Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America

Jamal Kanj


A great deal has been written over the years addressing the Palestine-Israel conflict, and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. However, few works on the subject really present the personal aspect: What is it like to be a refugee? What propels a decent human being to take up arms, to become a freedom fighter or a terrorist? This book tells the remarkable story of one such refugee, following his journey from childhood in the Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, becoming a member of the PLO, through to eventual emigration, a new life as an engineer in the United States, and a ‘return’ trip to historic Palestine. Running parallel to the personal narrative, the book also documents the story of Nahr El Bared itself: the story of a refugee camp that grew from an initial clump of muddy UN tents to become a vibrant trading centre in north Lebanon, before its eventual destruction at the hands of the Lebanese army as they battled with militants from the Fatah Al Islam group in the summer of 2007. Throughout it all, the spirit of the remarkable people of the camp shines through, and the book provides a moving testament to how refugees in Lebanon have managed to persist in their struggle for their right to return, as well as survive socially, economically and politically despite more than sixty years of dispossession, war and repression.

Jamal Kanj was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon ten years after the creation of the state of Israel. He moved to the United States in late 1977, and has been active in various local and national political organizations. He is a co-founder of the Middle East Cultural and Information Center in San Diego and served as the Secretary General for the US chapter of a large student union. Today, Kanj is a professional engineer who works on water infrastructure management and writes on Middle Eastern politics