* Palestinian journalist
Geographically, the Palestinians are divided into two parts: the Palestinians of Palestine and the Palestinians of the diaspora. As for the diaspora, particularly in Lebanon, the matter required more than an invasion, camp war and intimidation, so that some of the refugees choose to live outside the camp, like others who did not live in the camps, even during the Nakba.
My family, and for personal reasons, lived over twenty-three years in three different homes, none of which was in one of the twelve camps in Lebanon. As a result, I can say that the prejudices that are drawn in the minds of those around me, whether Palestinians living in the camp, or Lebanese living on the same street or attend the same school, are often fair.
I began to realize how different I was from our neighbor’s daughter, whom I used to play with when her sarcastic comments increased towards my accent, although it was difficult for me to distinguish the differences. However, pronouncing the word ‘tomato’ for instance did not go unnoticed and raised a lot of questions, such as: Where do you come from? Oh Palestine… so why are you here? Are you going to return there soon? At that time, I did not have answers, and would have gladly preferred to move on and continue to play and have fun.
The same thing is happening now, but with surprising additions; for example, instead of the question concerning our return, I was asked if I’d be going on vacation to (Acre) Akka, and how the beaches are there. It seems hard to believe that my neighbor, whom I meet every day in the elevator of the building where we live in Beirut, knows that Acre is located on the coast but does not know that it has been occupied for more than 72 years.
My clashes with the Lebanese community around me did not depend on the many questions that might urge one to feel that he is an alien. Simply disagreeing with a resident about the parking lot may lead him to expel you from his country. Of course, the phrase “You Palestinians ruined the country” had to spring up in the middle of every conversation, even as a joke. Being in a society and try to develop myself is in itself a daily challenge. As if the feeling of non-affiliation and belonging that I experience is not enough. Words like “we and you are in our country, in your homeland…”, to deepen the gap and prove what Sykes-Picot once separated is not assembled by twelve years of vicinity.
As for the camp community, I can objectively say that it was more welcoming when I decided to enter this place, which from the outside seems closed, dark and full of mystery, as a volunteer in one of the centers concerned with the mental health of children. The same question emerged here, but with different purposes.
So the question “Where are you from?” in the camps, is often used to find a relationship or to classify you in a specific neighborhood. In Shatila, I say that we are registered in Majd al-Krum, although I recently discovered that we are originally from Acre. I am surprised to see that the family tree is already registered with the Family Association in the camp, but without two small details: my name and my brother’s name, since we were born and lived outside the camp and we have no right to benefit from the association’s services, which I doubt that it really exists in the first place. Here the story starts all over again: those who live outside believe that the camp is dark, while the people living in the camps believe that those who live outside live in the light. And if they do not address their financial conditions, they assume that they have nothing to do with the homeland and that they have become a long time ago Lebanese.
Fortunately, the assumptions thrown at me in the camp were not so harsh; they just used to see me as a fragile girl. I am fully aware that I did not play in these narrow alleyways , and that my mother never had to worry about my death because of an electrical shock, but this does not make my grandfather noble, and does not earn me a smaller identity than my blue card. I believe that the reason for this judgment is the Lebanese and foreign words that have intertwined in my spoken language. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that my accent is unacceptable to both parties, along with my constant admiration for details that they are accustomed to, such as the fact that all the original inhabitants of the one camp know each other, and even that this acquaintance may include other camps. So,Umm Samer rejoices at the success of her descendants living in Rashidiyeh camp, while her husband tells us memories he shared with people who he no longer remembers their names, but can easily point out to their home in Nahr al-Bared camp despite the changes that occurred after the war.
Now that I have adapted to both worlds, this does not make the challenge any less complicated. As soon as I am dragged behind one of them, the lines of communication with the other are broken. They both reject me and want me at the same time. However, I realized that choosing where I live never determined my being. If I were born in the camp, I would have been born as a yearning Palestinian, but I was born to search deliberately for the meaning of my identity, to love it and be an ambassador in another community. I realized that it is natural for any refugee to experience the feeling of non-affiliation and belonging, even if it was his home or camp. For a refugee has only one homeland he/she will return to, even after a long waiting.
It is natural for any refugee to experience the feeling of non-affiliation and belonging, even if it was his home or camp. For a refugee has only one homeland he/she will return to, even after a long waiting.
Being in a Lebanese society is in itself a daily challenge.
Whoever living outside the camp thinks he/she is in a dark place, while refugees living in the camps assume that those outside live in the light.