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The Israeli Times reported recently that the Israeli Defence Forces have taken possession of three more F-35 fighter from the United States, bringing the total number of the stealth aircraft in Israel to at least 12.
The F-35 jets, known in Israel by their Hebrew name, the “Adir,” meaning mighty or great, arrived at the Israeli Air Forces’ Nevatim base, southeast of Beersheba, on Sunday 25 July 2018. Each jet costs approximately $100 million and Israel is believed to have ordered 50 from the United States.
The irony of Israel spending such a vast amount on military jets from the United States is not lost on observers such as Saleh, a Palestinian refugee born in Al-Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria and now a citizen of the United States.
Saleh visited Palestine for the first time earlier this year. He arrived holding a map drawn by his uncle, aged 96, a Palestinian refugee living in Jordan, on a quest to find his family home in Acre, the historic Palestinian city in the coastal plain region in the north of the Occupied Territory toward the extremity of Haifa Bay close to Lebanon.
Saleh’s story started many months ago when he decided to visit Palestine for the first time and search for his family home. He had nothing to guide him except for some old pictures, other items and word of mouth descriptions, the most important of which was a simple sketch map drawn by his uncle just a few days before his arrival in the Occupied Territories.
Speaking from memory, Saleh’s uncle had noted, “You enter from Beirut-Haifa Street, half a kilometre from the West Sea. On the opposite side is the house of Abdul Fattah Al-Saadi. Our house is surrounded by tens of cypress trees”.
Saleh is one of the Palestinian diaspora that number many millions around the world. His family’s house, in Acre, fell on the 17th of May 1948 along with 1,124 other houses that were taken over by the Israel Land Authority, and which are now run by two Israeli owned housing companies; Amidar and Acre Development Company.
Arriving in Acre, perhaps unsurprisingly given the passage of time, it proved impossible to find Saleh’s family home from his aged uncle’s map and Saleh was forced to use a so-called “British mandate map” (i.e. post 1920) to locate the house. The experience was instrumental and Saleh found that re-written maps, Israeli photographs and mixed feelings had imposed themselves upon the historic Palestinian city.
Finding the family home, Saleh, a Palestinian refugee born in Syria and now a citizen of the United States, stood overwhelmed. Just as his uncle promised, the house was surrounded on three sides by cypress trees. The entrance, the windows and the garden remained just as described by his uncle, the aged Palestinian now living as a refugee in Jordan.
Saleh had known that his home had been occupied by an Israeli family immediately after the Nakba of 1948, which took everything from people like Saleh and his family. Palestinian land, houses, property and opportunity were rendered valueless and cruelly stripped from a humble and friendly people.
The displaced, just like others robbed of their property by the colonialism of the British, spread themselves across the globe. In countless destinations the Palestinian diaspora maintain their honour, dignity and their rights. People like Saleh, and their efforts to establish historical familial connections, contribute immeasurably to understanding the social and economic conditions of the past, and the remarkable families that lost their livelihoods, their homes and their lives during a shameful period of history.
The dispossessed Palestinians, along with countless others like the Chagossians, the Indians, the Irish, the Scots, have travelled the world and apply their creativity and resource in ways that today benefit all of humankind.
We can muse over the merits of a state populated by 8 million people, carrying a national debt of over $95 Billion, receiving 50 advanced military jets as part of a $38 Billion military aid package from the United States, but the only truth that will emerge is that the burning issue in the Palestinian Occupied Territories cannot be suppressed by fast jets.
The impact of F-35s on the human and property rights of the many people made vulnerable in the Occupied Territories will be negligible. The impoverishment of the Palestinian people will continue to be attributed to the lack of opportunity and inequality that accompanies the attempt to suppress their historic rights and property, which will not endure.
For citizens of the United States like Saleh, and his family in refugee camps across Jordan, F-35s serve only as a very visible reminder that a right will never be lost so long as someone is striving to suppress it!