Interpal’s Yasmeen Khan explains how the historical loss of Palestine more commonly known as “The Nakba” is still very much an ongoing catastrophe.
2017 is a year which marks various significant anniversaries; 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the UN Partition Plan, 50 years since the beginning of the illegal occupation of the West Bank, and 10 years since the siege of Gaza.
Ultimately, these milestones translate as decades of suffering, injustice and abject poverty for Palestinians, while the international community did little to better conditions for-and prevent atrocities against-Palestinian civilians.
15th May marks the commemoration of the Nakba (Arabic: النكبة) meaning the catastrophe. This day marks the remembrance of the mass displacement of Palestinians from their land in 1948, who remain displaced in their millions up until today.
Since the Nakba, Palestinians have faced great hardship and suffering. The defining features of the occupation for Palestinians have since been conflict, besiegement, unemployment, poverty, discrimination, restriction of movement, a refugee crisis, demolitions, illegal detention and racial segregation. In addition, Palestinians’ interests are severely underrepresented within the society of their occupiers, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and injustice.
Facts and figures paint a clearer picture of the result: 60% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank live on $2 a day or less, with over 80% of the population of Gaza having to rely on aid to meet their basic needs. Over 450,000 Palestinians are also trapped inside Syria amid the ongoing conflict-95% of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Not only is this state of affairs unsustainable, but humanitarian aid alone will not suffice as a solution to these issues, and NGOs are already working to their full capacity to provide support. Furthermore, development programmes in Palestine are, by circumstance, limited in their ability to make significant impact due to resourcing issues and a failing economy.
Conflict and instability
The ongoing conflict destroys any existing infrastructure Palestinians are able to establish and further entrenches them into poverty. This also heavily impacts day-to-day life, as Nesma, a young woman from the Gaza Strip explains that: “I used to memorise everything. I started with the details of my home, then all the roads surrounding it. Blind from birth, I’m only able to see the shadows of things, so memorising the space outside helps me to move freely and independently.
“In 2014, the war took away our neighbourhood, and that’s when everything I’d memorised disappeared. The routes I once perfected now lead me to nowhere, and I know that I will have to memorise it all again one day. I am going to wait a while before I do though, in case it disappears again.
“The war also damaged my home, which is where I live with my five brothers, my five sisters, my grandmother, my sister-in-law, her three children and my parents. A very big family, I know”
Despite these circumstances, families remain resolute and continue to strive despite their challenges. After receiving support from British NGO Interpal, Nesma is now part of the mere 42% of Gazans who have been fortunate enough to gain employment:
“My mother calls me the biggest grace of her life, but I know she says that to all her children. My dad is my best friend, who has helped me endlessly throughout my life. That’s why I give them everything I earn. We have used my earnings to try to restore what we could in our home.
“I am the only one working in my family, and being able to help in this way is probably the biggest achievement of my life. I am proud of gaining such a good education, too, because it is through my education that I can see.
“I can’t believe I achieved all this! It has been so hard at times: I would use to stay in my room with a heavy feeling that there was nothing to fight for. But with every breath, I continued. And I will always continue to stand strong.”
For over 22 years, Interpal has supported Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Jordan. Interpal specialises in delivering holistic, multifaceted projects in the fields of educational, medical and developmental aid, as well as providing humanitarian assistance, one-to-one child sponsorship and additional seasonal support. In conjunction with this, advocacy and raising awareness of the plight of Palestinians is paramount to the organisation, and ensures that the impact of aid is maximised.
This year-a significant year for Palestinians-Interpal reaffirms its commitment to help Palestinians in need and to advocate on their behalf in order to bring about a lasting and meaningful solution to the core issues which perpetuate their suffering. Interpal also calls upon the international community to help to achieve this and to do more to protect the rights of Palestinians everywhere.