Wednesday, 17 April 2024
WorldThe Palestinian diaspora, from the Nakba to the current conflict in Gaza

The Palestinian diaspora, from the Nakba to the current conflict in Gaza

The complicated and sad story of palestinian people In the last two centuries it is closely linked to the migration phenomenon. We are talking about a population of about 14 million peopleof which, according to a report by the Arab Center in Washington DC, only half live in the territory of historic Palestine (3.2 million in the West Bank; 2.1 million in the Gaza Strip and 1.7 million in the current territory of the State of Israel).

Thus, a large part of the diaspora is distributed between Lebanon, Jordan and Syria (around 3.5 million people, most of them living in refugee camps) and the Gulf countries, while the rest – around 750,000 people – live distributed between Europe (notably the United Kingdom and Germany), USA and Latin America (especially Chile, which is home to a population of about 500,000 citizens of Palestinian origin).

Although migration always entails a certain component of personal decision, the structural conditions prevailing in each context are no less relevant when establishing both the type of mobility and its destination. The latter becomes even more evident in the Palestinian case, since the large waves of migration experienced by its people have always been accelerated by the serious events that have occurred in the region of Middle East.

The turning point in this story is undoubtedly the Nakba –catastrophe in Arabic–, dated May 15, 1948, the day on which the zionist movement declared the creation of the State of Israel.

Until the beginning of the zionist colonization of the region, Palestinian emigration had occurred for mainly economic reasons, although the influence of the two empires that controlled its territory in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, the Ottoman and British empires, was also relevant in dispossessing and repressing a population that, in part, opted for migration as a response. The beginning of the Palestinian presence in Arab countries and, above all, in Latin America dates back to then.

Displacement and forced migration after the catastrophe

After the Nakba, however, circumstances changed, with Palestinian mobility adopting an unmistakable character of forced migration. According to UNRWAthe United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, these refugees in the Middle East number almost six million people and it is the longest refugee situation in history: 75 years.

To give us an idea of ​​the magnitude of the phenomenon, two thirds of the Gazan population It is made up of refugees previously resident in the territory under current Israeli rule.

The launch of the Zionist state In the middle of the last century it divided families, surrounded communities in small bantustans (or ghettos) and expelled numerous inhabitants from their places of residence. For their part, those who remained in the territory colonized by Israel were also subjected to repression and racial harassment, which, in the long run, caused many to end up emigrating in search of better conditions.

In any case, the demographic configuration current situation derives above all from Israel’s advance in regional control driven by the conquests produced as a result of the War of the six days (1967), which ended up concentrating the resident population in the current Palestinian territory made up of the tiny space of the Gaza Stripone of the most densely populated in the world, and the atomized West Bank.

Those who fled to Lebanon, Syria or Jordan live in extremely precarious conditions, residing, for the most part, in refugee camps managed by UNRWA and without the possibility of working and rebuilding their lives in States that refuse to absorb a population that they do not consider their own.

The case of the West Bank

The exception is Jordan, which by controlling West Bank Until 1967 it granted nationality to those who then resided in the region. Currently some of them can reside in the neighboring State in similar conditions to the citizens of the country.

Currently, data regarding Palestinian emigration are unreliable, since the borders are completely controlled by Israel, but the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated in 2010 that around 6,570 people embarked on migration each year.

The figure itself does not seem very high, but it must be taken into account that the Gaza Strip is completely sealed and the escape options from other points are usually limited to integrating absolutely overcrowded and precarious refugee camps. Thus, those who mainly emigrate are those who have studies and a higher socioeconomic statuswhich in the end generates an effect brain drain which reduces the development possibilities of the territory.

Making forecasts on immigration matters is not only a risky exercise, but futile, since the prospects tend not to be fulfilled. However, it is to be expected that, given the current crisis, and with the opening of the Rafah crossing in Egyptthe only possible escape route for the population of Gaza, there will most likely be a significant exodus to that State.

If, unfortunately, the conflict escalates and spreads throughout the region, there will undoubtedly be new trips, but it is too early to speculate about it. In any case, it is possible to affirm without fear of being wrong that, as long as the conflict does not find a lasting solution and Israel continues to exercise an ironclad, discriminatory and cruel colonial control On Palestine, the exodus of its population will continue to be a historical constant.

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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