID, was started due to production surpluses in Palestinian olive oil and production deficits in Israeli olive oil. This means that Palestinian producers were creating more oil than they could sell, while Israeli producers were having trouble meeting a heavy demand. Through this problem, a solution was born—something that could unite those pitted against each other by a troubling political situation.

Thus, in 2005, Olive Oil Without Borders was founded. Objectives of the project include economic empowerment and cooperation, as well as cooperation to promote reconciliation in an area torn apart by conflict and blame.

This is done through mutual training and education, with the knowledge and techniques of farmers of both nations being used to support advancement in the industry. According to olive farmer Muhammad Hamudi, the program brings about cooperation simply through the fact that it is mutually beneficial. “We have things to teach, they have things to teach. They use modern techniques, we have experience and knowledge.” Often times, working together can be brought about not by desire, but by necessity.

The second edition of the project launched in January. This project has the potential to bring more money into the Palestinian economy, advance production techniques in the olive oil industry and bring about lasting reconciliation to a long-lasting conflict, one olive at a time.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: Global Citizen, Good Magazine, Olive Oil Without Borders, Olive Oil Times
Photo: Good Magazine

One-Year-After-Gaza
July 8 marks one year since Israel launched an offensive against the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The resulting 50 days of conflict left 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead.

The fighting particularly devastated civilian areas. Israeli airstrikes in Gaza reduced 18,000 homes to rubble and left hundreds of thousands in need of emergency assistance.

Now, almost a year later, life in the Gaza Strip has improved little, if at all. Over 100,000 people are still displaced. On May 21, the World Bank released a statement addressing the current situation in Gaza, which it termed, “unsustainable.”

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, the Egyptian and Israeli governments have sealed their borders with Gaza in an attempt to stop the transfer of weapons to extremist groups. However, these blockades have also severely limited the Gazan people’s access to recovery supplies.

Both the blockades and the 2014 war have shrunk Gaza’s economy by close to half a billion dollars. The World Bank reports that Gaza has been “reduced to a fraction of its estimated potential.”

With the economy essentially cut off from the outside world, the well-educated population of Gaza has nowhere to turn for jobs. Gaza now has the highest unemployment rate in the world, with an overwhelming 43 percent of residents out of work. At the end of 2014, youth unemployment surpassed 60%.

About 1.8 million Gazans are restricted to a region smaller in area than the city of Washington D.C. They cannot leave without permits, and many supplies cannot pass through the blockade.

One Gazan woman lost her five-month-old grandson to exposure in the winter following the conflict. As of Feburary, she lived in the remains of a house destroyed by the war, where she feared for herself and the rest of her family. “This house isn’t adequate. We’re scared it’s going to collapse on us,” she explained in an interview with Vice News.

After last summer’s conflict, the international community pledged $3.5 billion for recovery efforts in the Strip. A year later, little more than a quarter of that money has been dispersed.

The remaining $2.5 billion are desperately needed. Nearly 40% of Gaza’s citizens live below the poverty line. Neighborhoods still lay in ruins, and an overwhelming majority of the population lacks access to electricity and clean water. Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, recently noted, “No human being who visits can remain untouched by the terrible devastation that one sees here in Gaza.”

The World Bank report calls for an easing of the blockade to allow reconstruction materials to reach residents. It also says that the Palestinian Authority must strengthen its leadership to rebuild a Gazan economy that is “on the verge of collapse.”

– Caitlin Harrison

Sources: The Guardian, The World Bank BBC Vice News UN News Centre
Photo: Daily Mail

 

palestinian children in gaza
The turmoil between Israel and Gaza is ramping up, as violence between the two nations escalates hourly. Rockets, bombs and aerial assaults punctuate the region more and more as hostilities increase, with no signs of de-escalation or avail.

