Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa has been visiting Palestinian refugees in camps around Lebanon as part of his #WalkToPalestine campaign.
Ladraa has visited some seven refugee camps, including Burj El-Barajneh, Shatila, Dbayeh and Rashidieh. The 24-year-old expressed his shock at the harsh living conditions in the camps, where running water and electricity is inaccessible to many, with poor education and healthcare facilities.
He also highlighted the numerous restrictions on Palestinian refugees who are barred from applying to nearly 100 professions under Lebanese law, as well as the daily inconvenience of checkpoints. Overcrowding in the camps is also a major issue as the sites cannot expand legally, and residents are forced to pay large sums to guards to allow illicit construction.
“I haven’t met anyone that wouldn’t go back to Palestine in an instant if he could. In all the debate and discussion about Palestine/Israel this basic reality is sometimes forgotten,” he says on Facebook. “The Zionist forces killed and massacred Palestinians in the Nakba 70 years ago and forced them to flee for their very lives. They left everything behind because they thought they would be back in a few days. They are still waiting in their refugee camps to return to their homeland.”
Ladraa was also briefly injured when a car ran into him on the road.
“Luckily it was just an accident and when I went to the hospital for x-rays they told me nothing was broken,” he said of the incident.
Ladraa is just 25 kilometres from the border of Palestine but will be taking a plane to Jordan and walking from Amman to the Jordanian border to try to cross into Palestine.
“Honestly I have no idea how the Israelis are going to react, what they are going to do,” he told MEMO. “I expect a long interrogation and perhaps they will not let me enter Palestine because of my human rights activism.”
The Swedish musician chose to make the journey to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which provided international legitimacy for the Zionist project which led to the subsequent creation of the state of Israel and the displacement of nearly one million Palestinians in 1948.