I am interested to know…Where are the Palestinians who lived in Syria, and Iraq now?
Handala, His creator, Naji Al-Ali ( On July 22, 1987, in London, Naji Al-Ali was assassinated as he walked towards the offices of Al-Qabas newspaper. He died in the hospital on August 29th. His murderer has never been apprehended) wrote: “The child Handala is my signature, everyone asks me about him wherever I go. I gave birth to this child in the Gulf and I presented him to the people. His name is Handala and he has promised the people that he will remain true to himself. I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. Handala is not a fat, happy, relaxed, or pampered child. He is barefooted like the refugee camp children, and he is an icon that protects me from making mistakes. Even though he is rough, he smells of amber. His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way.”
My question arises from knowledge of the forced movement of Palestinian refugees through wars. I will consider the broader relationship between where they went and where they were from.
Few populations are totally discrete, they show a diversity of capacity, wealth, interest, education, language. One problem for Palestinians is that for too long they have been considered discrete, being reduced to a singular identity as the ‘other’ and in being portrayed as homogeneous. Negative ramifications of this are exemplified by the late Joan Rivers’ TV interview grab tirade against Palestinians. She angrily said she wanting to ‘wipe em all out’. Her ignorance was apparent when she later said she had confused Palestinian people with ‘Hamas’. Rivers was 81, should have known better, and died soon after. She was at best a victim of Israeli hasbara and at worst a proponent of it. The other excuse of being elderly, caught off guard and harassed by media thus not ‘getting it’ is not available to the rest of us but most outside the diaspora have little knowledge of Palestinians as a people because of attitudes such as this.
Palestinians geographic diversity was painted across the world map through the mass expulsion from their homeland that occurred 66 years ago, in 1948. Their spread expanded through the need to seek refuge from additional wars in their new found lands and continued oppression in their own, under Israeli occupation, where their identity as Palestinian was replaced by their oppressors by the term ‘Israeli Arabs’. This spread of Palestinians world wide has become both their strength and their weakness.
Palestinians are in the main, Arab, though their Arab brothers regularly behave as if this was not the case. They are Semite, but their Jewish cousins, choose to deny them this connection. But first, they are Palestinian. This article does not cover the concerted effort of the Jewish nation to culturally absorb, subjugate or eradicate all things Palestinian. Instead it examines the continued trials of Palestinians in current times with a view to discern just how this population spread as a result of war and dispossession has become both a weakness and a strength regarding Palestinian ‘identity.’
A 2010 report in Tropical Review Digest clearly outlines the attitude of Arab states in relation to the situation of Palestinian Refugees;
The Plight of Palestinian Refugees in Middle Eastern Host States
… “Palestinian refugees have experienced varying standards of treatment depending upon the policies of their host state. With the exception of Jordan, Arab host states have not naturalized Palestinian refugees. In Jordan and Syria, most Palestinian refugees have been integrated into society; however, in Jordan, only Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 War have Jordanian citizenship and enjoy largely favorable treatment on par with Jordanian nationals. Refugees from the Gaza Strip who did not hold Jordanian passports at the time of their flight in 1967 have been denied citizenship and are mostly confined to the “Jerash” camp.
In Syria, Palestinian refugees have not been granted citizenship but have been accorded equal treatment with Syrian nationals in almost all respects. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have fared considerably worse; sectarian tensions and the activities of the PLO have prevented their integration into Lebanese society. The majority of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in UNRWA refugee camps or other unofficial camps and shelters, often in conditions of abject poverty. They face restrictions on their right to work, access to education and healthcare, and ownership of property. Only those displaced in 1948 have residency rights in Lebanon where as all other Palestinian refugees are deemed illegal immigrants. Outside of the Operation Areas, Palestinian refugees face even more of a precarious existence. In Egypt, Palestinian refugees are treated as foreigners and face significant restrictions on their ability to access education, government services, and employment. Renewal of residency permits is difficult and there are reports of frequent detention of Palestinian refugees by the authorities in Egypt. Iraq, once a refuge for Palestinian refugees, has now become a country of persecution; many Palestinians were targeted in, and fled from, Iraq following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. In the Gulf States, particularly Kuwait, Palestinians are treated as foreign migrant workers with no permanent residency rights”…..
