The Palestine Media Unit of the Public Relations Department issued a book based on testimonies of Palestinian refugees who fled from their hometowns and villages in 1948. Their stories give an idea about the social, cultural and political atmosphere in Palestine before, during and after the deportation of around a million Palestinian citizens from their cities, towns and villages. The book contains thirty-six testimonies of elders who are mostly from refugee camps in Nablus district: those who are living in the refugee camps of Balata, Al-Ein and Askar as well as those who are residents of the city of Nablus.
Ala Yousef, Coordinator of the Media Unit, expressed his gratitude to have this book published, stating it is a dream come true to see the testimonies written in a book in order to preserve the memories of the elder generations for the new ones, especially at a moment where Palestinians feel the Nakba (catastrophe) continues. He added that the Israeli attacks against Palestinian properties remind everybody of what happened in 1948. He thanked all the volunteers who contributed to the publication by recording and interviewing the eyewitnesses of the Nakba over the past few years -it is worth mentioning it took a few years till the book was ready for publishing; it needed great effort, as the accent had to be kept and all the dialect words of each village had to be reserved-. Many eyewitnesses died after interviewing them, what pushed the team to hurry up. One of the problems that have been encountered while working on the book is the decrease in the number of available eyewitnesses. Mr. Yousef thanked all those who have made it possible for this book to see the light. Among these, the Askar Development Center and the University Administration, as well as the unforgettable volunteer Asem Yousef, who died few days before publishing the book. The first copy is dedicated to his memory.
The testimonies concentrate on life before the Diaspora in Palestinian cities such as Yafa, Haifa, Lod, as well as the villages that defended themselves for months before collapsing. The witnesses describe Palestine as a non empty country before the arrival of the Jewish immigrants; Palestine was neither empty nor desert, there were green fields and meadows extending all over the countryside. Fatima -one of the elders- says: “if Palestine had been desert, then why did Jews make everything to capture it! We were producing our food and our lands were fertile, we were enjoying our social life and life was so good”. Eyewitnesses speak about their first visit to their homes after twenty years of deportation, about the pain they felt and the memories that came to their minds. The publishing of this book comes as an initiative to raise public awareness about what happened in 1948 and to encourage Palestinians to demand a solution of the refugees problem that should be based on the United Nations Resolution 194, the non-negotiable right of return.
The researcher, Ala Yousef recommended that this topic should be taught at Palestinian schools and universities, and furthermore translated into English in order to develop a better understanding of the refugee’s issue. More interviews should be conducted with the eyewitnesses who are still alive, broadcasting these testimonies in the Palestinian radio stations and producing documentaries and fictional productions on this historical period of Palestine history. He finished by asking the British Government and the British Parliament to apologize to the Palestinian people for the historical plight done to Palestinians, for the atrocities and deportations from their homeland since 1948. These have forced Palestinians to live in refugee camps, even though they were not involved in anything related to the anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in Europe. Why then do they have to pay the price of the others´ mistakes?