The Nakba: An ongoing catastrophe

The Nakba: An ongoing catastrophe
Comment: Palestinians have a right to return, exist and of course, to resist their continued oppression, writes Malia Bouattia.
5 min read
09 May, 2019
Salman Hamaida, 75, was driven out of the town of Ramla in 1948 [AFP]
This month the world will be commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the "catastrophe" or "disaster" in Arabic.

In May 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and exiled from their villages in order to create the new state of Israel. Hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed; thousands of people were brutally massacred in Deir Yassin, Lydda, Tantura and many other areas, by gangs which later became the Israeli Defence Force.

This period of remembrance also now marks the anniversary of those killed during the Great Return March in Gaza last year. Thousands of Palestinians, stuck in the blockaded Gaza strip, initiated protests demanding their right to return to their homes from which they were expelled in 1948.

They were also condemning the continued occupation and siege. Hundreds of people have been killed during the marches, including children, disabled protesters, journalists and paramedics. Among them was 21-year old Razan al-Najjar, who was shot dead by Israeli snipers while tending to wounded demonstrators. The unarmed volunteer medic had held her hands up moments before she was fatally shot in the chest.

National groups including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Palestinian Forum in Britain have organised a mass demonstration on 11 May in Whitehall in defence of Palestinians' right to return, exist and of course resist their continued oppression.

The news cycle focuses on immediate actions, because acknowledging the broader reality leads to uncomfortable conclusions

PSC expressed the urgency of the solidarity action which is needed "now more than ever", adding that as "Israel continues to flout international law and violate human rights, there is a responsibility on the global community to hold it to account and push for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people."

Over seven decades since the beginning of Israel's ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, and the assault on the Palestinian people has not ceased. In fact, it continues to escalate.

In the aftermath of an Israeli election in which candidates vied for who could threaten Palestinian lives the most, and in which Netanyahu promised to annex the West Bank and Golan Heights, Israel launched a number of
airstrikes on Gaza over the weekend, leaving at least 24 dead.

Much has been made of Palestinian responses to the attacks in the international press, whose coverage has repeatedly refused to acknowledge Israel's initiation of the hostilities, or the incomparable force and destructive power it unleashed on the starved and fenced-in population in the Strip.

Yet the current violence in Gaza cannot be abstracted from the history of continued Palestinian displacement, dispossession, and murder. The news cycle focuses on immediate actions; rockets, air strikes and security risks, because acknowledging the broader reality leads to uncomfortable political conclusions.

In fact, many Palestinian activists and academics now talk of an ongoing Nakba, one that did not end in 1948 but still continues.

Many Palestinian activists and academics now talk of an ongoing Nakba, one that did not end in 1948 but still continues

Indeed, the catastrophe has not ended.

Still more Palestinians are being evicted from their houses and their lands. More are living in exile, and more are enduring the military and structural violence of Israel's settler-colonial expansion.

Gaza's population for example, is overwhelmingly made up of Nakba refugees, whose right of return Israel continues to violate, in contravention of international law. The horrors meted out against that population did not start last Friday. They are at least 71 years in the making.

During the same weekend as the anniversary of the Nakba, Israel will host the Eurovision song contest during which it will parade a supposed normalcy, despite its ongoing military occupation, oppression and blockade.

The Israeli government has used Netta Barzilai's win in the 2018 competition as a huge PR opportunity. The singer, who has been described by Netanyahu as the "
best ambassador of Israel", has served to art-wash the country's continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian call for a boycott of the event has been answered by campaigners around the world, including over 60 queer and trans liberation organisations from over a dozen countries.

Alternative events like the
No to Eurovision: Party for Palestine concert on 18 May in London, as well as protest actions are expected to take place across the world in the lead up and during the airing of the event.

The Nakba anniversary is then an opportunity to condemn both the ongoing and the new injustices meted out by Israel against the people of Palestine.

Director of PSC Ben Jamal, stressed that, "Trump is preparing a 'deal of the Century'; a deal that will be built upon the denial of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have called for international solidarity to resist what they are calling a 'new Nakba', and this solidarity is needed now more than ever."

The horrors meted out against the Palestinian population did not start last Friday. They are at least 71 years in the making

"All of us who recognise that the struggle for justice in Palestine is part of the universal struggle for justice need to join the National Demonstration for Palestine on 11 May to say in one voice-we stand with you, in your struggle for freedom, justice and equality."

Palestinian activist and writer Shahd Abusalama, echoed the calls to action in the coming weeks.

"Our justice is far long overdue, and the denial of our legitimate struggle for liberation from Israeli systems of oppression is fuelled and maintained by an international chain of complicity in Israeli apartheid. We have been on the frontline resisting those mechanisms, and it's urgent that people of conscience join in solidarity and resist the collusion of their governments and institutions in this long-standing crime against humanity."

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.