A Palestinian refugee narrates the story of his suffering caused by the Israeli occupation, which is the result of the British promise to create a national state for Jews in Palestine.
The United Kingdom is organising a celebration dinner in London and hosted the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend it to celebrate the 100th centenary of the Belfour Declaration, which is a British promise to help Jewish people to create a national homeland in Palestine.
After talks and discussions between Jewish leaders and officials from the British government started earlier early in 1917, the then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter dated to November 2, to a leader of the British Jewish community Lord Walter Rothschild, promising him to “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” noting that the UK would its “best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
Later on, Palestine became under the British Mandate and the UK started to facilitate the Jewish migration to Palestine, help the Jews to establish their communities and train paramilitary Jewish groups and supply them with arms in order to allegedly protect themselves. Then, skirmishes started to happen between the Jewish population and the Palestinians, who started to feel a serious danger by the increasing number of Jewish immigrants.
Start of tragedy
“My mother told me that my uncle was killed in an attack carried by armed Jewish groups near Haifa just two years before my birth,” Abdul-Hamid Ramadan al-Aloul, who was born in 1936, told MEMO. “I was born and grew up during the British occupation, which armed the Jewish gangs and prevented any Palestinian from even carrying a folding pocket knife,” Al-Aloul said.
I have heard this from several Palestinians who lived during the British Mandate, which violently deterred Palestinian protests against the Jewish migration and executed many Palestinians who revolted against the British and Jewish existence in Palestine. “The situation deteriorated due to the imbalanced British positions,” Al-Aloul said, “until the 1947 and 1948 when the attacks of the Jewish gangs against the Palestinians cities and villages increased to an unbearable point.”
During sporadic Jewish attacks between 1929 and 1948, Al-Aloul lost seven close relatives, who were among 27 others from his own village –Breer. “On May 12, 1948, my uncle came to our home and asked us to leave it and follow him,” Al-Aluold said. “My mother asked: where are we going? He said: I do not know, but we must leave now! She asked: why? He said: the Jewish gangs are going to kill everyone here. He said these words and ran away.”
Al-Aloul continued: “My father, my mother, my two little sisters my cousin and me gathered and went towards the door. Then, I did not know what happened. Something exploded, I think it was a shell from a tank stationed at the hilltop overlooking at our village from the eastern side was hit at us. My father was wounded in his back, my cousin was wounded in his left hand and I lost my left leg.”
Ten years ago, I interviewed Yousef Muharram from the same village. He was over than 20 years when the war happened. He told me that a Jewish tank stationed on the hilltop along with a plane bombed the village and killed at least 70 people. He told me that he saw the plane for the first time and thought it was made of wood.
Al-Aloul continued: “There was a school in our village and there was only the street between our house and this school. Most people either fled the village or sought refuge at the school. My mother pulled my father inside the house and we hid inside until the next day when three armed Jews broke into our house at daw of May 13, 1948.
They came to room where we hid and pointed their guns towards my father. My sister, who was older than me said: He is wounded. One of the Jews shot her immediately in the chest. They pointed their guns at my cousin. He raised his wounded hand and said: I am wounded. One of the Jews shot him in the head and he died. My father passed away during these incidents and when they aimed their guns at me, one of them said: This is young.”
After killing my sister and cousin and my father passed away, I remained alive with my other sister and younger brother. “One of the Jews asked me to stand up and I said: I cannot. He asked me about my mother and I said I did not know where she was. He looked for her inside the house and found her asked he to come to the room where we were. She refused as she was afraid of being raped. She said he would not harm her and asked her to carry me and take me with my little sister and brother to the school.”
The mother, her wounded son and two little siblings remained at the school for about two hours and then decided to leave to Simsim –a village about 3km to the east of Breer. “In Simsim, we found a donkey and my mother put me on its back and we fled to Dimra, a village about 5km south of Simsim, where we found an ambulance,” the wounded boy said. “My mother asked the paramedics to take me but they said they would go to Breer and look for wounded people,” he said.
