The war of my forefathers
From Sheikh Jarrah to Gaza: the enduring Palestinian refugee crisis
Life without endless war is a privilege that generations of Palestinians have not—and fearfully—may never know. The most recent attack on Sheik Jarrah illustrates a powder keg of stop-gap solutions, as well as the failure of long-term diplomacy.
The indifference to the plight and suffering of millions of Palestinians is an affront to the post-war world that the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia — are supposed to uphold. This year’s clash saw a death toll of 253 thus far. And with Naftali Bennet, Israel’s first new prime minister in twelve years launching airstrikes into Gaza days after his swear-in, the tragedy of more death seems inevitable.
To navigate the intricacies of this perennial war, we turned to Mohammed Barakat and Yahav Zohar of the Green Olive Collective—as part of the MIRR Alliance monthly webinar series. The conversation highlighted the legal arguments around Israel’s policy of evictions, the consequences of the United States involvement, the inertia of the United Nations and—perhaps most importantly—the interpersonal impact and trauma of the conflict.
Mohammed discussed the paradoxical identity of being a refugee in one’s own homeland, and what losing that identity would mean for the right of return. Mohammed remarked that many of the communities where Arabs once lived—the villages that grandchildren call their ancestral home— have been demolished and replaced with forestry and agriculture. People traveling through Israel see this incredible greenery, not realizing the land once belonged to thriving communities who were forcibly displaced. A cultivated landscape offering a mosaic reiteration of history.
Mohammed discussed the paradoxical identity of being a refugee in one’s own homeland—and what losing that identity would mean for the right of return to the land of their ancestors.
Expanding further, Yahav Zohar explained why Israel purports to have the legal authority to remove Palestinians from their current settlements. Detailing the legal minutia involved in the process, he argued that the backlash from the unlawful forced evictions of 2009 had stymied similar eviction plans for over a decade—until now.
He highlighted the role of international diplomacy, and the indifference many Palestinians feel towards changing U.S. administrations. He dryly quipped— President Obama’s prose and eloquence didn’t prevent him from sending drones across the Middle East.
When responding to protestors, Israel contends it is a democratically elected government acting on behalf of its citizens. Palestinians, on the other hand, see Israeli responses as heavy-handed, overly militarized, and encroaching on their basic rights to liberty and dignity.
Both speakers proposed a policy shift in foreign aid, less money, and more legal infrastructure. “We don’t need money, we need action[s]. We need rights for the Palestinian people. For the Palestinians to have the rights of a human being,” Mohammed argued. The self-aggrandizing solution of throwing money at a problem, whilst ignoring the underlying issues, will make the world a far worse, not better place.
Mohammed tells us that only fifty to sixty percent of Gaza’s infrastructure was rebuilt after the 2014 Palestine-Israeli conflict. The long-term damage of the 2021 siege is yet to be assessed. The conflict leaves Palestine in a permanent state of subjugation. That conflicts are so frequent, so commonplace, that we need to identify them by the years they take place, as they leave hundreds dead and thousands even further displaced, is an affront to every peace accord and declaration signed.
From Sheikh Jarrah to Gaza: The Enduring Palestinian Refugee Crisis, features Yahav Zohar and Mohammad Barakat, two Jerusalemites and working partners in the Green Olive Collective—a group of Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace and diplomacy. The full conversation can be viewed below: