A 1948 Palestinian refugee tells his story

Issue 

Abdul Ramahi is a Palestinian-Australian who lives in Melbourne. A member of the Socialist Alliance, he is active in campaigns to raise awareness on the plight of the Palestinian people.

His own story, which he told Green Left Weekly, illustrates how the lives of Palestinians in the global diaspora are shaped by the ongoing injustice and resistance in their homeland.

Born in 1938, in a village called Muzeira, five kilometres from present-day Tel Aviv, he had a happy childhood. His father was a justice of the peace and owned a large amount of land — close to 100 hectares.

Ramahi recalls his family living in peace with Jews, who were predominantly from Yemen. However, despite their friendly relations, some of them warned his father that a day would come when Jews would take over and establish a Jewish state. During this time, Jewish immigration accelerated with many Jews fleeing from Europe.

On May 14, 1948, war began. Tanks rolled into Muzeira to drive out its inhabitants. Villagers were killed as Jewish militias burned their fields. Others died in the trenches trying to protect Muzeira and the neighbouring town Jaffa, but they never stood a chance as they lacked essential weapons and training.

As the Jewish militias moved in, Ramahi and a cousin sought refuge in a neighbouring village. After seven months of being unable to return home, his family went to a village called Deir Ghassany near Ramallah. His father had a friend there who offered a seven by seven metre room for all 27 members of the family. They lived there for five years.

Although the living arrangements were difficult, to say the least, Ramahi considers his family one of the luckier ones. Other Palestinian refugees were reduced to sleeping under trees, some even giving birth there.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was set up shortly after the crisis to address the growing needs of the refugees and offered essential items such as food and tents. As appreciated as this help was, it did little more than keep the refugees alive.

Later, after leaving school in Ramallah, Ramahi moved to Jordan where he became involved in an underground communist party. He studied in Russia for seven years on a scholarship. However, finding a job in the Middle East proved difficult because of his political affiliations. He eventually migrated to Australia where he lives today with his wife Maysoon and their children.

As Maysoon relates her experiences she finds it hard to hold back her tears. Being significantly younger than Abdul, she lived the first 19 years of her life under occupation before marrying him and migrating to Australia.

Although Maysoon loves Australia, she lacks a sense of belonging here; Palestine is her home, her blood.