Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

60 Years and Counting

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

60 Years and Counting

Article excerpt

"IF THEY PUT all the gold in the world within my hands and asked me to give away my home in Yibna, I would never give it away!" Yousef Al Hums forcibly asserts.

Born in 1932 and a teenager during al-Nakba-Arabic for "the Catastrophe"-he remembers everything about that fateful year from December 1947 to December 1948. Like most of the 750,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims forcibly removed, ethnically cleansed or massacred by Zionists including members of the terrorist Irgun and Stern gangs and the Haganah, predecessor to the Israel Defense (aka "Occupation") Forces, Al Hums relives the days that transformed his life and made him a refugee in his own land. Keeping the oral history alive is essential, lest each new generation forget the atrocities and injustice visited upon them by gun barrel, fire and terror.

That history also symbolizes rejection of the systematic erasure of Arabic villages in name, each physically wiped off the map through terror and permanently made invisible by Golda Meir's 1971 edict requiring that all approved maps in Israel never show the Green Line, never show Palestine, never show anything that would cause people to question the perceived and carefully crafted narrative essential to the Zionist myth.

Al Hums tells it and retells the history of the Palestinian people, a history going back over 4,000 years yet expunged from Israeli and Palestinian text books, narrative and conscience. He tells the stories to prevent collective amnesia and to minimize the obscuring of atrocities under non-indigenous evergreen forests reflecting the support of an unsuspecting Jewish Diaspora. Because he remembers, Al Hums, like all Palestinians who experienced al-Nakba, works to keep the truth alive.

In his hand he holds a copper key, a legacy of the home and the self-sufficiency he once enjoyed. In time, he will pass the key to his grandchildren, along with the stories of what once was and the freedom and dignity that can be again. He explains the key's significance to his grandchildren gathered around him-that it is "kept because if we can't return to our homes today, then you are going to return to your grandfather's home in Yibna village."

Yibna is one of the 675 towns and villages the Zionists destroyed-350 of them BEFORE Israel became a state. After the residents were forcibly removed, fled from terror, or massacred, each town was razed or occupied and claimed on behalf of Jewish people worldwide. Later these same towns were either built over with villages for Jews only or hidden through the planting of evergreen forests under the campaign of "Plant a tree for Israel."

The future leaders of the new state promised to treat as equals the 85 percent of the population who were not Jewish but whose families had lived in Palestine for centuries. Realizing the Zionist goal of a Jewish-only state, however, required that despite such promises, 750,000 people were ethnically cleansed and forced off their land into refugee and internment camps, where the fourth generation of survivors still live today. Those who stayed behind found themselves living under martial law, discriminated against, vilified and forced into poverty. All of this occurred within one year-and three years after the end of the Nazi holocaust, an event in Europe where, over a period of six years, martial law, ethnic cleansing and terror were used to force Jews and others who did not fit Nazi ideals into concentration camps. Palestinians now enter their 60th year of such treatment.

"Every day, I pray that if I die I will be buried on my land in Yibna," Al Hums states. For him, his usurped land represents all that is important, second only to his love for his family.

Today he calls Rafah's Yeban refugee camp home. He lives there with his two wives, seven children and a total of 50 grandchildren. With many gathered about him, he tells again of the days leading up to al-Nakba.

"Those days were the most beautiful days of my life," he recalls happily. …

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