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Facilitator Instructions / Assignment

  • Read Chapter 6 in its entirety, noting any questions about charts.
  • Decide on whether the discussion group will watch the video clip, Voices Across the Divide,  together in the group or individually at home prior to class. 
  • Read “Refugees and Memory” on page 70. And look through Palestine in Motion which is a collection of reflections by Palestinians who have been uprooted  through displacement.
  • Ask participants to read the first-person stories found in the Al-Jazeera on-line piece:
  • If possible, print and distribute copies of the piece prior to session.

For Discussion

1. Personal impact:  View the video clip from Voices Across the Divide by Alice Rothchild in the video resource section for Chapter 6. Rothchild uses the term “invisible voices” to describe the experiences of Palestinians in the Nakba of 1948. 

  • What conclusions about those invisible voices do you draw from the narratives from the photos and the stories told by the three Palestinians in this clip? 
  • What other narratives of refugees that you’ve previously heard or seen come to mind? In what ways are they similar?

2. Small group: This discussion is based on having read “Refugees and Memory” on page 70, as well as skimming  through Palestine in Motion, which is a collection of reflections by Palestinians who have been uprooted  through displacement. Be mindful that their memories and stories link them to their families’ Palestinian homeland. 

  • Which story captured your attention most strongly? What else did you learn from the interactive buttons in the collection? What kinds of “motion” are described by these Palestinians? 
  • These are very personal accounts of Palestinian identity, longing, hope and memory. Take a few minutes and write down on a card what you would carry as connections and memories of your own homeland. Share those with each other. Then as a group write down on newsprint the various ways identity is cherished and preserved by these Palestinians living in other countries. What do you notice about the kinds of connections or memories between the Palestinian ones and yours? How does this shape your understanding of the “right of return”?

3. Small group: Review the following: (a.) numbers of refugees globally cited from UNHCR on  p.76, (b) the longer description of the founding of both UNRWA and UNHCR on p. 71. 

  • How do you understand why there is an agency that relates only to Palestinian refugees? What do you see as the pros and cons?
  • What is the impact of the fact that the funding of UNRWA becomes politicized in the United Nations and the member countries? 

4. Personal impact/Discussion: Notice where Palestinian refugees are found in the Middle East. Khouri claims that the Palestine issue matters deeply to Arabs and is a “core grievance” driving Arab politics.  He says further, that the presence of Palestinian refugees in other countries is a constant reminder of their resentment.  

  • Where are the highest concentrations of Palestinian refugees? 
  • What does this suggest to you about Palestinian identity as a people and a nationality?
  • What ways could a peace process address this reality of dispersion and the hopes for the right of return for Palestinians?

5. Whole group:  Mark Zeitoun (p.77) and Jonathan Cook (p.48) each describe the effects that control of access to water for Palestinians in various communities face. 

  • Cook states: “Separately, water is also treated as a national resource when used for commercial purposes such as agriculture or industry. For these uses, access is tightly restricted and can usually be accessed solely by Jews.  This goal is achieved chiefly by making state-subsidized water available only in special types of communities, such as the kibbutz and moshav, rural collectives that control much of the land in Israel.”
  • Zeitoun confirms the impact of water restrictions upon Palestinians, their agriculture and the ecology of the land:   “The impact of the restrictions on Palestinian water development was (and remains) felt most by the farmers who must rely on irregular rains, or on villagers with no piped water supply. Water thus became an occupation- related issue, in much the same way that the fate of refugees and the status of Jerusalem became unresolved “issues.”...There is little doubt that the welfare of Palestinians will continue in the future to be linked with water availability.”
  • How do the dynamics of water restrictions become a lens for colonialism? How is it linked to fate the fate of refugees or the status of Jerusalem in your understanding? 
  • One term that is sometimes used is “water apartheid” to describe these restrictions. How do such issues as restricted access and dual regulation systems affect the possibility for full human rights or justly shared natural resources in Israel and Palestine?

6. Whole group: Climate issues are inextricably woven into political realities of instability in the region, according to the quote by Naomi Klein on p.77: 

“In fact, if we chart the locations of the most intense conflict spots in the world right now—bloodiest battle fields in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq—what becomes clear is that these also happen to be some of the hottest and driest places on earth... [Drone] strikes are intensely concentrated in regions with an average of just 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) of rainfall per year—so little that even slight climate disruption can push them into drought. In other words, we are bombing the driest places on the planet, which also happen to be the most destabilized.”

  • Discuss the forces beyond Palestine and the region that affect people and produce endless refugees, such as regional military policies and climate change. 
  • How would the group visualize or map these connections?