See full report
As you can see, Arab states have been less than supportive ‘brothers’, and in many cases hostile. An example can be seen in the Egyptian response to Palestinians who fled after the wars in 1948, 1956 and 1967. They are not protected under UNRWA or UNHCR and suffer discrimination. Upward of 50,000 are understood to be in Egypt (2002 report by Orul El Abed ), with 11,000 of those moving after the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel. Another example is the “forced displacement” during March to Setember 1991 of around 2000 Palestinians in Kuwait in retaliation for the PLO endorsement of Iraq’s occupation. Most lived in Kuwait for decades, another 200,000 fled during the Iraqi occupation were denied return. I have not been able to find out where they went but am aware some moved to Syria. By September 1991, Kuwait’s Palestinian community was only around 20,000. see here On the day Saddam went into Kuwait there were said to be four Palestinians for every Kuwaiti or around 400-450,000 Palestinians.
……”Many of the deportees were subjected to abuse or worse during the process of expulsion. In March 1991, the Associated Press quoted a grave digger at the Riqqa Cemetery in Kuwait, talking about mass graves: “They were all Palestinians … One man had a severed head.” The agency later reported that even some members of Kuwait’s ruling family were involved in the killings of Palestinians, and Kuwaiti pro-democracy activists claimed the royal family had formed private “death squads” to execute people suspected of collaborating with the Iraqis.” here
The situation has worsened for Palestinians through the increased American and Israeli ‘involvement’ in the shaping of a changed Middle East, the cause of much of the strife faced now. Wars in their countries of settlement have uprooted Palestinians once again. They are double and triple refugees.
Palestinian Refugee Numbers
Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the largest and longest case of ‘forced displacement’ in the world today. In 2008, 60 years after the 1948 Nakba (‘Catastrophe’), and 41 years after the 1967 Naska (‘Setback’) two out of every ﬁve refugees in the world were Palestinian. At the beginning of 2007, there were approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 IDPs, 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million) http://www.badil.org/en/historical-overview UN figures from state there were 16.7 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2013, 11.7 million under the mandate of UNHCR, around 1.2 million more than at the end of 2012. The other 5 million Palestinian refugees are registered with United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA. UNRWA does not support Palestinian refugees outside its mandated areas of, Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. IRAQ is not a UNRWA zone and is covered by the broader operations of UNHCR. However, a 2004 UN report ‘UNRWA’s Role in Protecting Palestinian Refugees -Working Paper No. 9 Dec. 2004, speaks of the UNHCR ‘Protection Gap’ and comments that this protection is “focussed on assisting to find asylum in third states, however this role is “frustrated” by the manner in which National courts or administrative tribunals in those states, particularly in Western Europe and North America have interpreted the provisions of the 1951 convention”……..and “years of “restrictive” interpretation of Article 1D by judicial authorities in third countries has made it very difficult for Palestinians to obtain asylum in those countries.”
It is important to state that a large number of displaced Palestinians are not registered with either UNRWA or UNHCR or have been bureaucratically ‘absorbed’ into other populations during recent displacement as second and third generation Palestinians from the 1948 boundaries. The Palestinian diaspora story sets context for the current situation.
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE ‘ROOTS’
European Zionists had designs on Palestinian land since the 1800’s. Zionists of course would say the reason is pre-Biblical. Here’s an example of that thinking from The Jewish Virtual Library.
…….A common misperception is that the Jews were forced into the diaspora by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years. A national language and a distinct civilization have been maintained. The Jewish people base their claim to the land of Israel on at least four premises:
1) God promised the land to the patriarch Abraham;
2) the Jewish people settled and developed the land;
3) the international community granted the Jewish people political sovereignty in Palestine
4) the territory was captured in defensive wars.”
However the percentage of the total population of Palestine in the late 1800’s indicates clearly the truth of the so called ‘myth of the Jewish peoples sudden return to Palestine’ is blown away by population facts.
