Haya Al-Farra works at the Palestinian Mission in London. Her parents, along with their families, lost their homes and land in Palestine when Israel was created in 1948. Like millions of Palestinians across the globe, Haya continues to live in exile. Israel violates international law by refusing to let them return home. Here, Haya describes how the Nakba affected her family in ’48 and how it continues to affect her today.
Our Nakba is still ongoing even though it began in 1948.
This is seen in the millions of Palestinian refugees who have not been able to return to their homes in Palestine and who are living in dire living conditions in refugee camps to this day; the thousands of Palestinians who are being displaced and dispossessed for the second time from the refugee camps in Syria; the mothers in Gaza who put their children on death boats hoping to secure a better future for them; the hundreds who are being forcibly displaced within occupied Palestine; the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Jerusalem; the two million Palestinian citizens in Israel who are treated as second class citizens, and the 1.8 million Palestinians who have been subject to a brutal siege for nine years in the Gaza Strip.
Growing up as a Palestinian refugee has significantly impacted my life. I always felt ‘out of place’ as Edward Said eloquently described the state of many Palestinian refugees living in the diaspora.
I longed to return home, to Palestine, the land of oranges that was woven and depicted by my father and grandmother’s stories and memories.
Both my parents were displaced by the Israeli occupation. My mother’s family was expelled from Yafa in 1948 during the Nakba.
My maternal grandparents fled to Jordan then to Saudi Arabia, and finally settled in Egypt. As a consequence, they lost all their possessions and business in Yafa.
My father, on the other hand, was studying in Egypt when Israel invaded and annexed the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1967. He was forced to remain in exile until 1994 and was not allowed to go back to Gaza due to his affiliation with the PLO.
After the Oslo Accords, we were some of the very few families that were able to return to Palestine. However, similar to millions of Palestinians across the globe, my maternal grandmother and my family from my mother’s side cannot return to Palestine.
The right of return remains the dream of millions of Palestinian refugees and the international community has a responsibility to bring it about.
In 1948, Israel, the occupying power, sought to uproot and dispossess Palestinians, challenge our existence, and wipe out our history.
However, we kept Palestine alive by preserving our memories, retelling our grandparents’ stories, creating a Palestinian narrative, holding onto the keys to our homes, and affirming our rights that are enshrined in international law and United Nations resolutions.
Perseverance, resilience and resistance continue to be our answer to the daily dispossession, violations, and humiliation of the Israeli occupation experienced by Palestinians in exile and within occupied Palestine.