Photo credit: Khalil Mazraawi
Date taken: March 23, 2004
Location: Baqa’a Refugee Camp, Jordan
An elderly Palestinian man sits in front of his closed shop at the Baqa’a Refugee Camp’s marketplace during a strike to protest the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas. Yassin was killed the day before by an Israeli air strike while he was on his way to a local mosque in the Gaza Strip for morning prayers. Demonstrations were held throughout all of Jordan’s Palestinian refugee camps as well as in parts of the country’s capital city to pressure the Jordanian government into ending its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
There are five main fronts in the struggle for a free Palestine. The Gaza Strip is pummeled every two years or so, with smaller-scale air strikes and ground incursions frequently happening in between. The West Bank is gridlocked with checkpoints that arbitrarily close and settlers who claim Palestinian property as their own. Palestinians in Israel are the target of institutionalized racism where they are treated as second-class citizens and whose rights in Israel are limited by a collection of laws that single them out. Palestinians abroad must overcome the pain of separation and the uncertainty of a return home. And finally, Palestinians living in refugee camps dotting the Middle East are made into victims again and again by governments that openly discriminate against them and people who blame them for their nation’s economic and sociopolitical woes.
This last one is the forgotten front. Because these refugees live in Arab countries, because they did not necessarily need to grapple with a new language or culture, because their refugee camp neighbors might be the very same familiar faces they grew up with back in their hometowns in Palestine, it is too commonly assumed that they have assimilated, that the struggle no longer affects them.
That is as far from the truth as one could possibly go.