The Zionist claim to the territory of Palestine gelled in the late 1800’s with the formation of the World Zionist Congress in 1882 where “a clear goal and strategy was formed to create a Jewish Nation State in the land of historic Palestine”. see here
During the Ottoman Empire
For an excellent article on the difficulties of determining the number of people who made up the Palestinian population during this time and the post WW1 British Mandate period see here . A section of that document is recorded below,
….. “For the Ottoman period, the answer to the question of Palestinian identity is, statistically at least, fairly simple. The Ottomans kept records only by religious affiliation. Although they did not use “national” distinctions such as Syrian, Iraqi, or Palestinian, one can consider as Palestinians those Ottoman subject Muslims and Christians who lived in Palestine (defined as the area that would become the Palestine Mandate) between 1517 and 1917. This includes very few whose descendants would not consider themselves Palestinians. The same criteria can be applied to the British Mandate Palestinian citizen Christians and Muslims (including Druzes, who were registered as Muslims by the Ottomans and thus must be included as Muslims in any comparisons to Ottoman data)”
The population was estimated at 738,000 in 1914 and by 1918 at the end of WWI was estimated to have reduced by 49,000 due to war and famine.
Photo from early 19th Century by Kalil Raad of Palestinians in traditional dress
British Mandate’ years 1922- 1948
The roots also lie within the British Mandate which occurred following the end of WW1 and the demise of the Ottoman empire. Issues at this time deserve more digging than can be presented on a blog post. Suffice to say the population numbers were rapidly changing. At the beginning of the British Mandate numbers of Palestinian Arabs and Jews were around 600,000 Palestinians and 60,000 Jews in the territory, with half of the Jewish number being ‘persecuted’ European Jewish settlers inspired to relocate by Zionist rhetoric. see here
……. “Over 300,000 Jews immigrated to Israel at this time, and it’s estimated that another 50,000 immigrated illegally. At first, the immigrants met with no opposition from the local Arab population. However, as anti-Semitism and persecution in Europe began to increase, so did the number of immigrants to Israel. The Arabs began to feel uneasy and resentful, and the British government placed strict limits on immigration.”
In the 1930s, Jewish land ownership increased from approximately 1% to just over 6% of the land. see here
In 1947 when UN resolution 181 for partition of Palestine into two nations, one Palestinian and one Jewish was passed by the General Assembly, (General Assembly resolutions have the legal status of recommendations. Only the Security Council is empowered to pass legally binding resolutions – a point about which Israel and the US are acutely aware) there were 1,237,332 Arabs and 608,225 Jews in Palestine. Jews owned only 6.59 percent of the land at the time of the UN Resolution which recommended giving the Jewish state 54 percent of the territory. (see here). The General Assembly’s subsequent Resolution 194 of December 1948 stated that those ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss or damage to property,’ was never implemented. Israel refused to allow the repatriation of Arab refugees, most of whose villages had been destroyed.see here
DURING THE 1947-49 WAR on Palestinian land, that resulted from a case of British colonial insanity, creeping US hegemony, UN impotence and increased Zionist terrorism, “Israel committed at least 33 massacres and expelled over 750,000 Palestinians.” (quote from here)
As a result of these ‘roots’ Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the largest and longest case of forced displacement in the world today.
The 1882 Zionist strategy saw reality in the 1948 Naqba (Arabic for ‘Catastrophe’) when the state of Israel was formed Through the Balfour Declaration and a resultant bloody war which the Israeli government in the same vein as Holocaust deniers, refuses to allow any remembrance of in the Occupied Territories. The majority of Palestinians fled or were forcibly removed under these conditions of war. For a deeper look at the roots see http://www.palestineinformation.org/history.htm and the historic documentation site http://www.palestineremembered.com/index.html
60 years after the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’) “two out of every ﬁve refugees in the world were Palestinian. At the beginning of 2007, there were approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 IDPs” and “70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million)” source here
NOW – The last 6 years have seen these refugee numbers soar. The UNHCR advises that “Today, more than 4.2 million Palestinian refugees are dispersed across areas of the Middle East in which their forefathers originally took refuge, with others dispersed across the world.” see here
THE SPREAD OF PALESTINIANS IN AREAS EFFECTED BY RECENT MIDDLE EASTERN CONFLICT- SYRIA, JORDAN. LEBANON, IRAQ.
1948 – Around 90,000 Palestinian refugees came to Syria. 750,000 -900,000 Palestinians were displaced (Badil Survey 2008 ) Most of the Palestine refugees who fled to the Syrian Arab Republic in 1948 were from the northern part of Palestine, mainly from Safad and the cities of Haifa and Jaffa, Northern Palestine. The majority made their homes in Damascus. Al Yarmouk (The Camp) in Damascus was the largest concentration of Palestinians within Syria. More than half the population of the Al Yarmouk area were Palestinian refugees but it became a thriving cosmopolitan area of nearly 1 million with many Syrian nationals choosing to live and work there.
