2 December 2012

Omar's Story

written by Hayley Kemp, humanitarian worker


I wanted to tell you the story of a man I visited in Tulkarem Refugee Camp called
Omar Mohammed Amara whose family had been driven out from their village during
the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948. Omar’s story demonstrates just how long the
Palestinians have been and are still suffering. Omar was mayor of Tulkarem Camp
in 1964 and has participated in many political decisions. He has 6 sons, all have
been in prison for resistance to the occupation.

Omar was born on February 22nd in 1933 and says he is still very strong, and he
looks it. He seems very fit and articulate. He says that the Palestinians are not
against anyone in the world. He says that the Israelis call the Palestinians anti
Semitic when they resist the occupation, but he says they cannot and must not be
anti Semitic because they are also the sons of Abraham and so they are his brothers.
‘But when I feel that the Israeli government want to uproot me I am committed to fight
for Palestine.’

He says that he was one of the best students in school but when the occupation
came they took everything, his future. He was very sad that he could not continue to
study and had to leave to find work and food for his family. He says that everyone
sends aid but that they don't need aid, they would be able to sustain themselves. It
is just the occupation, the control on the movement of people and trade that causes
the problems.

When his family left their village, Miskha, it was because they were scared because
they had heard about the massacres in the other villages. Miskha was obliterated in
1948 with the Jewish settlement of Ramat Ha Kosvesh built on it’s 2,019 acres.
More than 500 villages were depopulated and destroyed during the Nakba and
thousand were forced to flee their homes. For a list of destroyed villages

‘We wanted to stay and fight but Palestinians were not allowed to buy guns and so
we had nothing to fight with,’ he tells me. ‘I was 14 at this time in 1947. The Israeli
government sent an Arab man to the village to tell us that if we want to stay in the
village then we must fly the white flag and the Israeli flag and we will be under
Israel's control. People refused and told the man that nobody would accept this.’
After 2 months the man came back and gave them 2 choices, to live under Israel or
to leave. They were told that if they refused this time then they would have a war
with the Israelis. The villagers were told that the Arab soldiers couldn't help them
and so they had to think if they could fight against the Haganah and Irgun (Israeli
Zionist terrorism organisations in Palestine during the British Mandate). ‘Of course
we could not and so we had to leave.’

We went to the nearby village of Al-Tira, ‘It was only 1 kilometre away and we
packed and took some things with us as we thought we would be back home after
about 1 month.’ Then the Israelis attacked Al-Tira. ‘They attacked us three times
and we fought them off this time. I was 15 to 16 years old at this time. We took all
the women and children up into the mountains and the men stayed in the village and
fought. I took my mother and sister up into the hills and then returned to the village
to fight alongside my father. We put observers out and Al-Tira is famous for it's vines
and one day the observer saw some vines moving, the Israelis were using the grapes
for camouflage. The men shouted and took their positions and were fighting the
Israelis all day and defeated them.’

Omar says that many were killed on both sides. After 2 months the Israelis returned
on the other side of the village and they defeated them again. ‘Nearby villagers
came to help but the problem was that now we had no bullets, they were too
expensive and too difficult to buy. One man though had one bullet left and saw a
soldier creeping up with a machine gun ready to shoot many people, he shot him and
saved many lives. The Palestinians took all his bullets and so now we had many
bullets ready for when the Israelis came back a third time a month later. The
Palestinians defeated them again and the Israelis lost their mind that it was just
villagers defeating them.’

Finally in the Armistice signed between Israel and the Arab countries in 1949, Jordan
gave the village to Israel, it is now called the Mishmeret Settlement. ‘We were placed
under curfew, we had no home and nowhere to return to as we were under constant
curfew. We could not work or get a home and so my father decided we should leave.
We went to the military to try and get a permit to leave the village but they would not
give us one but we spoke to the soldiers who said that they would let us through to

When they first came to Tulkarem Omar says they had to sleep on the streets. ‘In
1950 the UN provided some tents for the refugees here because winter was on it's
way. There were 6 in our family and our tent number was number 36. We were
amongst the first people who came to the camp.’ From that day until now he says he
is still waiting for a decision on the refugees right to return to their homes.

When we asked what kept him strong, he told us that it was his bicycle and that he
trains before he sleeps. He has a library and listens to the radio 18 hours daily. His
father lived to be 95 and his mother lived to be 105 and so he also says he has good
genes. 'I have the ability to have these problems and to keep strong'. In 1985 3 of
his sons were in jail and after their arrest the Israeli military closed his office. The
military offered the release of his sons and to reopen his office if he 'cooperated' with
them. He refused. He showed us his bicycle that he has had since 1964. It is a
British Phillips bicycle and was happy to ride it around and show us.

Omar’s story illustrates just how long the people here have been occupied and
oppressed. It also illustrates how they cannot change their situation. You can work
as hard as you can, do the best that you can, all those things that the ‘democratic’
Western governments say we should do to succeed. But even if you do all this, here
nothing changes. Nothing improves. There are no choices. You are still oppressed.
‘This is the life. This is Palestine’, as they say here.

From Aisha's Lips


Muslim Mummy said...


JazakALlah Khair for sharing and getting the truth out there

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