The waiting game

Posters in a Syrian refugee camp of the assassinated Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

Rahr’s eyes briefly mist over as he stares at the bare, white wall in front of him.

“Every nation, even the strong ones, eventually become weak,” he says.

The 25-year-old is one of more than 450,000 Palestinian refugees now living in Syria.

His father was just two when the family fled their home in the West Bank town of Ramallah after the state of Israel was created in 1948.

Now, under UN rules which grant refugee status to any descendants of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, he has become one of Syria’s many men-in-waiting.

“We will have a nation,” insists Rahr, a chemist who makes drugs for vetinary surgeries.

“Israel will be defeated when the Arab nations join together.”

It sounds like the kind of discredited Arab nationalist rhetoric once espoused by the Egyptian demagogue Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Rahr talks of the Palestinians eventually achieving istaqlaal, or independence, and overcoming the oppression of the Israeli occupation.

Yet one wonders how many Palestinians here would choose to go back if they had the opportunity. The majority were born in Syria and have never touched foot on the soil they want to call home.

Although, as in other Arab countries, Palestinians here are not eligible for citizenship (a result of a pan-Arab 1965 agreement to preserve the identity of refugees), they are granted full access to government services, possess travel documents, have the same educational rights as Syrian citizens and can work as government employees.

In contrast, refugees in Lebanon were only granted the right to work last month – and even then they are barred from professional jobs like law and medicine and are forbidden from buying property.

One Palestinian friend said he would be surprised if many refugees ever did take up their right of return.

“They are brought up to think like this,” he once said. “It’s what they are supposed to say. But why would you go back to an undeveloped Palestinian state when you have a successful life in Syria?”

Just ask Rahr. He is a patient man, and takes a long-term view of the Palestinian waiting game.

“Look at America. They were once strong, and now they are becoming weak. Soon Israel will be defeated.”

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. naniwanotebook
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 18:41:34

    Very good, Ali….although Rahr is clutching at straws a bit, isn’t he?


    • Spice Bazaar
      Sep 24, 2010 @ 19:16:50

      Aye wa! I think he probably is given the way things are going out here…

      Laakina Wilson, one day we’ll be watching the 10 o’clock news as Jeremy Bowen reports on the creation of the first ever Palestinian state!

      Love your pics by the way…you got talent. I need me an SLR pronto – only problem is I’ve got bugger all money. Just gonna hava to make do with the one I have now and then shamelessly copy your slideshow format.


      • naniwanotebook
        Sep 24, 2010 @ 19:32:05

        A good eye is all you need! Plus some modest language skills to butter your subjects up, then they are putty in your greasy palms, as it were.

        Invest in a good camera though, and it will motivate you to get out onto the streets, which is the place to be. It gives a good excuse ti talk to people, too.

        Ps: clearly Freddie Mercury died twice, first by AIDS and then again by Israeli missiles (assuming al-Mabhouh’s demise wasn’t fratricidal).


  2. Trackback: Spice Bazaar | Syria News Wire

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