Skip to comments.The 58 years of relentless ‘nakba’
Posted on 05/15/2006 7:20:52 AM PDT by SJackson
IN THE last week of April 1948, combined Irgun-Haganah forces launched an offensive to drive the Palestinian people out of the beautiful port city of Jaffa, forcing the remaining inhabitants to flee by sea; many drowned in the process. My aunt Rose, a teenager at that time, survived the trip to begin her life in exile on the Lebanese coast. Each Palestinian refugee family grows up hearing again and again the stories of those final moments in Palestine, the decisions, the panic, as we live in the midst of their terrible consequences.
Throughout 1948, Jewish forces expelled many thousands of Palestinians from their villages, towns and cities into Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of others fled in fear. The purpose was to create a pure Jewish state, ethnically cleansed of the original inhabitants who had lived there for centuries. The creation of the state of Israel was the heart of this cataclysmic historical event for the Palestinians the mass forced expulsion of a people; the more than 50 massacres carried out over the summer of 1948 by various armed Jewish forces; the demolition of villages to ensure the refugees could not return all this is summed up in a single word for Palestinians: nakba, the catastrophe.
"We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinians) never do return... The old will die and the young will forget," said David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel, in 1949. But the young have not forgotten. The event is remembered every year on May 15, and the youth are at the heart of it: at a rally on the site of the destroyed village of Umm al-Zinnat near Haifa, Salim Fahmawi, now 65, a primary school student when the soldiers entered the village 56 years ago to expel them, told an Israeli reporter: "The presence of so many young people, many of whom are third and fourth-generation post-1948, gives me a sense of relief because I know the torch has not been extinguished and is passing from generation to generation."
Nakba day has now become a profoundly political event unlike other cultural and social manifestations of our national identity because it is all about resistance to the current Palestinian situation rather than enshrining past memories of victimhood. The project against the Palestinians begun at the start of the past century had two purposes: first, to deny the very concept of Palestine and destroy its political and social institutions, and second, to annihilate the spirit of the Palestinians as a people, so that they would forget their collective identity once scattered far from home. But the relentless and dynamic nature of the catastrophe it is an ongoing daily Palestinian experience binds this generation directly to the older one, and binds the exiled to Palestine. Indeed, the past few years have witnessed a violent acceleration in this process of attempted destruction hence the title of this years event: The Nakba Continues.
The nakba is being lived again today in the brutal thrust of the current policies of the Israeli state. More than 10,000 Palestinian refugees have been created by the construction of the concrete separation wall that has cordoned off huge new tracts of occupied land. This wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, has turned West Bank cities such as Qalqilya into ghost towns, and thousands of refugees have been created for the third and fourth time in the refugee camps in Gaza. Yet it is not simply in the building of the walls and checkpoints by Israels occupying forces, or the different roads created for Jews and Arabs on Palestinian land, or the use of specially constructed bulldozers that rip up Palestinian orchards and olive groves and demolish hundreds of homes, or the imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners, or the daily murder of Palestinian civilians, that demonstrates the continuing nature of the nakba. It is also in the dedication of Israels military and political machinery to the destruction of Palestinian resistance to their project.
This resistance operates on two levels, just as the nakba operated and operates today on both. The first is the Palestinians physical effort to resist Israeli attempts to dispossess, disinherit and physically control them and their land, to get rid of its people and to militarily control and legally disenfranchise those they cannot. The second lies in the Palestinians existential affirmation of their identity in the face of a systematic Israeli effort to fragment and destroy it, so that Palestinians will surrender, submit, forget. But no matter how violently the first method is used by Israel, the second has been a failure: Palestinian identity is stronger than ever in 2006.
Nevertheless, the denial of the Palestinians right to resist what has been imposed on them has been demonstrated dramatically in recent weeks. We have witnessed the astonishing international policy of imposing sanctions as a form of collective punishment on an occupied people rather than on their occupier who is maintaining that occupation through brute violence. Vital international aid for basic services has been cut off by the European Union and the US from Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 because they elected Hamas, voting for representatives who had campaigned on a platform promising to hold the line against this destruction of their national identity and rights.
