The Palestinian who fled the Gaza Strip last month says he is a Palestinian because he was born in Israel.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Times, Abu Saad al-Omar said that, in his homeland, “there are no Arabs and I am a Palestinian”.
“There are no Palestinians here,” he told the newspaper, adding that “there is no Palestinian presence here”.
Al-Omer, who immigrated from the Gaza strip in 1996, was one of about 20,000 Palestinian migrants and refugees in Israel who have left the territory, fleeing a bloody three-week war with Israel and the ongoing occupation of the territory.
Israel has been cracking down on the Palestinian population since last July, when the Israeli military began demolishing homes and arresting hundreds of people.
It has been a policy of occupation, with thousands of Palestinians detained in detention camps and forced to work in Israel’s vast agricultural fields.
Al-Amos, who moved to Israel from Gaza when he was 16, said he is thankful to have been able to escape the country.
He said he did not want to be a refugee in the occupied territories, but said that he felt his life would have been better in Israel, which he described as “a better country”.
“I feel the way I am here is a better life than in the [occupied] territories,” he said.
“I am a refugee because I am from a land where people are free and can live their lives and not suffer persecution and oppression.”
Al-Mawsil, who has since moved to the United States, said his family had been forced to flee their homes and lived in shelters for three years before they were able to return to Gaza in late June.
“In my house, I live with my wife, two children and myself,” he explained.
“It’s hard to return here because it’s a war zone.
I want to go back to my country, but it’s not possible.”
The Gaza Strip is divided into three zones under Israeli control, each with its own customs, laws and language.
Al-Mawsil said that while in Gaza, he was not allowed to use the telephone or use the internet.
“People say that they are refugees because they are Palestinians and I have never been a refugee, but I was born here and my homeland is Israel,” he added.
“There is no reason for me to be here.”
Al-‘Amer is not the only Palestinian to claim to be Palestinian in Israel and to live as a refugee.
A 22-year-old from the central Gaza Strip, who also did not wish to be named, said she was born as a Palestinian but was not born in Gaza and was not Palestinian either.
“When I was little, my family told me I was a Palestinian, but they never really explained why I was Palestinian,” she told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“They told me that I was the son of an Israeli, but when I looked at my father, he said I was Jewish.
I have a Palestinian father and my father is Jewish.”
She added that she did not think she would ever leave Israel.
“If I ever leave, I will stay here for many more years and I will not be able to go home,” she said.