19 May 2016
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Remembering the Nakba–an act of
[Note: The following piece by a Hebron CPTer has been edited
for length. The original is available on
Every 15 May, Palestinians remember the Nakba (Great
Catastrophe). The Nakba refers to the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of
the Palestinians during the late 1940s as Jewish Zionists were establishing the
Israeli state. The facts of the Nakba are as shocking as they are unknown
to the West. And those of us in the West
are responsible for this ignorance.
Following WW II and the Holocaust, the United Nations,
influenced heavily by Zionist lobbying and the need to secure a home for
the thousands of Jews displaced by the Holocaust, split the British Mandate of
Palestine. The partition is a historic example of European colonial
privilege trumping the interests and rights of local communities. At the
time of the partition, European Jews owned only 7% of the land and were only
33% of the population. Yet the United Nations allocated 55% of the land
for the establishment of a Jewish state and 42% for the re-establishment of an
Arab Palestinian state. Jerusalem, comprising the remaining 3%, was to be
an international city. Palestinians had no voice and no representation in
Palestinian refugees carry their belongs after Zionist forces push them off their lands.
Immediately after the plan passed, violence between
Palestinians destined for dislocation and Zionists who would be taking their
homes broke out. Heavily armed and militarily trained, the Zionists began
uprooting and ethnically cleansing Palestinians from not only the 55% allocated
to them but also from the 42% allocated to the Palestinians. By the time
they were done in 1949, Israel controlled 78% of the land. Outside Arab
nations, slow to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians, eventually tried
militarily to resist the advancing Zionist forces but were defeated.
During the Nakba:
forces uprooted between 750,000 and 1,000,000 Palestinians from their
homes and turned them into refugees.
were at least twenty-four known massacres of Palestinians by Zionist and
Israeli military forces.
of these massacres spread quickly and tens of thousands of Palestinians
abandoned their homes and villages and fled from fear that they would be
slaughtered as well. Zionist forces completely destroyed 400 villages and
erased from existence or took them over and renamed them. Zionist forces
destroyed cultural centers; places of worship, homes and records of
ownership, all in an attempt to erase any legal claim Palestinian refugees
might have for returning.
to 4,244,776 acres of land were taken from the Palestinians as part of the
creation of the state of Israel.
Palestinians also remember the Nakba because, as a tool of
forced dispossession, forced migration, and ethnic cleansing, the Nakba is
still happening in Palestine and Israel. Every day, Israel destroys
Palestinian homes, uproots families, claims more land in the West Bank for
illegal settlements, drives farmers off of their land, imprisons children, and
murders youth. Israel justifies much of its actions by parading security
concerns before the West, and the United States, especially, eats it up. Thus
remembering the Nakba is a call to never forget what was taken and a call to
act against what Israel is still taking.
For the citizens of the United States the Nakba is a harsh
reprimand. For the last sixty-eight years, the United States has worked diligently
to assure that Israel avoids accountability for its actions during the Nakba
and to assure that Israel continues to have license to violently colonize
Palestine. Using its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the
United States has vetoed forty-two resolutions designed to hold Israel
accountable. Additionally, the U.S. gives Israel billions of taxpayer
dollars every year to beef up its military and replenish the bullets and
teargas that Israeli forces use against the Palestinians. 2016’s allocation,
which will likely be an increase from $3 billion to $5 billion, will be the
largest military package the U.S. has ever offered Israel. U.S. taxpayers
and voters, whether we like it or not, ultimately bear some responsibility for
the United States’ role in supporting Israeli violence and the continuance of
|Palestinians flee the advancing Zionist forces.
Owning and bearing that responsibility is tricky.
Indeed, it is easiest to plead ignorance. After all, U.S. citizens have
consumed one consistent narrative since the Holocaust and the creation of the
Israeli state. That narrative is that Israel is a country under
siege. Those in the United States have been conditioned to trust our
elected officials and media sources and those elected officials and media
sources have always told us that Israel was righteous. And so, because we
have blindly trusted, we have allowed ourselves to remain ignorant of the
truth. We reason that this excuse covers us and washes away our
responsibility. Instead, it reveals our privilege and our cruelty.
This year, as I remember the Nakba in Hebron in solidarity
with the Palestinians, I am struck by a new understanding of the role of
remembrance. Remembering the Nakba is not just a memorial of loss for the
Palestinians; remembering the Nakba is not just an act of resistance that tells
Israel and the world that the Palestinian people will not forget what is
rightfully theirs. Remembering the Nakba is also a nonviolent weapon wielded
against the occupation and the sentimentalities of the Israelis and the
Americans that support it. Remembering cries out, “We will not let you
forget! We will not let you turn a blind eye to our right to exist and
our right to return!”
Remembrance in this sense is an act of revolution. It
is the oppressed and the marginalized, it is the attacked and the violated, it
is the poor and the robbed, refusing to allow comfort to settle in for those
who have stolen from them.
And so for those of us who are privileged and comfortable, I
hope that today we can take time to remember what has been stolen so that we
can be here. I hope that we will remember the downtrodden. And I
hope that in this remembering we will have sleepless nights, uncomfortable silence,
loss of appetite, and regret. And I hope that in remembering we will be
spurred to action to give up our comforts and disavow our privilege so that
others may find rest and peace and may return home.
Christian Peacemaker Teams Palestine is committed to remembering what the Nakba means and continues to mean for our partners in Palestine. Support turning those memories into action.