Umm Akram & Amena ElAshkar
71 Years Without a Country: Stateless Palestinians from Lebanon
In some ways time stopped in 1948 for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Many of them and their descendants are living in the same refugee camps created when the Zionist forces expelled them from Palestine in that year.
Israel expelled most of the majority Palestinian population in 1948, and has prevented them from returning to their homes ever since. Hundreds of towns and villages were leveled to the ground, a crime that Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). But Israel did not stop there. It repeatedly attacked Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, killing thousands more.
Suddenly stateless and without the benefits of citizenship, Palestinian refugees were extremely vulnerable and had very few rights starting in 1948. 71 years later, not much has changed for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who continue to be denied basic civil rights as well as their most fundamental right: to return to their homeland.
These Palestinians have different experiences than other Palestinians, even as they share a common struggle and identity. They are not living under Israeli occupation. Israel does not allow them to visit their homes, much less live there. As exiles, they have a different perspective from Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the part of Palestine that became Israel.
In 2016 the Nakba Tour brought 21-year-old Amena ElAshkar and 86-year-old Nakba survivor Mariam Fathalla to 26 venues in North America. In 2017, Amena journeyed with 85-year-old Khawla Ibrahim to another 29 venues.
This year, Amena is returning with Umm Akram (Mariam Fathalla), now 89, to share her personal story of the most tragic event in Palestinian history.