The most malicious aspect of this policy is the fact that the money being withheld is only needed because the occupation tactics of curfews, closures and checkpoints have destroyed the Palestinian economy. The financial catastrophe triggered by these sanctions is created entirely by the Israeli occupation itself, as World Bank and British parliamentary select committee reports have made clear. The punishment of starving the Palestinians is quite blatant: to force them to their knees and make them repudiate their elected representatives. Even more absurdly, Israel has not accepted or even been asked to accept any of the parallel conditions being demanded of the Palestinians for a resumption of aid: an end to violence; the acceptance of the 1993 Oslo agreements; or the recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Instead they build and expand settlements, denounce the Oslo accords, and have used increasingly indiscriminate violence in both Gaza and the West Bank. The Wests response in a conflict it helped created 58 years ago has fallen to a truly cruel, but also bizarre level.
This denial of Palestinians worth has been demonstrated again in the way Western media studiedly ignore their daily suffering. In April and May, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by the army most of them civilians, at least eight of them children with the most perfunctory coverage in the western press. Schoolchildren blown to bits while playing in Beit Lahia, like Mamdouh Obeid; Eitan Youssef, a 41-year-old mother from Tulkarm, shot in front of her children because troops "thought they saw a suspicious movement"; an old man, Musa Sawarkah, herding his flock in Gaza, gunned down; a taxi-driver, Zakariya Daraghmeh, "accidentally" shot in the back in Nablus. Each one a story unheard, untold.
The predicament of life under military occupation is usually recognised in principle, but life in exile has its own characteristics, and continues to create its own bitter experience for Palestinians. Most young Palestinians today live not in the West Bank or Gaza, but in the immediate region outside historic Palestine in the Arab world: stateless, ID-less, jobless, without the international legal protections of other refugees from other countries. Theirs is often a relentless struggle to live any kind of life at all. The younger generation, wherever they are, possess a common character created through these harsh conditions of exile and passed on through others memories of place names, old liberation songs, photographs of eternally absent relatives, intimate domestic connections and objects above all, the rusted key to the front door of the lost house, never seen. As the French philosopher and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs first noted, human memory is an entirely collective engagement. In his book La memoire collective, published in 1949 four years after he was executed at Buchenwald, Halbwachs was the first to recognise that memory itself is never really individual.
In 2005, young Palestinian activists helped to organise more than 100 meetings in refugee camps and exile communities in more than 28 countries. The idea was to bring Palestinians together whether under occupation or in exile to discuss the things they want to do next. I participated in many of these gatherings and witnessed the promise of this generation replicating something they have no first-hand experience themselves, for it is rarely talked about and is as yet unwritten: the secret history of the previous generation of Palestinian resistance activists and fighters. Their current endeavours echo the same practices, the same spirit, and the same direction.
Although these huge meetings held last year were all organised locally, the transcripts from places as far apart as Australia, Iraq, Egypt, Sweden, Lebanon, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Greece show that a shared conversation is happening. Palestinians are reclaiming their past of the nakba and dispossession and at the same time preparing the next phase of their fight for justice. By some miracle of the general will, every Palestinian has somehow, through different journeys, arrived together at the same place. Guardian News Service
* Karma Nabulsi is a politics fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, and a former PLO representative.
Hey..........there is more bull-sh#t in this article than Bush's border "Policy"
When the Arabs failed to destroy Israel, the Israelis refused to allow the former Arab residents to return, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Those Arab residents who hadn't left in the first place were allowed to remain in peace.
This article sounds like revisionist hooey to me.
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All the property in Jaffa that belongs to Arabs who left are paid rent money for this property. The Jewish state has been very careful from the beginning of individual rights. Not all the Arabs were moslums, but many are of christian religions.
For some excellent counterpoint to this tripe, go here: http://www.frontpagemag.com/media/pdf/BigLies.pdf
Too bad for the anti-Jewish propagandists that there wasn't a single contemporaneous account of this alleged drive of the Palestinian arabs into the sea.
Isn't it interesting how -- time after time -- the Palestinian arabs coopt the worst things that they try to do to the innocent Israelis and claim that they were done to the Palestinian arabs instead?
No way of knowing for sure, but likely a large majority. Along with those who simply wanted to avoid what would essentially be a free fire zone, with no quarter to civilians.
Karma Nabulsi: a person who lives to hate Israel and is a full professor at Oxford.
Today is the anniversary of the 'Nakba' (Setback).
