Dearborn — Hasan Newash was six years old when his family fled their home in the Palestinian village of Ein Karem in 1947, when it was overrun by a right-wing Jewish militia ahead of the establishment of Israel.
Newash returned to visit his childhood home in 1990, more than 40 years later, and found the house his father built still intact, now inhabited by Israelis, with Arabic script still carved above the front the door reading “He who enters this home is safe.”
The village was incorporated into West Jerusalem and has become high-end real estate property.
Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel and the displacement of the indigenous Palestinians, referred to as Al-Naqba — “the catastrophe” — by Palestinians and other Arabs.
As head of the Detroit-area activist group the Palestine Office, Nawash launched commemorations on Wednesday at the Lebanese American Heritage Club, where supporters released 60 balloons into the sky symbolizing Palestinian resilience.
Newash announced plans for a major May 24 commemoration event, 6 p.m. at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center.
He said over 1,000 people are expected to attend.
“This is a symbolic event to actually show our resilience and our insistence on having our people continue to yearn and hope for a return and justice in Palestine…
“Palestinians all over the world —and those who remain in Israel as Palestinian citizens under Israeli rule — all commemorate the destruction of their cohesive community and mass eviction forcefully carried out — close to a million people — by what later becomes the Israeli army back in 1948.”
A non-Arab peace activist joined Newash in his announcements, telling about how President Jimmy Carter’s 2007 book, “Peace Not Apartheid,” led her to fight for the rights of Palestinians.
Sarah Smith Redmond, of the group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, said Carter’s book inspired her to visit the Occupied Territories with a church group.
“There’s nothing like that experience of seeing those facts on the ground,” she said. “There is only so much you can learn from books, but when you go and you find out what is happening on the ground, it tugs at your heart like nothing else does… In Israel, there is more open discussion of this topic than there is in the United States.”
Osama Siblani, who is publisher of The Arab American News and a supporter of Palestinian resistance, spoke at the event about the plight of Palestinian refugees.
“They live in houses that are hell in the summer and hell in the winter,” he said. “No schools. No medical centers to take care of them. We take water for granted in this country. They don’t have any drinking water. They cannot leave the country without permission from the government that is hosting them. It’s not a temporary situation. It’s been 60 years. There are some people who were born and died living like this. There are some people who are born today and they probably will die living like this unless we do something.”
Siblani criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for celebrating the anniversary of Israel’s creation on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his trip to the Middle East.
“I think the President of the United States should be in a refugee camp today. If he wants to be honest with the principles of America, he needed to be at a refugee camp somewhere where people are suffering. And he does not have to go far from where he is sitting with Olmert to see how the Palestinians have been suffering…
“I don’t think we should shy away from saying we support the resistance. All nations have a right to resist occupation.”