We often hear the term “Palestinian refugee camps” casually thrown around in any discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian situation… To me a “camp” is a temporary place with tents. And these refugee camps once did have tents fifty years ago. But, as I briefly mentioned in my post on Tripoli, the Palestinian refugee camps of today are no longer “camps” in the conventional sense.
So, what are they like? I visited one, the Qaddura Camp in Ramallah, to show you:
I thought this decapitated cow’s head just left randomly in the lot below a fading mural of the Palestinian flag was…artistically interesting. Or symbolic of something. Or something like that. Regardless, it got my attention:
An alley leading into the heart of the “camp” area:
Some street scenes of the Qaddura Camp:
Typical homes within the Palestinian refugee areas:
As you have undoubtedly gathered by now, the Palestinian refugee camps are, for the most part, indistinguishable from a typical neighborhood in the areas where they are found.
Yes, they are usually more dilapidated and in poor states of repair and maintenance:
And there are certainly far more political murals and graffiti to be found:
But, isn’t it time we stopped calling these “camps” and came up with a better description? Unlike the Palestinian towns and villages still struggling to exist in their original locations, I have never once seen a single tent in a refugee “camp” for Palestinians.
The “camps” have been in place for decades in most instances. They have multi-story permanent structures now along with paved streets, electricity and running water.
Some of the Palestinian refugee camps have foreign sponsors that paid for the construction of the buildings and the paving of the streets. Down the road from the camp featured in this post is a camp that was sponsored by the late Saddam Hussein. A large marble block engraved with his image rests at the entrance of the camp and Saddam Hussein murals abound.
Many Palestinians, not just those down the road, actually have quite fond memories of Saddam for having launched Scud missiles at Tel Aviv during the 1991 Gulf War.
On the edge of Qaddura Camp is Raffaele Ciriello Street. The street is named for a freelance Italian photographer, killed on March 13th, 2002 after being shot six times in the torso by the machine gun of an Israeli tank while he was covering the Israeli invasion of Ramallah during the Second Intifada. Interestingly, his family have posted the video he was filming when he was gunned down (including the end when the tank fires upon him) on his website:
A view down Raffaele Ciriello Street: