Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two Narratives—Independence Day and Nakba "Catastrophe"

May 15 marks two anniversaries in Israel/Palestine. the day Israelis celebrate as Independence Day is also a commemoration by Palestinians of the Nakba. While many Americans are aware of Israel's statehood, few of us ever heard about the Nakba. In conflict, the winners' story is usually the one that is told.

Nakba means "catastrophe" in Arabic and May 15 marks the 66th anniversary of the Jewish militias' campaign to remove Palestinians from lands it wished to make into a state. I say "Jewish militias" because the removal of Palestinians from their villages in what is now Israel began in 1947—before the UN vote for partition, before the British withdrew from Palestine, before any "Arab War" began, before the formation of the state of Israel. Before May 15, almost a quarter-million Palestinians had already been forced from their homes by Jewish militias. (Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p. xv)

Entrance to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem—this key looks like the keys many Palestinian families will show you, the keys the refugees grabbed as they hurriedly left their homes in nearby villages in 1947-48. It reminds us of their intention to return to their homes when the fighting stopped.
Palestinians fleeing from their homes was not an accident of war. It was a systematic plan to remove as many Arabs as possible from the land Israel claimed for their state (thoroughly documented, from Israeli archives, in Pappe's book). The Nakba continued through 1948, eventually displacing about 800,000 people.

The Middle East Children's Association has compiled a short narrative with photos, telling the story of the Nakba, which I encourage you to read:

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