‘This time is different because we are united’

73 years after Nakba, Palestinian refugees respond to ongoing conflict

Palestinian refugees are seen in Wihdat camp in Amman (left) on Saturday, May 15, 2021, and a resident, Sumaya Hamdan.
Palestinian refugees are seen in Wihdat camp in Amman on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Photo: Nadine Daher/Jordan News)
AMMAN — As violence between Palestine and Israel, sparked by the pending forced evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, escalates, the public in Jordan continues to show support through protests in the governorates and at the borders.اضافة اعلان

In Wihdat refugee camp — known formally as New Amman camp — residents agree that recent developments show new promise.

“Hopefully this time is different because we are united,” Sumaya Hamdan, a resident of the camp, told Jordan News. “We have been praying for them and our hearts are with them.”

Saturday, May 15, marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, also known as “the catastrophe” or “disaster”. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled by Israeli occupation forces from their homes and sought refuge in areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Among the Palestinians forced out were Hamdan’s family.

Arriving in Jordan in 1948, the Hamdans left Palestine with hopes of returning, but this never came to be. Shortly after the exodus, the Israeli government passed a series of “Absentees’ Property” laws preventing Palestinians who had left from reclaiming their property.

Yet, Hamdan still has hope that they will one day return home.

“If they open the borders, I will be the first to enter,” she said. “Hopefully this time we will return, even if there is only one of us left.”

Another resident, Ibrahim Sabbah, recalled the events of 1948, and how his parents experienced the Nakba firsthand.

“They used to enter houses and make the families leave,” Sabbah said in an interview with Jordan News. “The same thing is happening now.”

He expressed his concern over the power dynamics involved. “Civilians are being attacked in Gaza and Jerusalem; they don’t have weapons or anything,” he said.

Israel renewed air strikes on the Gaza strip on Saturday and Hamas fired rockets into Israel as their battle entered a fifth day. A number of diplomats worldwide have publicly sought an end to the violence.

A number of the camp’s residents have family members currently residing in Gaza and Jerusalem. They told Jordan News that are worried for their safety, and regularly contact them for updates as the violence intensifies.

Sebhi Sarrawi, another Wihdat camp resident, recalled the issue that triggered this conflict. Israeli forces attempted to evict Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood last week, he explained.

“They kicked out a family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, where are they supposed to go? This started the conversation in the media.”

The incident increased public awareness on the matter. “This didn’t happen before, not even during the first or second intifada,” Sarrawi explained. “People are now more aware: they are fighting for their honor.”

Yet, for real and lasting change to take place, Sarrawi believes that the Arab world must unite.

Throughout some Arab Nations, including in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, protests in support of the Palestinian cause are escalating. On Saturday, protests continued both in Amman near the Israeli embassy and at the border.

“Since the Arab populations intervened, things are different,” Wihdat camp resident Raed Abu Rajab told Jordan News. “People are crawling to the borders: There are new developments due to pressure by Jordan, Egypt, and other nations.”

“We need to all stand together with Palestine and Jerusalem. I would protect Palestine with my own blood, my kids, my money,” added Hamdan.

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