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Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine & London. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.
YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: On May 15 each year, the Palestinian people mark Nakba Day, or what is known in English as the Catastrophe of 1948. It was in this year that Israel was established on Palestinian land, after the indigenous population was forced to flee their ancestral towns and villages.Palestinian organizations refer to the Nakba as an ongoing tragedy, not only because Israel continues to dispossess Palestinians of their lands inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but also because Israel continues to deny the refugees the right to return to their homes.Events ranging from rallies, popular conferences, to cultural and traditional exhibitions take place across occupied Palestine and in the Diaspora, where Pro-Palestine supporters also take part in the annual commemoration.The Palestinian Nakba of 1948 saw the beginning of ethnic cleansing of Palestine and led to the displacement of some 750,000 Palestinians, many of whom were forced to flee to neighboring countries after some 500 towns and villages were destroyed by Israeli occupation forces.Today, Palestinian refugees and their descendants continue to fight for the right of return as the legacy of Palestine is passed down to generation after generation.JAMAL SALEM, ASSOCIATION FOR CULTURE, ART AND POPULAR HERITAGE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): We mark this day and educate our younger generation to stick to the right of return and never relinquish our national rights. When the occupiers occupied Palestine 65 years ago, they claimed that Palestine was a land without a people for a people without a land, but our land was inhabited and we were forced to leave our properties and we were dispossessed. We are proud of our cultural heritage, which reflects our identity. ALHELOU: The right of return is a right that is protected under international law, as was confirmed by UN Resolution 194, yet has been denied for the Palestinian refugees for generations. At the same time, anyone of Jewish descent from around the world can receive immediate Israeli citizenship.Descendants of refugees who live in the Diaspora mark the event. The Real News Network talked to Samah Sabawi in Australia and asked her what Nakba means to her.SAMAH SABAWI, JOURNALIST: The plight of the Palestinian refugees began 65 years ago with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine as Israel was trying to make way for the establishment of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority for the Jewish people on indigenous inhabited Palestinian land. Now, unfortunately, the ethnic cleaning has not stopped and continues until this day under the watchful eye of a complicit international community. The international community has failed the Palestinian people. And that is why it's very important for people of good conscience around the world to support the Palestinian grassroots movement for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, so that we, as the people of the world, can start to hold Israel to account for its violations of the Palestinian human rights and for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.ALHELOU: The Palestinian people are the indigenous people of the land, historically identified under the British Mandate as Palestine, which is now called Israel. Israelis claim that they have a connection that is largely based on old religious narratives.ATEF UDWAN, PALESTINIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: The right of return is an essential right for every Palestinian deported his homeland since 1948 up to this moment. Such conferences and all activities that being, you know, held by Palestinians everywhere is to assert the right of return.ALHELOU: The total number of Palestinians in the world is estimated to be about 11 million. About 5 million out of this number are Palestinian refugees, still live in UN-administered refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. About two thirds of Gaza's 1.7 million people are refugees who were forced to flee their original villages in historic Palestine. A big number are still living in eight refugee camps across the Gaza Strip, receiving humanitarian aid assistance, health and education services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).ADNAN ABU HASNA, UNRWA MEDIA ADVISER: We are servicing nearly 5 million registered refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and West Bank. It is a mandate of the General Assembly that was given to UNRWA in 1949. We will continue servicing the refugees until finding a just and durable solution for their cause.ALHELOU: Sixty-five years on, Palestinian refugees make up the world's largest refugee population and longest unresolved refugee crisis.Palestinian refugees consider the key the symbol of return, as they still dream of an eventual return to their homes in their original homeland, a dream they hope one day will become a reality.As Palestinian refugees mark Nakba day, they assert their right of return, emphasizing that they will never relinquish what they call a sacred right.Yousef Alhelou for The Real News, Gaza.
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