Internal Conflict

Palestinian refugees try to build new lives in the United Kingdom

A month after Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in May 2021, protestors march in London calling for Justice for Palestine. Around that time, the United Kingdom saw mass protests in solidarity with Palestinians. These occurred not just in capitals such as London and Cardiff, but also in cities that have not traditionally been hotspots of activism, such as Swansea and Newport in Wales. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/ GETTY IMAGES
31 March, 2022

For 11 days in May 2021, Razan Madhoon had the same nightmare. As Israel pushed ahead a military offensive against Gaza, she dreamt of missiles darting across the sky like shooting stars. She imagined her two young daughters running alongside her, hoping the missiles would miss them. As they searched for shelter, the sound became deafening, a missile hit one of her children—then she awoke in a cold sweat.

Madhoon is a 33-year-old Palestinian refugee. She moved to the United Kingdom in 2015 and now lives in Scotland with her daughters. The escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict in May last year triggered memories of an Israeli military operation in 2014, when she was still in Gaza and attempting to keep her daughters safe. “You never recover from such trauma,” she told me. “People tell you when there is a ceasefire that it’s all over. Finished. But it’s never finished. You deal with these traumas for the rest of your life.”

While her daughters are physically far from the conflict now, Madhoon said it had left an indelible mark on their psyche. She recalled a recent drawing her 13-year-old daughter made that showed her running away from a bomb. There have been more visceral impacts of the war as well. “Back in 2014, when we were in Gaza, our neighbour’s house was flattened to the ground and our house got rattled,” Madhoon said. “We were checking out the damage. And there she was amongst us, watching with open eyes. It was the first time I saw shock on her face.”

In the last three and a half decades, the Israel-Palestine conflict has led to the deaths of at least fourteen thousand people. While Madhoon is thankful that her daughters are unharmed, she worried about her parents back home in Gaza. I spoke to her soon after the escalation of the conflict in May 2021. “I just wanted to know that they’re alive. This is all I wanted,” she said. “Sometimes, I worried what if, this time, they don’t make it?”