The Nakba never stopped
Israel’s celebration of its 69th year of independence remains a stark reminder to Palestinians of the Nakba — catastrophe.
Between 750,000 and 900,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced and exiled from their lands in 1948, leaving their homes, lives and dreams while unintentionally allowing approximately 500 Palestinian villages to be taken over, thereby creating a Jewish homeland.
It is common knowledge that where cactus, fig and pomegranate trees grow, there once was a Palestinian village. The landscape of present-day Israel is covered with these telltale signs.
Between the trees, under the cover of man-made forests, one can see stone walls, parts of demolished Palestinian homes. The broken walls still hold the hearts and souls of their former owners, a constant reminder of a people who refuse to be forgotten and whose existence cannot be denied.
The tragedy is that not only were lives and futures destroyed in 1948 but generations of Palestinians scattered around the world are still paying the price. The BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that, of the 12.1 million Palestinians worldwide, 66% — nearly 8 million people — were forcibly displaced or the descendants of those who were.
How many Israelis fully understand what befell their Palestinian neighbours in 1948? How many realise that the land that they live on, the land that they call their own, used to belong to Palestinian families — land that heard the laughter and witnessed the problems and joys of everyday life? How many realise that so that they can be free, others were forced to give up their freedom?
Zochrot — “remembering” in Hebrew — is an Israeli organisation that “promotes acknowledgement and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 and the reconceptualisation of the return as the imperative redress of the Nakba and a chance for a better life for all the country’s inhabitants.”
Umar al-Ghubari, a guide with Zochrot, takes Israelis to the former villages. As they listen to the stories of those who were expelled, do the Israelis really understand? Can they?
How many realise that the tragedy of the Nakba never stopped and that within Israel itself, the Arab citizens of Israel, who number 1.7 million, are still facing a Nakba?
How many know that thousands of homes in Arab cities in Israel are up for demolition, that only 4.6% of Arabs are granted building permits and those who are not among the lucky few are between a rock and a hard place. Do they know that the Bedouin villages in the Negev, which remain unrecognised by the government, are subject to demolition at any time?
Are they aware that more than 90% of the land was owned by Palestinians and that this figure has dropped to less than 3%?
Do they know that on the other side of the internationally recognised border, which is lined with checkpoints, barbed wire and the infamous separation barrier — known to some as the apartheid wall — the Nakba continues 69 years later?
Israel is still confiscating Palestinian land so that 500,000 Jewish settlers can live there protected by walls and Israeli soldiers although international law has declared the settlements illegal.
How many know about the hardships that the checkpoints and the wall cause for Palestinians going to work, school, hospital or visiting family members? Do they know how many women have given birth at the checkpoints because they have been denied the right to pass? Do they know that it is these very checkpoints that serve as a protection for the settlers — the settlers who live illegally on Palestinian land and destroy their olive trees, their livelihoods? Do they know that there are roads on Palestinian land, called apartheid roads, that Palestinians are not permitted access to?
How many are concerned and aware that there are approximately 6,300 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, 500 of whom are administrative detainees (imprisoned without charges) and 300 are children under the age of 18? Do they know that 1,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails have been on hunger strike for one month protesting their lack of basic rights?
The Nakba never stopped.
Do they know that? Do they even know what the Nakba is?