More than fifty years have elapsed since the human tragedy in Palestine began. Still the cruel wheels of oppression continue to turn relentlessly against its indigenous people. Each new dawn records the desperate cries of mothers and widows, stifled hopes of orphans, and interminable agony of prisoners dying slowly in dark and smelly cells. Outside, before the eyes and ears of humanity, the life of another Palestinian youth is taken, silenced in cold blood by the fiery bullets of the occupier.

Across the boarders in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, the ranks of impoverished refugees continue to swell. Abandoned by the Western nations, their sprawling camps remain sealed within walls of poverty, destitution and oppression. There, they are threatened and attacked, by air, land and sea, by the very people who stole their land. In the face of these awesome realities, the beleaguered Palestinians continue to resist and struggle for the restoration of their stolen rights.

As diplomatic efforts intensify to write the last chapter of the Oslo process, international attention has become increasingly focused on the ordeal of five million Palestinian refugees and their right of repatriation to their homes. Sooner rather than later the contracting parties must decide whether to continue along the convenient path of appeasement or whether to adopt the long and difficult course to justice and legitimacy.

Since its inception, the Palestinian Return Centre has campaigned persistently to inform public opinion about the usurped rights of the Palestinian people. The main thrust of its work has revolved around refugees, their losses, their present conditions and their Right of Return. One of the most important contributions to the existing literature on the subject to date has been “The Register of Depopulated Localities in Palestine” by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta. It has, since its first publication by the Centre 1998, corroborated with indelible evidence, the massive destruction that was visited upon Palestine by the invading Zionist forces in 1948. Because of the enthusiastic response it evoked in the Middle East and internationally, and reprinted in seven countries, the Palestinian Return Centre has decided to reprint this Register again in 2000 in an updated and expanded version. We are sure that this edition will meet further success.

This study by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta is more than a passing reminder of the colossal injustice committed against the defenseless Palestinians. It is, above all, an irrefutable condemnation of the very people who less than a decade before 1948 were themselves the victims of brutal persecution. Significantly, there were, apart from the invading Zionists, other parties which bear responsibility for the depopulation of Palestine. The author recalls that more than half of the refugees, 414,000 from 213 villages, were made homeless under the British Mandate. Abu Sitta reproachfully notes that even when appeals were raised for help, especially in Dayr Yassin, the British Mandatory refused to protect the Palestinians from Zionist attacks, except briefly in Jaffa.

Ultimately, the value of this register lies not in its size but rather in its rare factual contents. Though not the only work of its kind, we have no doubt that it will be an essential source of Palestinian history for many years to come. As a result, its appeal and usefulness will not be confined to the needs of politicians and academicians. Far more importantly, it will serve as a title deed for millions of Palestinians who were made homeless, stateless, and impoverished by the Zionist project. This book is augmented by detailed map (50 x 70 cm) showing the location of 531 depopulated towns and villages, in addition to existing Palestinians villages today in Palestine 1948 (Israel). The map also gives data about the refugees, where they come from, where they are today, when and why left. The map is also published by PRC.

Salman Abu Sitta is a Palestinian born in Palestine before its dispossession. An engineer by profession, he served for more than twenty years on the Palestinian National Council. He has during this period written and lectured extensively on refugees affairs. We at the Palestinian Return Centre are, indeed, privileged to reprint this invaluable documentary by Dr. Abu Sitta. It is our fervent hope that it will be a veritable source of enlightenment and inspiration to many others who strive and campaign for the restoration of Palestinian rights, and a guiding record for the young Palestinians to remember and recover their homes.

September 2000