Minorities can easily be overlooked in the heat of national struggle. No-one knows exactly how many Palestinians of African descent exist in Palestine. But they have lived on the land since the days of the slave trade, at least.
They may not be singled out for particularly discriminatory treatment by Israel. However, within their own society, the picture is sometimes less clear. Reem Mohamed Amer was a founding member of perhaps the only support group for Palestinians of African descent in Israel/Palestine. She exuded a warm and unguarded bonhomie, often beaming with a sunny smile or cracking up with a rich infectious laugh. Reem sat in an office tea room, chewing gum and swiveling her chair slowly from left to right, changing direction every time her toes touched the floor.
Reem’s day job was behind the counter at a post office in Kfar Qassem, where her family had lived since her grandfather moved there from Ramle after the First World War. His wife – Reem’s grandmother – was shot dead by Israeli troops in the 1956 massacre, which claimed the lives of 49 other Palestinian civilians, for nominally breaking an unpublicised village curfew.
‘My father and uncle were survivors,’ Reem said shyly. ‘I don’t know the exact story because my father never wanted to talk about it but my uncle was in the group that cycled to the village. When they arrived, he saw shooting and hid behind a cactus. My father got in to Kfar Kassem in the last car that was let through. He saw his mother killed there. Later he developed alcohol problems. October was always a difficult time for him. ‘ The massacre took place on 31 October, 1956.
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