1949 – 1966 – Under Israeli Military government 35,000-45,000 were displaced (Badil Survey 2008) UNRWA registered 4,200 from the Golan Heights and placed them in the emergency camp in Dera’a, southern Syria, many more moved to other camp areas in Syria, Al Yarmouk in Damascus took many new Palestinian refugees during this time.
By 1960 – The number of Palestinians registered in Syria reached 126,662, and tripled over the next four decades.
1967 Israeli Invasion and Occupation – During the 1967 invasion of Palestine and the Golan Heights, 100,000 people, including Palestine refugees, fled the Golan to other parts of Syria when the area was occupied by Israel. A total of 400,000 – 450,000 were displaced (Badil Survey 2008)
In 1970-71 Palestinians fled from Jordan to Syria due to Jordan associated being Palestinian with a localised militant group who attempted to overthrow the Jordanian king in the events known as “Black September” (cited as a possible reason behind the current ‘can’t be trusted attitude’ of Jordan to Palestinians. See here about the Black September group.) . The Syrian response to Palestinians seeking refuge in Syria from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq was to institute ‘strict measures’ of entry as a precaution against resettlement. See here
In 1982 Israeli attacks and invades Lebanon – Up to 2,000 Palestinians died on Sept. 16-17, 1982, when the Israeli military allowed a Phalangist Christian militia to attack the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila. The then Israeli Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon was forced to resign after a special Israeli investigative panel declared him to be “personally responsible” for the Israeli sponsored massacre. . The Israeli military aggression resulted in deaths and displacement once more of Palestinians who had sought refuge in Lebanon, see here. UNRWA estimates 2000- 3000 thousand Palestinians fled during the Israeli invasion to take refuge in Syria. The current Lebanese attitude towards Palestinians from Syria fails to remember this acceptance of Syria towards the refugees from Lebanon. See here
By the end of 1998 the estimated total number of Palestinians living in Syria, including non-registered refugees, was 465,662.
Between 2006 and 2008 again due to the inability to obtain accurate data accurate figures are not clear but it is documented that 3,000 – 5,000 Palestinians fled Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Around 2000 moved to reside in Damascus, some have since been resettled to other countries. They were not permitted to work in Syria (UNRWA 2011/3 and UNHCR 2014/3 quoted in Reliefweb SNAP paper 2014) The paper also states there were 13 Palestinian Camps in Syria, 9 of which are formally recognised by UNRWA. See SNAP here
Young Syrian Palestinian refugee girl becomes internally displaced in Syria
July 2012 -The formation of armed groups in the Palestinian refugee camp in Dar’aa in southern Syria prompts an SAF aerial attack, forcing most of the 10,000 residents to flee see here
April 2013 6,000 displaced from Ein El Tal camp in Aleppo in northern Syria by ‘opposition’ forces. (Supported heavily by Al Nusra fighters)
July 2013 – ‘More ‘opposition’ fighters settled in Al Yarmouk camp, Syrian government forces tightened a siege on camp to bar all movement of goods and people in and out of the camp.” see here . By this stage most Palestinians left for other residence in Damascus, Lebanon, and Dara’a in the south. 23,000 have relocated to Sweden, many via Egypt.
Anecdotally there is information that the Syrian government advised locals an attack was to occur to retake the camp preventing more al Nusra Front (aka Jabat al Nusra) fighters. Remaining residents who wished to were were advised to leave and given opportunity to do so by the Syrian government forces.
Stories abound about how the Syrian government directly attacked Al Yarmouk and kept it under seige. The truth is not always as it seems and with the influx of Al Nusra fighters the residents were in daily fear of snipers and mortar bombing. As with most MSM developed stories, the complexities and nuances of circumstances as missed by western writers and groups such as Amnesty International who were not privy to information from the wide range of people who left the camp. At the time of the now famous UNRWA/AP photo of the sea of starving camp residents see here , most people had already left to live in other areas of Damascus or to try to seek safety in other Middle Eastern countries particularly Lebanon or to Europe. Around 18,000 remained.
