Trauma caused by Israeli occupation still alive in Palestinians' memory

AYŞE BETÜL BAL @bal_betul
A protestor wears face print resembling the Palestinian flag during a rally against Trump's Jerusalem decision.
A protestor wears face print resembling the Palestinian flag during a rally against Trump's Jerusalem decision.

After U.S. President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, most of the world –including members of other religions – has stood against the injustices done to the Palestinians. The best way to understand what this means for Palestinians is to hear it from one of them firsthand

Intifada: The difference between a war of occupation and a war for freedom. Intifada, is a general term in Arabic for "uprising," and fdr Palestinians it started as a resistance to stand against Israeli occupation of their lands. The occupation costs and is still costing Palestinians their homes, lands and even lives.

Listening to what a Palestinian who has lived through the first (1987) and second (2000)intifadas is a good chance to understand what is going on and perhaps the only way to touch the human side of the story.Samar Mansour who is one of the many Palestinians who have had to leave her home and seek refuge in a foreign country spoke to Daily Sabah on the condition of not using her real name due to security issues.

Mansour, a doctoral student now living in Istanbul with her family, recalls the first intifada. Even as a second grader she "understood well what was going on in Yaffa, Akko and Haifa." These cities were engraved in her memory as happy places that she used to visit with her parents on weekends, but now the happy memories have been overshadowed by an Israeli occupation.

Soon, she realized that the Israeli occupation of their land was not something new, but a reality that goes back decades to the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

"It turned our lives upside down," Mansour said. "However, as soon as the first intifada started in 1987, there were no more trips or picnics and fewer visits to relatives and friends. And soon I realized that the house I was living in would be taken one day by this murderous gang that calls itself the State of Israel."

The Balfour Declaration, a public pledge by Britain in 1917 declaring the aim to establish "a national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, was written as a letter by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild. The declaration lit the fire of the Arab-Israeli conflict and led to proponents of Zionism, a movement advocating self-determination for the Jewish people in their historical homeland, from the Mediterranean to the eastern part of the Jordan River, an area that came to be known as Palestine. Political aims aside, the declaration put all Palestinians in danger of losing their homes and land and opened a path to decades of desperation.

Terms such as strike, occupation, martyr, demonstration and freedom, which normally children of her age were not familiar with, became the reality.

"My childish mind was not thinking of toys, picnics or fun anymore, but overwhelmed with the grief of a friend whose brother was arrested and neighbors who lost their son. My drawing book was not looking fresh and colorful with drawings of a nice house with a garden and birds, but only the Palestinian flag."

The occupation of Mansour's country affected her entire childhood, as she did not grow up doing what children of her age did. Singing a happy, childish song was not her reality. Things that seemed innocent once became a crime in a day.

Recalling those days, Mansour mentioned that even hanging a Palestinian flag was a crime that led to imprisonment, adding: "One day, I remember when the Israeli soldiers stopped my father and forced him to climb the electricity tower to take off a flag. I remember how much I hated them as my father was trying hard to persuade them that he cannot climb due to an operation on his backbone."

In 1947, international actors took action on Palestine, and the resolution on Jerusalem to be an "international city" was recommended by the U.N. with a Partition Plan. The plan was accepted by the Jewish agency despite its dissatisfaction over such matters as territorial limits set on the proposed Jewish state. However, it was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs and Arab states with the reason that it violates the right of people to decide their own destiny granted by the U.N. Charter and gives the Jewish minority more than half of the country. After that, on May 14, 1948, the first war between Arabs and Israel broke out. The situation got out of control day by day, and in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli forces targeted the eastern part of Jerusalem, which was previously under Jordanian control.The wars and conflicts have come and gone over time, but Mansour said things did not get any better.

From the very beginning of the Israeli occupation, many Palestinians, like Mansour, who has come to Istanbul and built herself and her family a new life, had to leave their country and live abroad as they became unwanted in their own land. While Palestinians are systematically forced to leave their homes, the Jewish population in the country is increasing. According to 2012 records, there were 660,200 Jews, 310,700 Arabs/Muslims and 16,500 Christians in Jerusalem. The Palestinian population worldwide is over 12 million.

On Dec. 6, Trump, president of the United States, formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and ordered the U.S. Embassy move there, which is considered a violation of international law and a huge setback to hopes for peace. This decision has been met with outrage worldwide, emphasizing the city's religious importance, not only for Jews, but also for Muslims and Christians. The reason is that the city includes the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock considered as holy by both Jews and Muslims.

The United Nations Security Council voted to condemn the decision, but the U.S. used its veto power once again, backing Israel while the 14 other members supported the resolution.

While protests are increasing worldwide against this violation of international law, Mansour, as a Palestinian woman who still remembers her fearful memories such as "waking up in the middle of the night due to hard knocking and shouting from the Israeli soldiers at some of our neighbors to arrest their sons," does not want her children to experience all the same things, like many others. She said: "However, nowadays my children are living the new intifada, the Jerusalem intifada that actually started three years ago. This time is different from the others. However, the goal of its people is persistent and that is to get back the 27,000 square kilometers of land of Palestine free from occupation."

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