Understanding The Nakba

Al-Nakba is known in Arabic as “the catastrophe” and known in Israel as the day of independence. For Palestinians, it is a day of mournful commemoration as it marks a period when 700,000 Palestinians were forcefully removed from their cities and villages and displaced into Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank.

Those that did not make it out of the State of Israel were referred to as IDPs, or Internally Displaced Persons. They were forced to leave their homes and possessions. Even if they only left for a few days and were under duress to get out, they were no longer able to return to it or take ownership of their things. Meaning, they could literally live three miles away from a home they built themselves, full of objects they bought and owned, but no longer had any rights to it. 

This is crucial to understanding why al-Nakba is such an emotional day for Palestinians. For a long time, many refugees refused to even commemorate the event. They took issue with the permanence of making it a national day of remembrance because, as they figured it, their situation was only temporary. Now that initial 700,000 has turned into millions of people, many of whom still suffered from added insult to injury even after their departures.

For refugees in Southern Lebanon, it’s hard to forget the Sabra and Shatila massacres that took place in 1982. Angry Lebanese Christian Phalangists were transported to refugee camps by the Israeli Defense Forces (who at the time controlled Beirut), and with the IDF illuminating the camps and surrounding them, the Phalangists slaughtered around 3,000 men, women, and children.

Then, of course, there are the violent clashes over Golan Heights, Egyptian wars, and the never-ending violence that has wracked the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It would be impossible, and redundant, to go over all the tragedies that refugees have suffered under occupation. There is white phosphorous being used in the last Gazan War, the annexing of land, settlements, giant walls that cut through property, blockades, electricity shut-offs, sewage running in the streets, cancer patients not able to seek treatment, school closures, innumerable razings – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Which is not at all to suggest that the entire time the Palestinians reacted peacefully, or even rationally, to Israel or the prospect of reconciliation. This is most certainly not a one-sided conflict, with numerous acts of terrorism and murder on behalf of quite a few Palestinian resistance groups. However, since today we are discussing the Nakba, we are going to focus on why there is such a level of anger and why, on Sunday, Israel was bombarded from almost all sides with border surges and heavy protests.

Last week really did see something rather rare: there was a coordinated and aggressive mass protest from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, The West Bank, and The Gaza Strip. Using Facebook and other such social media to organize, the Palestinians seems to want to get one message through to anybody watching: we are not afraid to fight for freedom. As many nearby countries are in the process of revolution – Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen – it seems the Palestinians want to prove they can also stand up to their oppressor.

And stand up they did. In Golan Heights and Lebanon, Palestinians waving flags and chanting slogans tried to break through the borders. This led, unsurprisingly, to Israeli Defense Forces shooting into the crowds, killing over a dozen protesters and injuring more than 100. In Jordan and Egypt, there were also crowds out and ready to march, although those clashes were quelled somewhat by government security. In the West Bank, there were reports of violent clashes with Molotov cocktails, and in Gaza it was reported that when marchers breached a security point near the checkpoint, the Israeli Security shot into the crowd.

Meanwhile, September looms ever closer with Palestinian Statehood, now a cause taken up by Egypt with hints of support coming from many European countries, coming to the U.N.’s table. Moments like these could give an indication of what could arise if all-out war was declared, a frightening prospect for everyone, no matter where they stand on the issue. With the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, supporting the “martyrs” of the day, stating that their blood would not be in vain, and numerous calls for the third intifada to begin, the future looks especially grim for peace within the region. While it is certainly possible that the recognition of Palestine as a state could bring across new reforms, and indeed, Egypt is helping Hamas and Fatah forge into a new, unified government, the current climate has many in fear that some of the worst fighting may have yet to come. With critical allies stacked up on either side and tension mounting, the world can only look on.

By Olivia Marudan

Cad. Boondoggler. Swindler. Ass. Plagiarist. Hutcher. A movable feast in the subtle culinary art of shit talking.

One reply on “Understanding The Nakba”

I really appreciate this article. In my evangelical environment it’s proven quite difficult to find people who have given any thought to the devastating consequences of the re-creation of the state of Israel. When I was on study tour in Israel I went to hear a Palestinian Christian lecture on “What Do We Mean When We Say That God Gave Israel The Land?”. That, coupled with my studies in the history of Christian-Muslim relations as well as what I observed while traveling through the West Bank, has caused my understanding of this country to change fairly drastically. It continues to surprise me how many people I know are unapologetically “pro-Israel”. Thank you for your clear and honest description of a tragic and violent situation.

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