Refugee who keeps the memory of Palestine alive

Palestinian refugees from Israel form a queue by the food tent in their camp in Amman. (Getty Images/file)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Refugee who keeps the memory of Palestine alive

  • Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees of any country where UNWRA operates.
  • Constitutionally, Palestinians, whether living in refugee camps or not, have been granted full citizenship in Jordan.

AMMAN: Azzam Abu Malouh sits outside his humble store in a narrow alleyway inside Husn Palestinian refugee camp and talks about his lost homeland.

Malouh, who is in his 50s, recalls stories he heard from his father about their Palestinian homeland and the port of Jaffa, which they fled in 1948.

Husn Camp in Jordan, known widely as Martyr Azzam Al-Mufti camp, was established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The camp, 80 kilometers north of the capital Amman, is home to refugees from the 1948 Nakba — when Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers and the formation of Israel — and those displaced in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza.

The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which administers the needs of Palestinian refugees, says the camp houses 25,000 registered refugees.

Palestinian cause

Abu Malouh is involved in social and political activities in the camp, and does not miss a single anniversary or event linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

He represents the living Palestinian cause that has continued for three and four generations since the Nakba 70 years ago.

Nakba Day refers to May 15, 1948, and is remembered throughout the world as the “catastrophe” when Palestinians lost their homes and land. On Monday, dozens of protesters marking the Nakba were killed in clashes with Israeli forces on the Gaza border.

Last December, Abu Malouh and others in the camp decided to remind younger generations of their past. 

They began a campaign to paint Palestinian symbols on the walls of the camp. Artists and amateurs worked to give dilapidated buildings a facelift, and street names where changed to reflect Palestinian cities and towns. 

“So when you are in Husn camp and say I am going to Nablus, Gaza or Haifa, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to Palestine,” Abu Malouh told Arab News.

“We want the young people in this camp to know the names of Palestinian cities.”

Abu Malouh has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the politics of the Palestinian conflict.

“For us in this camp, our central cause is the right of return and the rejection of alternative plans, and attempts to erase the Palestinian cause,” he said. “Every child who walks our streets is reminded daily of their homeland Palestine.” 

Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees of any country where UNWRA operates.

The kingdom’s 10 official Palestinian refugee camps hold almost 370,000 people, or 18 percent of the country’s total.

Jordan citizenship

Constitutionally, Palestinians, whether living in refugee camps or not, have been granted full citizenship in Jordan. They are allowed to take part in political life, hold public service jobs and serve in the army. However, these privileges are not granted to the almost 140,000 Palestinians who arrived from Gaza. 

Outside the camps, Palestinians make up the core of the Jordanian professional class and the majority of business owners and wealthy family businesses. Names such as Nuqul, Salfiti, Shoman, Sayegh and Masri are among wealthy Jordanians of Palestinian origin.

Ahmad Ruqub, the Palestine committee reporter in the Jordanian House of Representatives, told Arab News that more support is needed for Palestinian refugee camps, whose inhabitants live in poverty with high levels of unemployment.

“Youth are without work and homes are overcrowded as UNRWA has lessened over the years their services,” he said. 

The camps were built as temporary sites in the belief that refugees would return to their homeland. But decades of overcrowding have taken a toll on the infrastructure. Streets have huge potholes, and sewage often spills into the streets, increasing the risk of disease. 

Palestinians look to the UN agency as more than just a humanitarian organization. They see it as a witness to the 1948 eviction of Palestinians and the refusal to allow their return.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.