West Bank Stories
This 35 minute film presents the views of three Palestinians living in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank. The Dheisheh camp was established in 1949 within the municipal boundaries of Bethlehem on 430 dunums. It has a registered population of 12,045 of which approximately 6,000 are children. The camp's residents were particularly active during the intifadah. The Israeli authorities built a fence around the camp and a metal turnstile for the main entrance, which were in place for almost eight years to prevent stone throwing at passing Israeli cars on the main Jerusalem-Hebron road. In 1995, the camp came under Palestinian Authority control, and the fence has since been removed.
The film offers tours of a disused Israeli military base, the Dheisheh camp and the Ibdaa (Innovation) cultural centre at Dheisheh which promotes cultural activities including a dance troupe and basketball team.
Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians represent the largest and longest-standing case of displacement in the world today. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the massive displacement of Palestinians by Israel in 1948, two out of every five refugees in the world are Palestinian. At the beginning of 2007, there were approximately 7 million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 internally displaced Palestinians, representing 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (10.1 million).
Palestinian refugees include those who became refugees following the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 (the Nakba) and the second Arab-Israeli war in 1967, as well as those who are neither 1948 nor 1967 refugees but outside the area of former Palestine and unable or to return owing to well-founded fear of persecution. The largest group of Palestinian refugees is made up of those who were displaced or expelled from their places of origin as a result of the Nakba. Internally displaced Palestinians include those who were displaced within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
Internal displacement continued unabated in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in 2006, Israeli military operations in the occupied Gaza Strip in the summer of 2006. for example, caused the internal displacement of 5,100 persons. The Wall and its associated regime in the occupied West Bank is also forcibly displacing Palestinian communities, including in occupied eastern Jerusalem, where it was cited as the main reason for the relocation of 17% of the people. Thousands may also have been forcibly displaced in the Jordan valley as a result of closure, home demolition and eviction orders.
Similar patterns of displacement are also found in Israel, where urban development for the excusive benefit of Jewish communities have displaced indigenous Palestinian communities in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee.
Palestinian refugees in host countries are also vulnerable to forced displacement. For instance, as a result of the US-led aggression and occupation of Iraq since 2003, persecution has forced over half of the approximately 34,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Iraq to leave the country. During Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, approximately 16,000 Palestinian refugees were internally displaced within Lebanon and to Neighboring countries.
The living conditions of Palestinian refugees in OPT have declined dramatically in 2006 due to the ongoing conflict, Israel’s withholding of Palestinian Authority taxes, sanctions imposed by the international community, continued shortfall in donor contribution to refugee assistance, and unresolved gaps in the international protection regime. In 2006, for instance , 39% of Palestinian refugees in the OPT were poor while their health conditions of the population and educational achievement of children decreased. The living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have also deteriorated because of Israel’s war in the summer of 2006.
In the aftermath of Nakba, a special protection and assistance regime was set up for Palestinian refugees. The regime was composed of the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) , the UN Relief and Work Agency in the Near East (UNRWA) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNCCP was mandated to provide protection to Palestinian refugees, including the search for durable solutions (i.e. voluntary repatriation, resettlement or local integration), but effectively ceased to operate in the mid-1950s. UNRWA is mandated to provide assistance to 1948 and 1967 Palestinian refugees and to those displaced as a result of subsequent hostilities. Although UNAWR has its protection by means of rights-based approach to assistance and emergency operations, there still is a protection gap for Palestinian refugees, especially for those living in UNRWA’s area of operations. Outside UNRWA’s area of operations, UNHCR is the international agency responsible for providing both assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees.
Extract of text from Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2006 - 2007 published by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, June 2007 http://www.badil.org
Reproduced with permission
- Forced Migration Online Moving Image Archive, Internet Archive