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‘Britain is responsible for my tragedy’

November 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm

81-year-old Palestinian, Abdul-Hamid Ramadan Al-Aloul and his granddaughter Hala

On the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the British promise to help create a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, Motasem A Dalloul interviews 81-year-old Palestinian, Abdul-Hamid Ramadan Al-Aloul, who has lived through the British occupation, the Nakba and Israeli air strikes on his home.

“My mother told me that my uncle was killed in an attack carried out by armed Jewish groups near Haifa just two years before I was born,” Abdul-Hamid Ramadan Al-Aloul, who was born in 1936, tells MEMO. “I was born and grew up during the British occupation, which armed Jewish gangs and prevented any Palestinian from even carrying a folding pocket knife,” Al-Aloul says.

I have heard this from several Palestinians who lived during the British Mandate, which violently deterred Palestinian protests against Jewish migration and executed many Palestinians who revolted. “The situation deteriorated due to imbalanced British positions,” Al-Aloul says, “until 1947 and 1948 when attacks [by] Jewish gangs against Palestinian cities and villages increased to an unbearable point”.

During sporadic Jewish attacks on Palestinians between 1929 and 1948 Al-Aloul lost seven close relatives from his village, Breer. “On May 12, 1948, my uncle came to our home and asked us to leave and follow him,” Al-Aluold says. “My mother asked, ‘where are we going’? He said, ‘I do not know, but we must leave now’. She asked, ‘why’? He said, ‘the Jewish gangs are going to kill everyone here’. He said these words and ran away.”

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Al-Aloul continues: “My father, my mother, my two little sisters, my cousin and me gathered and went towards the door. Then, I do not know what happened. Something exploded, I think it was a shell from a tank stationed at the hilltop overlooking our village from the eastern side… My father’s back was wounded, my cousin was wounded in his left hand and I lost my left leg”.

Ten years ago, I interviewed Yousef Muharram from the same village. He was over 20-years-old when the war happened. He told me that a tank stationed on the hilltop along with a plane bombed the village and killed at least 70 people. He told me that when he saw the plane for the first time he thought it was made of wood.

Wounded, executed

Al-Aloul recalls what it was like to live under the Nakba: “There was a school in our village and there was only the street between our house and this school. Most people either fled the village or sought refuge at the school. My mother pulled my father inside the house and we hid inside until the next day when three armed Jews broke into our house at dawn on May 13, 1948.”

“They came into [the] room where we hid and pointed their guns towards my father. My sister, who was older than me said, ‘he is wounded’. One of [them] shot her immediately in the chest. They pointed their guns at my cousin. He raised his wounded hand and said, ‘I am wounded’. One of them shot him in the head and he died. My father passed away.”

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After killing my sister and cousin and my father passing away, I was still alive, as was my other sister and younger brother, recounts Al-Aloul: “One of the Jews asked me to stand up and I said, ‘I cannot’. He asked me about my mother and I said I did not know where she was. He looked for her inside the house and found her and asked her to come to the room where we were. She refused as she was afraid of being raped. She said he would not harm her and asked her to carry me and take me with my little sister and brother to the school.”

Al-Aloul’s mother, her wounded son and two younger siblings remained at the school for about two hours and then decided to leave for Simsim, a village about three kilometres to the east of Breer: “In Simsim, we found a donkey and my mother put me on its back and we fled to Dimra, a village about five kilometres south of Simsim, where we found an ambulance. My mother asked the paramedics to take me but they said they [were going] to Breer and look for wounded people,” he says.

In the evening, while Al-Aloul, his mother and his siblings were in Dimra, the ambulance returned to look for him. “They took me alone and moved me to Tel Al-Sakan Hospital in Gaza,” Al-Aloul says. “The next day, my mother arrived and visited me in the hospital, where I remained for one month, knowing nothing about what was happening around me.”

Tel Al-Sakan was the only hospital in the Gaza Strip and, according to Al-Aloul, it was full of wounded people being admitted from different places, most of them from the occupied villages around Gaza.

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1956 executions

After leaving hospital, Abdul-Hamid and his family moved towards the south of Gaza in an attempt to eventually reach Egypt. They found members of their extended family and people from their village in Rafah, the southern Gaza city, and they stayed with them for a while. It was easy to move to Egypt at that time as the Gaza Strip remained under Egyptian control after the 1948 occupation.

“Later on, we moved to Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, and we had temporary residence and started to receive humanitarian assistance from UNRWA,” he says. “In 1956, during the tripartite attack on Egypt, the Jewish army invaded Gaza and stayed for four months. During that time it carried out several massacres across the Strip,” he says.

“One day, during the four months, Jewish troops raided the refugee camp and gathered all the youths in an area to the east of the camp and at the last minute, something happened, I [don’t know what], that made them refrain from killing all of them,” Abdul-Hamid says. “However, they carried out two massacres in Gaza and one in Khan Younis and others elsewhere.”

My mother was an eyewitness to one of the massacres carried out in the main square in Gaza in the centre of Gaza City, says Abdul-Hamid.

60 years later another tragedy

Abdul-Hamid built a house and lived peacefully until 1987, when Israeli occupation forces stormed his house. “When I saw the Israeli troops inside my house, I fell in convulsion,” Abdul-Hamid says. “I recalled the 1948 memories when most of my family members were killed before my eyes.”

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In January 2009, several days before the end of a 22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, the International Red Cross told residents in the southern area of Gaza City to leave their homes ahead of an Israeli plan to carry out a wide ground operation. Abdul-Hamid did not hesitate and he along all of his extended family left their house immediately, fearing the repetition of his 1948 tragedy.

“We left our house in different groups,” Abdul-Hamid says. “My eldest son Zuhair left the house first with his family. Just five minutes later, I heard the sound of a huge explosion and asked one of my grandsons to check what had happened. A few minutes later he came and told me that Zuhair, his wife, his three sons and his two daughters, as well as my youngest son Ramadan were killed in an Israeli air strike. I immediately fainted.”

Of Zuhair’s family only one married daughter survived, who has been until today suffering from trauma. Ramadan was survived by his two-year-old daughter and 15-day-old son.

Abdul-Hamid is now over 80 and still hopes to return to his home village. “If I do not go back to Breer alive, I hope to be buried in its soil when I leave this life,” he says.

“[The British government] is proud of my tragedy” – says Abdul-Hamid when I tell him that they are planning to celebrate the Balfour Declaration – “because this declaration led the to the creation of the criminal state of Israel which was and is the result of all the tragedies Palestinians like me [suffer from].” He stressed that the UK “pledged a land which it did not own to people who did not deserve it”.

Read: Palestinian campaign to force UK to cancel Balfour celebrations

Digital campaign to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued by Lord Arthur Balfour

Digital campaign to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued by Lord Arthur Balfour