Palestinians mark 1948 mass displacement

Updated 16 May 2013
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Palestinians mark 1948 mass displacement

RAMALLAH: Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza yesterday to mark the 65th anniversary of their mass displacement during the war that followed Israel’s founding in 1948.
Every May 15, Palestinians commemorate the “nakba,” or “catastrophe” — the term they use to describe their displacement. Hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out by the Israeli forces.
The dispute over the fate of those Palestinians and that of their descendants, now numbering several million people, remains at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel views the Palestinians’ return as demographic suicide and expects the displaced and their descendants to be taken in by a future Palestinian state. But intermittent Israeli-Palestinian attempts to agree on the terms of such a state have so far failed.
Sirens wailed at noon in the West Bank for 65 seconds, the number of years since 1948. Thousands marched in Ramallah from the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to the city center. Many wore black in a sign of mourning, holding Palestinian flags and large keys symbolizing the homes they left behind.
“The right of return will not die,” chanted the protesters. Schools closed at midday and parents brought their children to the demonstration.
In Ramallah, 38-year-old Manwal Awad brought her 11-year-old twins to the protest. “Every year I bring them with me to inherit the story of our nakba, and to keep the dream of return,” she said.
Rallies were also held in other cities across the West Bank and smaller protests were held in Gaza, which has been under control of the militant Hamas group since it ousted Palestinian Fatah forces in 2007. About a thousand marched to the UN headquarters in Gaza City.
“We shall return. We will never give up or compromise over our land,” chanted the marchers, members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions.
President Mahmoud Abbas addressed his people in a televised speech on Tuesday night, saying the Palestinian cause earned international acceptance last year with the UN de facto recognizing a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“We won the support of the world,” Abbas said, adding that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are “condemned internationally.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which collapsed four years ago over the issue of Jewish settlements. Palestinians insist they will not resume talks unless the construction of settlements in territories they want for their future state ends first. Israel says negotiations should resume without preconditions and that settlements will be resolved through talks along with the other issues.
In efforts to restart the talks, Kerry has managed to persuade Arab leaders to reissue their 2002 peace proposal with new incentives, including a suggestion that final borders between Israel and a future Palestine could be modified from the 1967 lines through agreed land swaps.
The 2002 initiative, which at the time was endorsed by the Arab League and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), offered Israel normalized relations in exchange for a full withdrawal from territories captured in 1967. However, it was overshadowed by Israeli-Palestinian fighting and was greeted with skepticism by Israel.
Israel has been mostly quiet on the proposal so far. Yesterday, the Palestinian statistics bureau in the West Bank issued a statement with the latest figures. According to the bureau, the number of Palestinians today has reached 11.5 million. Of those, 4.4 million live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza; 1.4 million in Israel while the remainder live in the diaspora.


Campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

Updated 24 April 2018
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Campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

  • Lebanon's independent Sabaa party talks about exploitation of positions and money.
  • Several young men from the Sabaa party demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior.
BEIRUT: Sectarian and partisan polarization resulting from fierce competition for parliamentary seats in Lebanon has led to the first armed clash between two rival Druze parties.
Machine guns were used in the clash between the Progressive Socialist Party, led by MP Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Democratic Party, led by Talal Arslan, which took place on Sunday evening in the city of Choueifat, about 5 km south of Beirut.
The two parties’ leaders acted quickly to calm their supporters.
“When politicians plant seeds of hatred and grudges among people, they commit a crime against citizens who have been breaking bread together for centuries,” Jumblatt said in a tweet.
In a joint statement, the two parties stressed “the need to avoid any steps that could provoke anger among supporters or disturb citizens who look forward to freely exercising their right to vote in an atmosphere of democratic competition.”
The two parties, alongside other parties with supporters in Choueifat, such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Amal Movement, have agreed on “disowning anyone who breaches security, requesting that the security forces intensify their presence in Choueifat, identifying fixed locations until the elections are over, and restraining from carrying out provocative processions.”
Campaigning lasts 24 hours before polling and has seen various kinds of violations of the electoral law.
Several young men from the Sabaa party — a group of independent activists — demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior, carrying banners questioning the ministry’s role in election-related issues.
“Serious violations are taking place because the country is out of control; many are exploiting their positions and pouring (in) their money, and conflicts are happening at grassroots level — people are tearing down photos of candidates and individuals are fighting with one another,” said Gilbert Hobeish on behalf of the demonstrators.
He added: “This is unacceptable, and the minister of interior must take responsibility.”
Hobeish criticized the Electoral Supervisory Commission, saying “it only oversees the civil society or change candidates.”
“We reject this in toto,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a candidate on the Shbaana Haki electoral list (who was assaulted last Sunday by Hezbollah supporters in the town of Shaqra because he hung his photo outside his house), held a press conference in the town of Nabatiyah Al-Fawqa and renewed his protest against “the tyranny that silences voices, oppresses liberties and acts on its own will and temperaments, making us feel as if we were in the law of the jungle era.”
He said that “resistance isn’t anyone’s property nor is it one party’s ownership.”
He also called on “the free people of the south to decide which life they wanted and to which homeland and identity they belonged.”
Campaign fever is rising in Lebanon 48 hours before the elections are held for the first time for Lebanese communities in several Arab countries. These elections are to be held 11 days before parliamentary elections take place inside Lebanon.