But down the road where the Mediterranean thrashes the beach 12 miles from Israel – “so close you can smell the breeze from Palestine”, as one of them puts it – the Palestinians of Rachidiye have never felt such despair. Um Hussein, withered after 46 years in the refugee camps of Lebanon, lives within sight of the land she fled in 1948. “Yasser Arafat has ruined our lives,” she says.
Her arguments are simple, unanswerable and hopelessly unrealistic. She came from a village called Safa outside Acre, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who walked into Lebanese exile on the assumption she would return home “in seven days or seven weeks”, once the first Arab-Israeli war was over. But like the other 700,000 Palestinians who fled their land in 1948 – they and their children now number 2 million in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan alone – Um Hussein is forbidden to return, her refugee status consigned to a sentence in Mr Arafat’s “Declaration of Principles”.
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