Which anniversary and which Nakba? First, there was the 1948 Nakba in Palestine. Then, we had too many setbacks, some of which were evident like the Palestinian Nakba in 1967. There is also the Iraqi Nakba, caused by both the Iraqi and American presidents. On the other hand, there are the hidden setbacks in every other country.
There is the setback of terrorism.
There is the setback of illiteracy.
There is the setback of absence of democracy.
There is the setback of the fragility of the rule of law (I am not going to say the collapse of the rule of law because it has never been established).
There is the setback of the absence of women's rights.
There is the setback of the absence of accountability and transparency.
Each is a setback for which we are all responsible.
Neither Zionism nor Colonialism is responsible. We are responsible. Our responsibility is even doubled, since we still insist on holding the 'other' responsible for our failure. This means that we will keep failing.
I write every day, but I never wrote about the anniversary of the Nakba. And, I do not wish to write about it today. I have already said what I wanted to say in the few previous lines. I would like to proceed with an article on Israel on the 58th anniversary of its existence. The article was written by the writer and historian, Tony Judt, in Haaretz on May 5, 2006. It contains better ideas than our emotions on the anniversary of the Nakba. I will briefly translate some parts of the long valuable article:
"By the age of 58 a country - like a man - should have achieved a certain maturity. But the State of Israel remains curiously immature. The social transformations of the country - and its many economic achievements - have not brought the political wisdom that usually accompanies age.
"But that, Israeli readers will tell me, is the prejudiced view of the outsider. They will say that theirs is simply an independent little state doing what it has always done: looking after its own interests in an inhospitable part of the globe. Why should embattled Israel even acknowledge such foreign criticism, much less act upon it? They - gentiles, Muslims, leftists - have reasons of their own for disliking Israel. They - Europeans, Arabs, fascists - have always singled out Israel for special criticism. Their motives are timeless. They haven't changed. Why should Israel change?
"But they have changed. And it is this change, which has passed largely unrecognized within Israel, to which I want to draw attention here. Before 1967, the State of Israel may have been tiny and embattled, but it was not typically hated: certainly not in the West.
I remember well, in the spring of 1967, how the balance of student opinion at Cambridge University was overwhelmingly pro-Israel in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War."
But today, everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967, and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state's very own Nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country's shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, "targeted assassinations," and the separation wall - all these norms of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today, they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish. This means that Israel's behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the way the world views Israel.
Today, only a small minority of outsiders see Israelis as victims. The true victims, it is now widely accepted, are the Palestinians. Indeed, the Palestinians have now displaced Jews as the symbol of a persecuted minority: vulnerable, humiliated and stateless. In this sense, Israel elicits scant sympathy even when its own citizens suffer. Dead Israelis - like the occasional assassinations of white South Africans in the apartheid era, or British colonists hacked to death by native insurgents - are typically perceived abroad, not as the victims of terrorism, but as the collateral damage of their own government's mistaken policies.
The long cultivated persecution mania - "everyone's out to get us" - is no longer accepted as a pretext. At a recent international meeting, I heard one speaker, echoing Helmut Schmidt's famous remark about the Soviet Union being an "Upper Volta with missiles," by describing Israel as "Serbia with missiles."
Israel remains the same, but the world - as I noted above - has changed. Even the Holocaust can no longer be used as an excuse for Israel's behavior. During the Cold War, Israeli governments could still play on the guilt of Germans and other Europeans. Today, the Holocaust is history. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint, and then saying to the world, "Remember Auschwitz".
In short, Israel, in the world's eyes, is an ordinary state, but one that behaves in abnormal ways. It is strong, very strong, but its behavior is making everyone else vulnerable. And so, shorn of all other justifications for its behavior, Israel and its supporters now fall back on the oldest pretext of all: Israel is a Jewish state and that is why people criticize it. This - the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic - is regarded in Israel and the United States as Israel's trump card. If it has been played more insistently and aggressively in recent years, the reason is that it is now the only card left. But, there is the danger that, by playing this game, Israel's fears will materialize. The Jewish state's irresponsible behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. For tens of millions of people in the world today, Israel is indeed the state of all the Jews.
The recent essay on "The Israel Lobby", by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, is a straw in the wind - an indication of the likely direction of future domestic debate in the US about the country's peculiar ties with Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt are prominent senior academics with impeccable conservative credentials. It is true that 10 years ago, they would not - and probably could not - have published this essay at all.