The camp had been infiltrated over time by Al Nusra operatives from outside Syria they had entered and exited the camp as circumstances changed over time. People from nearby areas who were supporters of or actually capitulated with Al Nusra militia also moved to the camp. Areas adjacent to the camp in Damascus had provided opportunity for these fighters to remain in Damascus and were generally seen as supportive of the ‘revolt’, allowing them to continuously mortar and retreat from the camp during preceding months. The elderly, infirmed, women who had lost their male providers and the desperately poor were also a strong proportion of those left behind, although attempts were made to evacuate those who wanted to leave. The Syrian Army response was not as swift as is made out, having set priorities in the many other regions of Syria, destabilised by the fighting. Following months of local Palestinian young men in small groups protecting the roads in and out to attempt to secure the camp for residents from Al Nusra and FSA fighters, continued attempts to stay neutral in the face of the onslaught became impossible. The PFLP was also present and supported the regime.
Many from the camp believe the Al Nusra infiltration and attacks were specifically planned exactly because of the Palestinian attempts to remain neutral and to draw them into actively responding to the situation, many died inside the camp as a result of snipers mortars and selective kidnappings – Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia are specifically blamed for backing Al Nusra in Syria to assist the destabilisation and removal of the Assad government. By this stage it was clear that the population had diverse opinions and allegiances. The varied stance of the Palestinians was apparent.
In Jan 2014 UNRWA, the organisation charged by the UN to assist Palestinian refugees in Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, documented there were 517,255 registered Palestine refugees in nine ‘camps’ across Syria. 1,700 people with medical conditions and their family members were evacuated from Al Yarmouk in Damascus.
March 2014 – RT reported on ISIL militia entering Al Yarmouk in Damascus
The militants returned to Yarmouk days after Al-Nusra re-entered despite a truce.
ISIL in Yarmouk camp
March 2014 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921221001239
…. “A spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – an Al-Qaeda breakaway group – returned to the besieged mostly-Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp on Thursday. The action follows the violent reemergence of Al-Nusra, the Islamic group in Syria endorsed by Al-Qaeda, in the area just days earlier.
PFLP-GC spokesman Anwar Raja said in a statement that the ISIL militants detained and “abused” several Palestinians upon the group’s return to Yarmouk, Ma’an News Agency reported Friday.
Raja said ISIL’s move back into the camp is fueled by Saudi Arabia “to pressure Syria, and ruin the reconciliation by abusing the Yarmouk camp and endangering its citizens.”
Cartoon depicting the situation felt in Al Yarmouk
Approximately 270,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria have been displaced by the ongoing violence, says UNRWA. This figure is likely to only include those refugees registered with UNRWA, many are not registered and is probably a very conservative number.
“……Palestinians in Syria faced massive displacement beginning in 2011, as conflict engulfed various camps. The first major displacement occurred in Lattakia camp in August 2011, when the majority of the camp’s population temporarily fled following a military assault. In December2012, airstrikes and clashes in Yarmouk caused more than 2/3 of the population, or 100,000 people, to flee over a 4 day period.In April 2013, 6,000 Palestinians were forced out of Ein El Tal camp in Aleppo by opposition forces. The growing crisis caused an increased demand for assistance and consequently, at least 40,000 previously unregistered Palestinians approached UNRWA for the first time for assistance. (IRIN 2011/08/17,Guardian 2011/08/,OCHA 2012/12/20,UNRWA 2013/12/16)” see here
As you can see these figures are not current, the inability to track the movements of people escaping a dangerous war scenario, resulting in poor data additionally many sites use approximations, however the Palestinians under UNRWA are mostly recorded. The newly appointed UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura said there was a total of 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict and 9 Million displaced people. The likelihood is that the figures from Dec 2013 above are significantly higher than reported.
Other than Turkey, all of Syria’s neighbours have placed restrictions on or refused entry for Palestinians fleeing Syria. A Fairfax Press, Sydney Morning Herald report in August 2014 has the story of one man from the south of Syria who stated he was denied access to Jordan for being Palestinian and is now in a camp of 300 Palestinians (110 children) near the Turkish border.
