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Homeland Lost - The Palestinians


Originally from al-Nahr, Zeinab al’Sakka lives in Burj al-Barajneh Refugee Camp, Lebanon. She is shown wearing her wedding dress, the only possession she brought with her when she left Palestine in 1948. Married one month before her village was attacked by Israeli forces, she and her husband escaped by walking to Lebanon.
Originally from Qisarya, Khaled Tayeb and his wife now live in Tulkarm Refugee Camp. They met and married in the camp, which is common as village communities stick together in exile. Both are of African descent with ancestors who came to Palestine as slaves, pilgrims or workers; today they are integrated into Palestinian society.
Qisarya was one of the first villages along the northern coast to be forcefully evacuated. Following the attacks in early 1948, all but a few of their houses were destroyed to discourage the villagers from returning. Today, Caesarea is a popular holiday resort and restaurants and cafes have opened in the Palestinian houses that remained standing.
Mustafa Mahmoud Kassem al-Yassini lives in East Jerusalem. He is holding a portrait of his sister, with whom he survived the attack on Deir Yassin. Mustafa's mother was giving birth when Jewish militias attacked their village. His sister pushed out a grenade that had been thrown into the doorway of their house and the two siblings escaped.
The attack on Deir Yassin, today a Jerusalem suburb, was a turning point in the war. It was the site of a massacre by Jewish militias in which more than a hundred men, women and children were killed. Reports of the atrocities at Deir Yassin led many to flee their villages when Jewish forces approached for fear of similar treatment.
Muhammad Hawari appears here with his son Khalil and his granddaughter Shireen. Muhammad left Haifa in 1948 and settled in Beirut, eventually securing Lebanese nationality. Like many of his fellow exiles, he found work in the oil industry, working for BP in Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. His children have settled in Lebanon.
When Jewish militias entered Haifa in 1948 the harbour town was home to 65,000 Palestinians - Christians and Muslims. The Palestinian elite had already fled, leaving the remaining inhabitants without leadership. When they attempted to escape by boat, several vessels sank in the chaos, while British troops looked on without intervening.
Originally from Isdud, Sameh Zakout now lives in Ramleh a mixed Arab and Jewish city in Israel. He is sitting in front of a house in the village in which his grandfather once lived. His grandparents were among the Palestinians who were allowed to stay in Israel after 1948 and so he is able to visit their former home.
Isdud was captured in October 1948. Egyptian troops stationed in the area advised the 5,000 inhabitants to leave, but hundreds of them refused, appealing to the Jewish forces to be allowed to remain. A few days later they were expelled; only the ruins of the mosque, two school buildings and a few houses remain of the old village.
All but one of the 120 houses in al-Nahr were destroyed when the Israeli army took the village on 21 May, 1948. More than 600 inhabitants survived; they fled the village and were not permitted to return. Today the Israeli settlements of Kabri and Ben Ammi replace part of the ruins.
Originally from al- Tantura, Fawzi Muhammad Tanji served in the British Mandate Police until 1948. Today he lives in Tulkarm Refugee Camp in the West Bank; he is shown holding his discharge papers, the only official document in his possession which proves that he once lived in Palestine.
Fawzi Muhammad Tanji claims to have witnessed the execution of ninety adult males during the attack on al-Tantura in May 1948, although the occurrence of a massacre at al-Tantura has never been fully established. Although the building pictured survived to become an archaeological museum, most of the village was levelled.
Originally from Wadi al-Hawarith Hussein al-Luwaisi 'Abu Khalid' is now living in Tulkarm Refugee Camp in the West Bank. He is shown seated in front of his house, which has just been demolished by the Israeli Army in retaliation for his son's participation in a militant organisation fighting the Israeli occupation.
In 1929 Arab landowners sold the Wadi al-Hawarith lands to the Jewish National Fund, which founded a Jewish settlement there. The Palestinian tenant farmers were told to leave, but a few hundred refused to go and stayed on until 1948. Eventually Jewish militias destroyed nearly all the Palestinian houses to prevent them from returning.
A resident of Beirut until her death in 2008, Sylvia Sneige holds the key to her parents' home in Jerusalem, which her mother gave her on her deathbed. Many Palestinian families hand these keys down from one generation to the next. Keys have become a symbol of the right to return.
Former Sneige family home, Jerusalem. The Sneige family left for Egypt in spring 1948 following a tip off from the British colonial administration. The Israeli government took control of the neighbourhood and subsequently settled Jewish immigrants, many of them new arrivals from war-devastated Europe, in Palestinian-owned houses.
Journalist Hassan al-Alami is a second generation refugee, raised in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. His family were originally from Zakariyyah, where his grandfather owned five hectares of land that he finally lost when Israel introduced a regulation confiscating all the former Palestinian villages.
Although most of the 1000 inhabitants had fled Zakarriyyah by the time the Israeli Army entered the village in October 1948, some returned after the war had ended. In 1950 the Israeli government expelled the 160 remaining Palestinians and repopulated the village with Jewish immigrants from Kurdistan. The mosque remains.
Keys of houses to which their former inhabitants will never return, deeds to plots of land, building permits; all of these can be seen at the Palestine Museum in Tyre, Lebanon. Mahmoud Dakwar, a retired teacher originally from Qaddita, built the museum with his own money to give Palestinian children a sense of their own history.
The Birya recreation area in the north of Israel covers the land of six former Palestinian villages, including Qaddita. The forest was planted in the 1950s and 60s by the Jewish National Fund. European pine trees were chosen because they grow rapidly, but here and there the native olive and fig trees have begun to reappear.