In the evening, while Al-Aloul, his mother and his siblings were in Dimra, the ambulance returned back and looked for him. “They took me alone and moved me to Tel al-Sakan Hospital in Gaza,” Al-Aloul said. “Next day, my mother arrived and visited me in the hospital, where I remained one month, knowing nothing about what was happening around me.”
Tel al-Sakan was the only hospital in the Gaza Strip and, according to Al-Aloul, it was full of wounded brought to it from different place, most of them from the occupied villages around Gaza.
After leaving the hospital, Abdul-Hamid and his family moved towards the south of Gaza trying to reach Egypt. They found a number of their extended family and people from their village in Rafah, the southern Gaza city and they stayed with them for a while. It was easy to move to Egypt that time as the Gaza Strip remained under the Egyptian control after the 1948 occupation.
“Later on, we moved to Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, and we had a temporary residence and started to receive humanitarian assistance from the UNRWA,” he said. “In 1956, during the tripartite attack on Egypt, the Jewish army invaded Gaza and remained for four months. During that time, it carried out several massacres across the Strip,” he said.
“One day, during the four months, the Jewish troops raided the refugee camp and gathered all the youths in an area to the east of the camp and at the last minute, something happened, I did not know it, that let them refrain from killing all of them,” Abdul-Hamid said. “However, they carried two massacres in Gaza and one in Khan Younis and others elsewhere.” My mother was an eyewitness on one of the massacres carried out in the main Gaza Square in the centre of the Gaza city.
Tragedy renewed 60 years later
Abdul-Hamid said that there were no major incidents during the Israeli occupation of Gaza in the 1967. It looked as if it was a handover of land. The 1973 Israeli-Egyptian war did not affect him, too. However, on this year, he had been a carpentry trainer at an UNRWA refugee school for 15 years. He had four sons and five daughters. He decided to move out of the refugee camp.
The carpentry trainer chose to move to the Gaza city along with his nine siblings, wife and mother. He built a house and lived peacefully until 1987, when the Israeli occupation forces stormed his house. “When I saw the Israeli troops inside my house, I fell in convulsion,” Abdul-Hamid said. “I recalled the 1948 memories when most of my family members were killed before my eyes.”
That was not a serious incident in Abdul-Hamid’s life as the Israeli occupation forces arrested his son Jaber who spent six months under the administrative detention. Abdul-Hamid’s sons and daughters got married and had siblings and life went on smoothly.
In January 15, 2009, a couple of days before the end of a 22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, the International Red Cross told the residents in the southern area of the Gaza city to leave their homes ahead of an Israeli plan to carry out a wide ground operation. Abdul-Hamid did not hesitate and he along all of his extended family left their house immediately, fearing the repetition of his 1948 tragedy.
“We left our house in different groups,” Abdul-Hamid said. “My eldest son Zuhair left the house at first with his family. Just five minutes later, I heard the sound of a huge explosion and asked one of my grandsons to see what happened. A few minutes later, he came and told me that Zuhair, his wife, his three sons and his two daughters, as well as my youngest son Ramadan were killed in an Israeli airstrike. I immediately fainted and woke up saying farewell to them while they were to be buried.”
Zuhair left only one married daughter, who has been until today suffering trauma consequences, and Ramadan left two-year-old daughter and 15-day old son.
However, Abdul-Hamid is over than 80 years old, he is still having hope to return back to his home village where he was born. “If I did not go back alive to Breer, I hope to be buried in its soil when I leave this life,” he said.
When told that the UK government is proud of the Balfour Declaration, he said that this means that “it is proud of my own tragedy because this declaration led the to the creation of the criminal state of Israel which was and is the result of all the tragedies of the Palestinians like me.” He stressed that the UK “which pledged a land which it did not own to the people who did not deserve is responsible of my tragedy.”