……”one of 300 Palestinian refugees – 110 of them children – currently living in a former tissue paper factory half a kilometer from the Turkish-Syrian border and from the Oncupinar refugee camp that was built by the Turkish government two years ago. Established in April by the Syrian Interim Government as a temporary residence for Syrian-based Palestinian refugees who have been displaced by the fighting to the south – refugees twice over – the factory camp enjoys none of Oncupinar’s facilities or funding..” Read full report:
4.5 Million Palestinians live in Jordan. 3.5 million of those have Jordanian citizenship with access to a Jordanian passport. John Kerry is recently reported as looking to to further assist by ‘absorbing more refugees as Jordan has always responded to payments from the US. The giant elephant in that room is losing the “right of return”. see here
1967 – Around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians left the occupied territories following the Six day War where allegations of the destruction of over 400 Arab villages were made. Approximately 145,000 of these were refugees from 1948. By December 1967, 245,000 fled the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan. Until 1967, roughly half of all Palestinians still lived within the boundaries of former Mandatory Palestine, after 1967 the majority lived outside the territory.
Jan 2014 There are 2,070,973 registered Palestine refugees and 10 recognised Palestine refugee camps throughout the country, accommodating around 370,000 Palestine refugees, 8 per cent of the country total. see here
August 2014 – Nearly 10,000 additional Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) have sought assistance from UNRWA in Jordan. The majority of them live in abject poverty with precarious legal status. Jordan has absorbed 126,000 Syrian refugees, but Palestinians fleeing Syria are placed in a separate refugee camp, under stricter conditions and are banned from entering Jordanian cities.
A 44-page Human Rights Watch report, “Not Welcome: Jordan’s Treatment of Palestinians Escaping Syria,” documented Jordan’s withdrawal of Jordanian citizenship from some Palestinians who had lived in Syria for many years and who have been detained or deported to Syria without identity documents. Jordan’s uncompromising treatment of Palestinians fleeing Syria contrasts with its treatment of Syrian nationals, at least 607,000 of whom have been accepted into the country since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
See here http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/08/jordan-deports-palestinians-fleeing-syria-war-20148710735703862.html
and here http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/syria-war-refugees-allowed-jordan-except-if-theyre-palestinian accessed 8.8.2014
1948 – … “Palestinians came to Iraq in several waves, each time fleeing a war. The first group is originally from villages around Haifa and Yaffa. They resisted the initial Israeli attacks on their villages, but were later forced to flee to Jenin where the Iraqi army was present. The women and children were evacuated to Iraq and all adult men were incorporated into a special unit in the Iraqi army, the Karmel Brigade. When the Iraqi Army left Palestine in 1948, these villagers (about 4000 in all) retreated with it.” see here
Around 5000 Palestinians were ‘brought to Iraq’ during the Naqba in 1948. They became much like the Palestinians in Syria, a community Al Baladiyat in the capital, Baghdad. Unlike the Palestinians in Syria they were not considered refugees but ‘enjoyed a relatively high standard of treatment during the period of Saddam Hussein and were granted residence permits, the right to work, access to social services and were provided with government owned housing or fixed, subsidized rent in privately owned dwellings. Iraq was the habitual place of residence of these Palestinians’. They are not covered by UNRWA and any who have managed to leave for their safety are under the UNHCR See here
“Their legal status in Iraq was never fully defined however and they were granted residency permits with a five year validity and travel documents, but not citizenship unlike those in Jordan and do not qualify for Iraqi passports. The law and practical reality differed particularly when the regime fell.”
1967 – Another wave of Palestinians following the war and Israeli Invasion arrived in Iraq information as to how many is scant however it is likely they came because they had relatives already in Iraq.
1991 – Gulf war The pre-war population of Palestinians country-wide in Iraq was believed to be more than 34,000 with 4000 in Mosel and 700 in Basra. In Baghdad, UNHCR registered some 23,000 Palestinians in 2003, before the exercise was interrupted in August 2003 with the staff evacuation following the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4517ca7e4.html Many fled to camps on the Iraqi – Jordanian border, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/45b0fc2e2.html again with Jordan refusing Palestinian refugees while accepting Iraqi’s (reported in April 2006 by HRW see here )
…. “Jordan closed its border to all traffic after the Iraqi Palestinians crossed into the no man’s land between the Iraqi and Jordanian border posts on March 19 and attempted to reach Jordan. The Jordanian authorities insisted they would not reopen the border unless the Palestinian refugees returned to Iraq. The refugees then spent four days unassisted in no man’s land. After four days, armed Iraqi border forces reportedly forced the Palestinians to return to the Iraqi side of the border….”
