Ahead of Nakba Day, Palestinians taste their freedom
Aarab Marwan Barghouti, son of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who launched the Salt Water campaign
Dubai - Thousands take part in Salt Water Challenge to express solidarity with Palestinians jailed in Israel
Published: Mon 15 May 2017, 7:01 PM
Setting up his camera, he took a seat and rolled a video of himself saluting the Palestinian prisoners before pouring salt into a glass of water, mixing it with a fork, and slamming the mixture into his mouth.
Abdulla Barakji, UAE-based Palestinian, was among thousands across the world who took the Salt Water Challenge, a social media campaign that expresses solidarity with 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli jails and as well as marking the 69th anniuversary of 1948 Palestine War.
But the challenge, which protests prolonged imprisonment without charge, medical negligence, administrative detention and limited family visits among other things, goes way back to when Barakji's family was forced to leave during the 1948 war also called Nakba or The Catastrophe. Palestinians mark Nakba anniversary on May 15 every year.
|What is Salt Water Challenge Aarab Marwan Barghouti, the son of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti (who is currently serving five life sentences over his role in the second Intifada against the Israeli occupation) launched the Salt Water campaign through a video. For hunger strikers, salt water is their only source of daily sustenance.|
The campaign is meant to be a display of solidarity for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who are on hunger strike to demand basic rights.
In similar fashion to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014, participants of Salt Water Challenge nominate others to do the same.
Barghouti nominated "Arab Idol" winner Mohammed Assaf and others to take part in the challenge. Assaf helped the campaign go viral which has now seen thousands of people take part in the challenge, including the 2017 winner of Arab Idol, Yacoub Shaheen. Palestinian politicians like Fatah central committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr, citizens of the United States, Ireland, Colombia and South Africa.
Now in the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, the story is told like it was yesterday.
Salt water was the source of daily sustenance for Barakji's family among thousands of others when they stepped their foot in the Burj Al Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. "When the war broke out, my grandparents had to leave Acre. They took a few things from the house and got on camels to head towards Lebanon in a journey that lasted for weeks," said Barakji. Upon reaching Lebanon, his grandparents were lucky enough to run into a Christian Lebanese family that helped them stay until they moved to the refugee camp.
He said: "My grandfather made a small tent they both lived in. My grandparents used to work in farming or moving goods to make some money and slowly started saving up to build a home. Eventually, my grandfather opened a supermarket."
What is inspiring, he said, is that his grandparents are still in touch with the very first Lebanese family that helped them settle down. "My family also hold the key to their house in Palestine. They keep it so that if Palestine is one day freed, they would have the right to go back," said Barakji.
"The salt water holds a lot of meanings for me. It tells the kind of taste that has been taken over from every Palestinian who was forced away from their lands. It also tells the story of persistence that Palestinians have been carrying with them whether they stayed or left the country," said Barakji.
Rabee Morra, who's also Palestinian-Lebanese based in the UAE, said while the Nakba created a stigma that Palestinians have to overcome, young people have to show their version of the story. "Social media movements have proven in the past to raise awareness about such causes (like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge). Palestinians have been undergoing this kind of struggle for almost 70 years, and none of the Intifadas or strikes gave them the quality of life they should be living, but all we could do is use our voices and have faith that we will go back."
More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine War, which affected about 600 villages.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, since the start of Israel's occupation 50 years ago, more than 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israeli forces. About 6,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli jails, 300 of them are children.
'Everything I know about Palestine is just pictures and stories'
Growing up in homes that hold onto the Palestinian culture, a number of young Palestinians would say they feel distant from the homeland they have never been to.
Rabee Morra, who's also Palestinian-Lebanese based in UAE, said growing up away from his homeland "created an identity crisis."
"Everything I know about Palestine, the country where I say I'm from, is just pictures and stories. It's not easy to explain this feeling unless you go through it," said Morra. For Palestinian expats, raising awareness within communities and surrounding environments among the biggest contributions they can have.
"They have to ensure they do not let go of their right to return to their home country, and speak loudly about the cause whenever they can," said Morra.
His family had to leave their hometown Suhmata in north Acre back in 1948 when his grandmother was 16 years old.
"They had to live in refugee camps for years on end, moving from one camp to another all over Lebanon, from the South, to the East, to the North, and back to the South," he said.
The Lebanese Civil War in 1975 forced his father and uncles to move out of Lebanon and migrate all over the world; to Canada, Denmark, and the UAE.