- 24 May 21
Born in 1972, Fadl Mohamad Mustapha is Duty Manager with Bridgestock Care at the IPAS centre for asylum seekers in Letterkenny, Donegal. Fadl came to Ireland with his wife Aoife after she chose to return home after living in Dubai for a number of years. He speaks to Hot Press for the sixth entry in our Palestinian Voices series.
"Being a 1948 Palestinian refugee, my family are scattered around the world. My ancestors came from Akka, North of what is now Israel. There are still a number of relatives from my parent’s side who remained in Akka and are still living in Akka and other parts of Israel," Fadl tells Hot Press, referring to Al Nakba.
Over 750,000 Palestinian people were displaced when the United Nations General Assembly proposed a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one in November 1947. What resulted was the mass exodus of Palestinians when Zionist plans for ethnic cleansing were implemented. The choice was to leave their land, homes and villages or face death.
"Unfortunately, the trauma did not begin in the last few weeks of 2021, it has been going on since 1948 for me, my family and many other Palestinian families who have been ethnically displaced from their ancestral homes and lands," Fadl acknowledges.
"We, the Palestinians are not immune to pain, grief and suffering nor are we immune to death that is taking place every single day in the Occupied Territories and Gaza. So I live with the trauma of not having a national home, the trauma of seeing and hearing the destruction and the loss of life and livelihood of many innocent Palestinians and Israelis."
"Gaza is a pain I live with constantly, not just whenever rockets are being fired. I grieve with the Palestinians of Gaza for their losses and struggle to achieve their basic rights to life. I struggle with the fact that it does not seem acceptable to the international community that Palestinians have the right to live in dignity and freedom, without the illegal occupation over their heads everyday, of being oppressed and ethnically discriminated against and displaced from their generational homes, of being dehumanised and subjected to subhuman treatment."
The 1948 Nakba actually began decades earlier, since Napoleon tried to establish French presence in the Middle East in 1799. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the establishment of the Palestine Mandate, the British colonial power began implementing its plan of creating a Jewish state on Palestinian land. At the same time, the Zionist movement was lobbying Western powers to support the mass migration of Jews to Palestine and recognise a Jewish claim to the land. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, Zionist leaders and military commanders met regularly from March 1947 to March 1948, when they finalised plans to ethnically cleanse Palestine.
"The Nakba is a significant point in not only the history of the Middle East but the world in general," Mustapha adds.
"The meaning of the word Nakba in English is ‘Catastrophe’, which in itself speaks volumes and does not need an explanation. When such historical events are not recognised, they are then normalised and brushed aside into the history bins. We need to talk about occupation, oppression and injustice at every opportunity, we should teach our children these events so that they do not commit the same crimes."
"It is shameful and disrespectful not to recognise and be reminded that the Nakba is a day where 800, 000 Palestinians were killed, terrorised, forcefully evicted and displaced from their homes and lands to be ethnically replaced by another," Fadl says. "After the Nakba of 1948 came the Naksa of 1967. Naksa means ‘setback or defeat’, where Palestinians lost what remained of their homeland. The Palestinians are still living with trauma from both the Nakba and the Naksa."
Commenting on the media coverage of the recent airstrikes by the IDF in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire, which saw 230 Palestinians killed and 10 Israelis, Fadl remarks that Palestinians are unsurprised by the lack of action taken by Western leaders and the United Nations. Despite a ceasefire agreement last week, attacks continued at the al-Aqsa mosque on Friday. Police raids at the mosque and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had led in part to the rise in violence in Gaza.
"Over decades Israel has created a massive propaganda campaign against the Palestinians and to align itself with the West in terms of lifestyles, traditions and values, and by claiming that they are the ‘only’ democracy in the Middle East," Mustapha explains.
"Also, powerful Jewish and Israeli lobbies in the West influence decision makers in US and EU governments, and appeal to Christian Zionists in terms of religious beliefs. But I can see a rift and a change in the winds. We have to make the efforts to change the conversation, the narrative and terminology when it comes to talking about the Palestinian struggle, and we need to talk more about it, in homes, educational institutes, at work and within the community."
"We need to disassociate anti-Zionism with Antisemitism in order to hold Israel to the same international standards in accountability and responsibility," Fadl adds. "This cause will not end until Palestinians gain access to their most basic human rights, their right to life, dignity and freedom in peace."
"It is disrespectful and humiliating to see America funding the Israeli military. It shows disregard to Palestinian human life when the US knows that these weapons are used to slaughter innocent civilians and help the continuation of the occupation. This will only affirm the US is complicit in these crimes. The American people need to know that this is where part of their tax is going."
"We are not relying and depending to influence world leaders directly, we want to convince humanity that this is a just cause and our cause is a right and just cause. We want to build solidarity on a human level and this will create the change needed in governments and decisions."
Having lived through four brutal attacks on Gaza alone since 2008, does Fadl have hope for the future of Palestine as a territory that can be freed from apartheid?
"My hope is simply to lift the occupation, to rid Israelis and Palestinians from this oppressive racist regime that rules both of them in the form of their government. To allow the younger generation of Palestinians to have their voices heard and be part of decision making for the Palestinians.
"We need a fresh approach and mentality; get rid of the corrupt leaders in the Palestinian government. If change is going to come it has to be from within, the conversation needs to happen between Palestinians and Israelis who want peace. We share a small piece of land and we need to build a relationship to live in peace and dignity with each other," Mustapha continues, passionately.
"The people of Ireland have been great supporters of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people, we need the masses to pressure the decision making process at government level, and now Ireland has a chance to prove that they stand on the right side of history with being a member in the UN Security Council. BDS is a powerful tool to highlight the injustices the Palestinian people live with. It is a peaceful mean to challenge the complicity of the oppressive Israeli regime and support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. It was successful in South Africa’s fight against apartheid and it can work again."
Hanan Ashrawi once said that we are the only people on earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier while Israel is the only country that calls for defence from its victims.
Trust me, it’s not complicated. I came across a tweet recently that said, "I don’t know how to convince you that there is nothing on earth that justifies caging people and killing them. The wiping an entire family off the face of the earth is not self defence. I don’t know how to convince you that Palestinians are precious souls who deserve life too." It’s that simple.
Hot Press' Palestinian Voices series aims to platform activists, lawyers, and members of the public with emotional connections to Gaza and the surrounding lands of Palestine. For more information on the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, visit ipsc.ie.
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