Earlier in 2003 a small group had gained access to Ruwaishid refugee camp on the Jordanian side of the border, described as a ‘remote inhospitable area’.
Since 2006 three additional camps have been homes under canvas for Palestinians escaping persecution in sectarian violence that erupted following the US war on Iraq. They were targeted both by Shia militia and Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI). The UN reported some Palestinians had been forced to join these groups. see here
Al-Tanf -Now closed tented site on the Syria – Iraq border described as a ‘no-man’s land’ the Al Tanf refugee camp housed between 850 and 1300 Palestinian refugees, many of them children, and most from the original Baghdad community. They are all Palestinians who fled targeted violence and death threats in Iraq, only to be denied entry to Syria and Jordan. Nov 17th 2008 and here.
Of the 1,300 Palestinian refugees in the camp, more than 1,000 were relocated to third countries, including Belgium, Chile, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The camp was closed as a result of joint efforts with the Syrian authorities and resettlement countries. The last 60 were moved in Feb 2010 to be housed ‘temporarily’ at another refugee camp, Al Hol, inside Syria. here
Al Hol camp is in the Syrian north-eastern province of Hassake and Al Waleed camp in Iraq
2010 600 Palestinians from Iraq in Al Hol Camp. The exact number of Palestinian who fled Iraq is unknown. Around 2,000 in Al Hol and in Al Waleed camp, on the Iraqi side of the border.
NOW – It is not known exactly how many Palestinians remain in Iraq nor how many have died as a result of the violence. With the knowledge that they had been targeted also to join AQI, it is not known if any are currently operating under those same conditions with the well fed and supported IS.
LEBANON – Now The UNRWA webside states there are;
……. “447,328 registered Palestine refugees 12 camps Around 53 per cent of the Palestine refugees in Lebanon live in the 12 recognized Palestine refugee camps, all of which suffer from serious problems, including poverty, overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing conditions and lack of infrastructure. Three other camps were destroyed during the course of the Lebanese Civil War, while a fourth was evacuated many years ago.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced many Palestine refugees including men, women and children, to flee to Lebanon in search of safety. UNRWA states it is “working to adjust to their numbers and their needs – including for education, health care, shelter and relief. 53,070 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) were seeking safety and shelter from the ongoing conflict in Lebanon. However, even Lebanon is becoming an increasingly desperate option.” See here
UNRWA states they continue to monitor the situation at the crossing point at Masnaa between Lebanon and Syria where Palestinians were being turned back and “HAD TO underscore the position of the Security Council which has “affirmed the importance of the principle of non-refoulement” and “recalled its encouragement to countries neighbouring Syria to protect all people fleeing the violence in Syria, including Palestinians”.
Due to Palestinians being unable to cross the border, there has been information of widespread discrimination against Palestinians at the borders and the increasing costs of corruption and bribery for those seeking to cross with legitimate papered Palestinians having to pay extortionate amounts to prevent corrupt border guards from returning them to a war zone.
…… “In May 2014 the Lebanese authorities put in place new requirements for Palestinian refugees from Syria trying to enter Lebanon. They are required to demonstrate – prior to entry – that they meet certain conditions for temporary residence in Lebanon or that they are transiting through Lebanon. The effect of these requirements – which many Palestinian refugees from Syria cannot meet – has been to deny people fleeing conflict in Syria the ability to seek refuge in Lebanon. Moreover, despite official denials, there is evidence of a policy to deny Palestinian refugees from Syria entry altogether – regardless of whether they meet the new conditions of entry. This evidence includes a leaked document, apparently from the security services, instructing airlines using the main Beirut airport not to transport any traveler who is a Palestinian refugee from Syria to Lebanon, regardless of the documents they may hold. In addition, it appears that some Palestinian refugees from Syria already residing in Lebanon are not being allowed to renew their temporary residency visas, leaving them without a clear legal status in the country and at risk of arrest and deportation.”