The circumstances are claiming the health and lives of many, as more and more deadly weapons are detonated not just daily, but hourly. Both sides of the conflict are seeing gross casualties, injuries, displacement, and devastating psychological distress.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, with 1.7 million people inhabiting 139 square miles. The Israeli military has dropped leaflets over certain areas of the Gaza Strip, warning civilians to flee or find shelter because of a coming air strike. Though the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claim they do not want to hurt civilians, they released a statement saying that the civilians, “…must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe.” Nevertheless, at  least 72 Palestinians were killed last month, including Palestinian children.

UNICEF describes the deadly situation and its effects on children in the area, reporting that 19 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of airstrikes in Gaza over the past three days. Countless other children have been injured by rocket attacks.

On Thursday, July 10, an air strike killed five children in Palestine.

Physical harm is not the only consequence of the violence. Mental distress and upset are also extremely threatening and damaging. There has been focus on Palestinian children in particular, especially by Save the Children, a prominent children’s charity based in Washington, D.C.

Osama Damo, a communications manager for Save the Children, says that Palestinian children are at risk of psychological distress and disorders at night, because, “Military operations often take place during the night.”

Among children, the psychological distresses resulting from the regional climate and circumstances include PTSD, behavioral issues, feelings of helplessness and fear, trauma and sleeping disorders.

Some child welfare organizations are acting throughout the region to provide protection for children during dangerous raids.

Although it is the holy month of Ramadan, Gaza City is deserted. Thousands of inhabitants have fled or remain hidden inside buildings, rendering the usually bustling city a ghost town. It is safer to remain inside than it is to risk injury outside.

“We feel so scared,” says 10-year-old Karmen. “It’s Ramadan now, and we want to enjoy the holiday.”

Though this deeply rooted conflict is claiming the lives of many, it is important to consider the innocent children on both sides.

– Arielle Swett

Sources: UNICEF, Aljazeera America 1, Aljazeera America 2, NPR, BBC
Photo: The Telegraph

kerry_peace_effort_middle_east_opt
Although the Oslo Accord was designed to facilitate the peace negotiations in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine under the supervision of the UN, some are starting to believe that the whole process will ultimately result in failure due to two decades of no deals being reached.

In an Al Jazeera article, Mairav Zonszein said that despite U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s goal to help both sides reach an agreement, Israel appears to be controlling the region anyway.

“Prospects for negotiating a two-state solution to conclude the Oslo peace process, launched in 1993, appear more remote than they were 21 years ago,” said Zonszein. “The difference, perhaps, may be in the balance of pressure operating on both sides then compared with now.”

According to Zonszein, Israel considers itself a sovereign nation and dominates the lives of all Palestinians who live under its occupation. In fact, Israel is so powerful that even Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Palestine, is required to seek permission to leave the West Bank.

While the Palestinians (and the international community, including the U.S.) demand that the boundaries drafted in 1967 should be considered by Israel to grant statehood to Palestine, Israel continues to expand settlements beyond those boundaries.

“The original premise of the Oslo Accord was that a decades-old conflict could be resolved through bilateral negotiations in a framework based on relevant UN resolutions, out of the understanding that is must be a win-win situation for both sides,” Zonszein argued.

However, the only winner in the region turned out to be Israel. After realizing that the talks between Israel and Palestine are going nowhere, Kerry proposed a new idea to resolve yet another of the many problems the two sides have with each other.

“In a last-ditch effort to stop Israel reneging on a promise to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, the U.S. briefly threw in possibly the biggest bargaining chip in its hand: the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard,” said Jonathan Cook in a Counterpunch article.

Cook argues that both Israel and the U.S. have been involved in negotiations that did nothing but distract the true developments within the region.

Cook also references Richard Falk, professor emeritus in international law at Princeton University, who claims that the Israeli policies were created to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from their own homeland.

This is the reason the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as an official Jewish state in the first place.

Thus, “if negotiations collapse, it should be clear that, while both sides were supposed to be talking, one side – Israel – was vigorously and unilaterally acting to further its goals,” Cook said.

At this point, only time will tell whether or not the Israelis and Palestinians will one day reach a deal that has already been delayed by two decades.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Al Jazeera, CounterPunch
Photo: Al Jazeera