Pulp Non Fiction

[ Monday, August 29, 2005 ]


Gaza Pullout from the Perspective of a Palestinian Refugee

By: Rev. Alex Awad

As a Palestinian who became a refugee at a very young age, I have no
doubt that the settlers who were evicted from the Gaza Strip have been
deeply traumatized. As I flipped from one news broadcast to the other
following the story, I couldn't help but be moved by the tears of the
Israeli children, who were born and raised in these settlements,
trying to convince God and the soldiers to stop their eviction. These
children have known no other home and many of them have difficulty
understanding the political complexities that are determining their
fate. Children continue to suffer for decisions made by supposedly
intelligent adults. The tears of the settler children brought back to
me memories of my family's forced eviction years ago. I was touched by
the agony of the children, especially because my six siblings and I
ranged in age from one to eleven years when we were forced out of our
home and joined the trail of tears of thousands of Palestinian

Although the suffering of children who are forced out from their homes
is real and traumatic, regardless of their religious or ethnic
backgrounds, it is important to put the current pullout into
perspective. I do this not to undermine or belittle the suffering of
Israelis. My purpose is to fit this one piece of history into its
rightful place within the larger mosaic of the dark saga of the
Arab-Israeli conflict. Consider the following facts:

· For every Israeli child that was
evicted from their home in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinian
children were evicted from their homes in 1948 and in 1967. My
siblings and I were among those refugee children.

· For every Israeli child that was
evicted from their home in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinian
children saw their homes demolished in the Gaza Strip and consequently
became homeless in their own neighborhoods. In some cases the parents
and children collapsed under the ruins of their homes.

· Israeli children were evicted by
order of their own government that did its utmost to ensure that these
children and their parents would have as safe and comfortable a
transplant as possible. Not so when Palestinian children and their
parents were forcibly evicted from their homes. Many of the
Palestinian children lost one or both parents during those nightmarish
evictions. My siblings and I lost our father.

· Israeli children who were recently
evicted from the Gaza Strip have been moved to cities, towns, camps,
and hotels that are equipped with life's essential necessities
including fresh water, food, electricity, and shelter. Their parents
will receive compensations of $250,000-$500,000 per family. They have
much reason to be confident in their future outlook. Palestinian
children who survived their expulsion were placed in open air refugee
camps that had no running water, no electricity, no food, no beds, no
bathroom facilities and no shelter. It took several months after their
evictions in 1948 before the Red Cross provided tents for them. Their
parents were never compensated, and they, now grown adults, know that
it is even less likely that they will ever be compensated. They have
picked up the tattered pieces of their lives, but what if they, like
Israeli children, had been treated humanely? How would this have
affected the politics of the region as a whole?

· Israeli parents who were
transplanted from the Gaza Strip became aware of Sharon's decision
months before the evictions began, allowing them ample time to
spiritually and psychologically prepare their children for the
inevitable. In most cases, Palestinian children had only minutes' or
hours' notices before they were forced to run away from entire cities,
towns and villages that were targeted for destruction or for ethnic
cleansing. Palestinian children left their beloved homes and fields
not knowing that they would never see them again. Footage of Gaza's
boys and girls searching for their toys amidst the rubbles of their
homes was common during the terrible days of the second Intifada.

For the sake of future generations of Israeli and Palestinian
children, adults, who have the power to make crucial decisions
regarding waging wars or making peace and building up or tearing down
of homes, must first ask themselves what will be the consequences of
their actions on men, women, and children. Consider these questions:

· Who taught the settler children that
all of historic Palestine including the Gaza Strip belongs exclusively
to Jews by divine decree and that evicting Jews from these territories
is equivalent to blasphemy against God?

· Where was the Israeli conscience and
Jewish sense of political and social justice when their army gradually
turned the Gaza Strip into the largest open air prison in the world,
causing immense suffering and impoverishment to nearly half a million
Palestinian children?

· Now that the Gaza settlements have
become history, who will compensate Gaza's Palestinian children for
the death, destruction, impoverishment, and trauma that the mistake of
the Israeli occupation has heaped upon them and their parents over a
period of nearly 40 years?

I salute Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for fixing his and his
country's mistakes in the Gaza Strip and I hope for the sake of all
Israeli and Palestinian children that he will correct his and his
country's blunders in the West Bank.


Alex Awad is the pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church and Dean
of Students at Bethlehem Bible College. His email is abawad@p-ol.com

art [5:57 PM]