Although I was originally not including Egypt it is essential to do so given the criminal behaviour in the face of current circumstances towards Palestinians. The current regimes relationship with Israel behind the increased attacks on Palestinian refugees. Campaigns against Palestinians in Egypt include deportation. This attitude is not new nor only since recent Gaza bombing and Israeli incursion, Joseph Massad wrote in August 2013 that they have included ‘outlandish claims that shortages of basic supplies including fuel and medicines for Egypt’s 83 million people are caused by supplies being sent to Gaza’s 1.7 million Palestinians.’These campaigns have increased amid the ongoing crisis. “Rumors circulated by Egyptian media and social media accuse Hamas – without evidence – of sending operatives to support the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government.” False accusations result in deportations of Palestinians living in Egypt, as the Egyptian journalist Fahmy Howeidy reported in a 7 July article in Egypt’s Shorouk News. Howeidy offers these observations:
… “Who is the party that is keen to terrorise and humiliate Palestinians and fabricate charges against them in Egypt? And what is its interest in doing this? And why is there no clear political stance to stop these humiliations? My information is that there are elements within the Palestinian security apparatus still working against the government in the Gaza Strip and trying to malign it and bring it down.
There are also elements within the Egyptian security services – whose arms reach into the media – who despise Palestinians and sneer at resistance, and who cannot bear to hear the name of Hamas because of their relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. And these parties have rebounded lately, for well-known reasons. This leads to ask who they represent and to what extent they are connected with the deep state whose elements do not cease for even a day from spreading hatred between Egyptians and Palestinians in violation of all national and ethical norms.” see here
And just for good luck…….
In 2004 there were 240,000 Palestinians from Occupied Palestinian Territory (UN estimate) in Saudi Arabia here There situation has little documentation but again anecdotally they are targeted and discriminated against.
The most protracted and extensive of all refugee problems in the world today is that of generations now of Palestine refugees going back 66 years. As we have seen it has been not just protracted but a vicious hounding by Arab states compounded by an impotent UN Security Council Support (by virtue of the US veto status), numerous Israeli Wars on Palestinian areas of settlement and the more recent US led debacles in Iraq and supported Arab State mercenary destabilization in Syria.
A bureaucratically bland, weak but sombre understatement from the organisation set up to ‘protect’ them UNRWA, laughably speaks of the need for an ‘integrated approach’. Is the world willing to continue to watch while generational genocide continues to bring about Israel’s “final solution”?
THE NEED FOR A COORDINATED APPROACH: full report here
… “It is important to recognize that humanitarian actors cannot address the political dimensions of protracted refugee situations on their own.
Humanitarian agencies require the support of both development agencies and the UN Security Council to beget truly comprehensive solutions. As long as discussions on protracted refugee situations remain exclusively within the humanitarian community and do not engage the broader peace, security and development communities, they will be limited in their impact.
Despite the need for a multifaceted approach, the overall response of policy makers remains compartmentalized. Security, development and humanitarian issues are usually discussed in different forums, each with their own institutional arrangements and independent policy approaches. There is almost no strategic integration of approaches and little effective coordination in the field.…….”
It is clear from the heavily reduced information provided in this article that broad prejudice exists against Palestinian existence. Their treatment as non-citizens of their countries of refuge post 1948 is nothing less than a blight on humanity as a whole. The Syrian government support for her Palestinians stands out it an otherwise motley crowd and itself could have provided them with more. The recent forced movements as a result of further war have highlighted this in the cases of them being turned back at borders to be kept in foul camps that have no structure of support, where the International community pays little attention and affords minimal supports. Clearly UNRWA and the UNHCR were poorly equipt to manage the numbers of people displaced and the traumas suffered.
IT DOESN’T TAKE 66 YEARS TO GET A COORDINATED APPROACH!
THE UN HAS FAILED PALESTINE AND THE WORLD HAS FAILED A PEOPLE.
My own limited experience of the particular prejudice worldwide towards Palestinians has shown that they are continuously seen as ‘trouble’ and continuously unjustly treated and punished for being Palestinian. This is, as I said at the beginning of this article, both their weakness and their strength. A friend of mine once said
“YOU DRINK BEING PALESTINIAN FROM YOUR MOTHERS MILK”
Palestinian mother and baby- photo:Khalil Raad
Pappé, I., (2006) The ethnic cleansing of Palestine; Oxford: Oneworld.