Sunday 15 May 2011

Al-Nakba 2011

Today is Al-Nakba Day, when Palestinians throughout the world remember the catastrophe (Al-Nakba in Arabic) which befell their community in 1948.   The Nakba was a real and violent catastrophe.  The deliberate destruction, looting, massacres and forced expulsion of the Palestinian inhabitants of what was to become Israel.  Because this was also of course the period of the proclamation of the state of Israel and the two are intimately linked.  Without the forced expulsions of Palestinians there would have been no Israel.  While Nakba remembers an historic event, the violence against Palestinians continues right up to the present.  Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues to be confiscated and their inhabitants forced out.  An insight into the underhand means that Israel is prepared to use to expel Palestinians can be found in a recent article by the great Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.  He reports on a study which shows that by the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel had revoked the residency 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.  Palestinians who had gone abroad to study or work and stayed away for more than six months had their right to return denied forever.  By the stroke of a bureaucratic pen.  As Levy put it - “In other words, they were expelled from their land and their homes.  In other words: ethnic cleansing.”  You can read the whole article here.

What is clear from all this is that without the forced expulsion of the original inhabitants of the land, there would be no Israel and without the continuing expulsion of Palestinians Israel could not survive as a Jewish state.  The more people know about Al-Nakba, the more people will start to question the whole basis for the creation and continuing existence of Israel as a Jewish ethnocracy.  Which is no doubt why the Israeli Parliament has been trying to criminalize any mentioning of the Nakba.  So much for the claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.  Not all Jews share this draconian view and Noam Sheifaz, an independent journalist has written a powerful piece for 972 magazine explaining why Jews need to talk about the Nakba.
It seems that the Palestinians are beginning to mount a credible challenge to continuing Israeli rule.  The recent unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah is one sign of this,  Another is the impact that the recent pro democracy uprisings in the rest of the Arab world is beginning to have among Palestinians.  Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem and he has written here about how the Arab Spring is inspiring Palestinian protesters.  And part of this is the Nakba Day manifestations.  Below are links to some of the works produced by Palestinians to commemorate this “catastrophe”.  
First up is this video, which I came across via Mondoweiss.  It is called The Manifesto, and is a reply to the Gaza Youth Manifesto.  The makers describe it as a simple, true, self-explanatory, expression of what we’re sick of.  I have not been able to find out just who has produced this video.  
Next is a link to Palestine Monitor, an online resource about the Palestinian struggle for justice.  There you find a video about their Nakba Day event - Return to Palestine, Take to the streets on Nakba. 
The third link is to Nakba Survivor and is  in many ways the most moving.   This is a new website, a multi-media initiative of the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), set up to for this the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba.  It features the personal testimonies of Palestinian refugees who fled (or whose parents and grandparents fled) Israel’s ethnic cleansing project that began in 1948.  Palestinians all over the world were asked to upload video testimonials or contribute their stories on Twitter.  These latter show up on a live feed on the website.  A great and moving collection.
The rest of the world can of course contribute to the ongoing struggle of Palestinians for justice.  The key, basic demands of justice are that Israel respects its obligations under international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinians refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
We can our bit by supporting any local initiatives of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.  In Dundee our next campaign is to persuade the local Council to refuse to accept any bids for council contracts from any company which aids or benefits from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.  A motion is to go before the Council in June.  If you want to help us you can find out more from either Tayside for Justice for Palestine or Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  
Another way to show our solidarity with the struggle of Palestinians is to support the various worldwide campaigns to break the blockade of Gaza.  Here in Scotland we hope to raise enough money to send our own ship to join the forthcoming flotilla.  For more information about this campaign visit the Scotland to Gaza website.

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