For six decades the Palestine refugees and their descendants have suffered dispossession, exile, conflict, and poverty. Many thousands have lived their lives in concrete shanties.
Following World War I and as the result of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1917, the British started their three-decade presence in Palestine. The conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine put the British in the middle, between the Zionist hope to form a Jewish national home in Palestine (as promised by the British in the Balfour Declaration), and the Arabs who were against this idea.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) came into being in 1949 and has been heping the refugees who lost their homes, businesses, and farms. In the refugee camps, there was disease, lack of food and water and shelter. Tens of thousands crowded into barracks or caves.
Today the registered refugee population has grown to 4.8 million, and the agency employs over 29,000 staff, mostly refugees themselves to care for thei basic needs. In Gaza, the effect of years of conflict and siege since the start of the second intifada mean that 900,000 people are now reliant on UNRWA for emergency food aid.
The refugee problem must be taken seriously at the negotiation table. The Palestine refugees embody the collective sense and experience of Palestinian loss!
Gandhi wrote in The Hindu, 1 May 1947: ‘The Arabs are a great people with a great history and therefore if they provide refuge for the Jews without the mediation of any nation, it will be in their tradition of generosity." Therefore, Jews and Arabs has to be able to imagine and create peace and have a dialogue about a two state solution that will allow each community to secure its rights, identity, and legitimacy by embracing the other as equal.
Israelis have been told for decades by their leaders that only an exclusive and controlled enclave can guarantee their survival! Is the conflict at a bleak impasse? Israel needs to give up land it had occupied in exchange for peace. Will the new generation of Palestinians engage in massive non-violent resistance in the areas occupied in 1967 and claim the "Right of Return".
God, YHWH or Allah promised the land of milk and honey to the seed of Abraham. However, Abraham is the shared religious figure of Palestine and Israel, Muslim, Jewish and Christian citizens. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isshak, from whom the Muslims (Ishmael) and the Jews (Isshak) base their religious claim to the same land. Therefore, each culture claims occupation of the same land through religious justification from God and the same prophet.
Ta'3yush (Arabic for "life in common") is a Muslim-Jewish educational partnership working to break down the walls of racism, ethnocentrism, and segregation by constructing a true Palestinian-Israeli collaboration giving economic and social assistance. This association holds indeed a role model in the region.