Stories from Afar & Up Close


It requires some navigation, but there is something I would like to show you. Please click here, go to the bottom of the menu (left), click on ‘wat kunt u doen?’, then on the first link on that page: ‘verstuur een e-card’. Take a look at the map at the bottom of the page. That’s Palestine/Israel.

The red is the amount of land in Palestinian hands (1946 – 2007). The light grey is the amount of land in Jewish/Israeli hands (1946 – 2007).

Lebanon, neighbor to the above, hosts about 200 to 400 thousand Palestinians in various camps around the country. Some people have been living there since 1948. Can you imagine? Living in a refugee camp for 60 years? Life in these camps is not exactly luxurious: high unemployment and poverty rates, militias ruling certain areas (the Lebanese army is not allowed to go inside the camps), housing often consists of random building materials with essential elements (doors, windows) lacking. A friend who works in Bourj el Barajneh, one of the camps, overheard a colleague saying ‘my wife couldn’t go to work today. The roof fell down and it dislodged her shoulder’, in the same tone of voice as if he told her he forgot to pick up the newspaper on his way to the office. Shit happens. That’s life in the camps.

Living in Lebanon it is impossible to forget about the Palestinians. Their presence in Lebanon, and what’s happening to them in their homeland, is a constant factor even outside the news-bulletins. If it’s not in one of the exhibitions, lectures or concerts organized to commemorate the start of the civil war in Lebanon (33 years ago, this April), it’s in the words of Walid’s grandfather who starts many of his stories with ‘when I was young, and the state of Israel didn’t exist, I would walk to [name of a city in Palestine/Israel] to teach there’. And then there is the inevitable response when discussing the news: Sure it’s bad that two soldiers died in Afghanistan. But is anyone concerned with the nine Palestinian children that were killed today?

This is not an accusation. It is merely a reminder of the bizarreness of the situation, a reminder that this should not become ‘normal’. Other people’s thoughts can be found here and here and here.

I didn’t write this because I know what needs to be done (obviously, I don’t). There are many solutions, to as many problems, and none of them will please everyone. I just wrote this because I think it is a situation that requires more attention. And hopefully, if enough people hear about it, somebody will have an idea that works. But I have one suggestion: let’s get rid of the term ‘the Palestinian Problem’ first. The other time somebody thought a certain People constituted a Problem, he called it ‘Judenfrage’, and we all know what happened then.