From one perspective, Israel's future is bleak. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has lethal weapons - very lethal weapons. But can it do with them, except make more enemies? Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence. The US won't always be there. Weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa.
That's true, but neither the German Democratic Republic or white South African have had Israel's history. The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob is still around, and His Covenant with Abraham is the only reason the Jewish people have come through to this day.
Anyone can mock that all they want, but the restoration of Israel (with the renewal of the Hebrew language) after 2000 years of diaspora is unique in human history. Go figure....
TRUE When the Arabs failed to destroy Israel, the Israelis refused to allow the former Arab residents to return
TRUE Those Arab residents who hadn't left in the first place were allowed to remain in peace.
TRUE The more than 50 massacres carried out over the summer of 1948 by various armed Jewish forces; the demolition of villages to ensure the refugees could not return ..."We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinians) never do return... The old will die and the young will forget," said David Ben-Gurion in 1949.
Frequently in the history of our world, groups bet wrong. The 'Palestinians' bet wrong. Not only did they bet wrong, they thought and now think, the Israelis would let them play again. What the losers forget is that this was a game for keeps, victors generally dictate terms, and that after their nabka, in great part self-inflicted, they were going to be SOL.
The Arab goverments who encouraged the Palestinians to leave, condemned them to live in refugee camps for subsequent generations. This suffering simply did not have to be ... and given the resources available, does not have to be today. These unfortunate people could have been, and should have been resettled elsewhere in the Muslim world long ago. OTOH, those who remained in Israel probably live better than the vast majority of those elsewhere in the Arab world.
I wasn't aware of this side of the story. I notice that the author, Professor Nabulsi, is teaching in England. Perhaps this helps explain why the Brits are aligned sympathetically with the Palestinians and against Israel.
Yes and those 'camps' have become cities, like Jenin and Ramallah and Nablus. All fostered by the UN of course. And the other Arab countries use the 'plight' of the Pallies, which they actively perpetuate, to keep their own people from waking to the realization of the screwing they are getting from their native kleptocracies. In Mark Steyn's words the Palestinians are a 'comprehensively wrecked people'. All would have been better off to ride out the 1948 war at home.
There is an implication in what you wrote, even if unintended, that the Palestinian Arabs were peaceful while the Arab Nations attacked Israel in 1948.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Palestinian Arabs were attacking Palestinian Jews immediately- as they had done for decades.
"First phase: November 29, 1947 - April 1, 1948
On the day following the adoption of the UN resolution seven Jews were killed by Arabs in Palestine in three separate incidents: at 8 o'clock in the morning, in what came to be seen as the opening shots of the 1948 War , three Arabs attacked a bus from Netanya to Jerusalem, killing five Jewish passengers. Half an hour later a second bus attack left one passenger dead. Later in the day a twenty-five-year old man was shot dead in Jaffa, where wild rumors spread about alleged attacks on Arabs by Jews . Arab prisoners also attempted to assault Jews in Acre prison, but were beaten back by guards. In Jerusalem the Arab Higher Committee called a three-day general strike from Tuesday, 2 December to be followed by mass demonstrations after Friday prayers. The Committee's statement included eight resolutions, the last of which called on the British Government "to hand over Palestine forthwith to its Arab people". On 2 December a mob looted and burned shops in the Jewish commercial district in Jerusalem, unopposed by British forces. From the beginning of the strike onwards Arab and Jewish clashes escalated and by 11 December the Jerusalem correspondent of The Times estimated that at least 130 people had died, "about 70 of them being Jews, 50 Arabs, and among the rest three British soldiers and one British policeman". "
British Arab sympathies long predate the "Palestinians".
In 1948, the most formidable Arab army to attack infant Israel was the Jordanian Legion, trained by the British and led by active serving British officers.
This is far from an unbiased account, simply the highly selective Arab account. The Brits were pro-Arab, anti Israel (Jew, pre 1948) from the early days of the mandate.
Somehow, Britain and all of Europe seem quite sympathetically aligned with the Palestinians, and have been for some time. With a growing, vocal Muslim minority growing up around them and their pacifist/surrendered worldview, I can at least understand why they would be taking this position today.
But going back a decade or two, it's harder to understand. One would think that after the Haulocost occurred in their midst, they would have developed the opposite orientation.