Anger blossoms in Lebanese field of flowers: Robert Fisk visits Marj Zohour, whose cold, bare hillsides are now home to 418 Palestinians deported from Israel

IT IS a shameful sight. Doctors and lawyers, lecturers and engineers, accountants and journalists, all squatting beneath green tents just below the snow line. The wind blasts up the valley and scythes over the broken road beyond Marj Zohour, which in Arabic means 'field of flowers'. But grey rocks and ice are the only features surrounding more than 400 Palestinians deported from Israel.

One has a weak heart, two are on crutches. They described being kicked and beaten in the buses on their way to the border. One man was dragged off as he was buying kebab meat from his butcher. For good measure, the butcher was deported too. Three brothers and two uncles are crouched on the bare hillside. Many of the 17 PhDs and MAs among the Palestinians were educated in Britain. Bassam Jarrar has a degree from the University of Wales, Ahmed Salamin from Durham, Abdul Fattah el- Awaisi a PhD from Exeter.

And, of course, many are sympathetic - or more than sympathetic - to the militant Islamic movement Hamas which is now at war with Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some speak of sadness but others of revenge and of bloodshed to come. All seem to understand the historic nature of what has happened - the largest single deportation by Israel in its history - and there is going to be little forgiveness, even if the Israeli courts decide these Palestinians should be allowed to return.

Mr Jarrar was ordered out of his home in Hebron in front of his wife and children and only knew he was being deported when he reached the border. He sat yesterday in the tent he shares with two others and spoke with bitterness of the future. 'Those men who killed the (Israeli) soldier will feel especially sad about our deportation because the killing was what caused it to happen. So they will want revenge. Their previous operations were selected operations - they sought to attack men who were soldiers. But the main reasons for operations now will not be political. The operations will be for revenge.'

There are piles of brand new Korans in the Red Cross tents and visits from Hizbollah, from Walid Jumblatt's Druze Progressive Socialist Party, from United Nations refugee officials, from the Sunni Muslim mufti of the Bekaa Valley. And the deportees have come to savour the power of publicity after three nights on the bare hillside. They now have a refugee 'committee', three official spokesmen, even a Lebanese sympathiser who photocopies press statements. Yesterday, they held their first press conference.

The Palestinians have offered their thanks to the Lebanese government for refusing them entry, and are well aware that the hills on either side of the two miles of road between the nearest Lebanese checkpoint and the Israeli occupation zone are to be their indefinite home. If their torment helps to destroy the Middle East peace talks, they will have no objections: that is their intention anyway.

What possessed the Israelis to do this? Abdul Awaisi believes it was an attempt by Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, to assuage Israeli anger after the murder last week of a border guard. As one of the deported Hamas leaders, Dr Abdul Aziz Rantisi, said: 'We did not carry guns - the men with the guns are still in occupied Palestine.' Perhaps the Israelis thought they could destroy the intellectual leadership of Hamas by dispatching so many educated men to Lebanon. But they have given Hamas a voice it never had before.

'What Israel has done has given us legality to kick the Jews out of Palestine,' Mr Jarrar said. 'It's legal, the Israeli courts said. It's legal to throw us out of our homes and out of our land. So if they can do it, now it's legal for the Arabs to throw out the Jews. What has happened to us is the first step in the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine. In 10 or 15 years' time, what has happened to us will be reflected in history.'

Not all his colleagues were so harsh. Faris Abu Moamar from Khan Younis thought the Israelis might have achieved peace if they had treated Palestinians with respect. It was too late now, he said. 'You see that man over there? He is the dean of the commerce faculty in the Islamic University of Gaza. You see those two? They are members of the Hebron chamber of trade. Tell the people in the West that we are human beings like them. Tell them that we have homes like them. Tell them that we have jobs like them - and that we have lost everything.'

Across the hillside yesterday, the Palestinians were wandering through the rocks and the little 'crown of thorn' bushes, collecting bracken to lay beneath their plastic tent sheets. Some were fashioning wooden-frame floors, others hauling foam-rubber mattresses into the tents. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees - for whom 16 of the deportees worked full-time in Gaza - and the Red Cross have brought blankets and food. UN troops turned up with water tanks and hoses.

Small comfort, perhaps. For many of the Palestinians' families still do not know if their menfolk are among the deportees. Abdul Awaissi was taken from his home as his wife was in labour - he does not know if he is the father of a son or daughter. One man realised as he was about to be driven across the border that he had been mistaken for another with a similar name. He told the Israelis but they deported him all the same.

'We are here because we are Muslims,' Ahmed Salamin said. 'It is because of our religion, not our politics, that we are here. But our mosque is everywhere . . . And we are one with all Muslims, in Pakistan, in Bosnia . . .' He, too, argued that the Israelis had set a precedent for their departure from the land he calls Palestine.

But could there be other precedents? For if Israel can deport 400 Palestinians, why not 4,000? Or 40,000, a small figure against the suggestions of members of Israel's extreme right-wing parties? History may one day record the importance of the Palestinians living cold amid the 'the field of flowers' but its lessons could prove fearful for both peoples living in the land that was Palestine.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone