On 15 May, Palestinians commemorate the events of 1948 – the mass displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. The catastrophe is known as Nakba, and this year marks its 75th anniversary
At that time, the Palestinian territories passed from the Ottoman to British hands. When the British Mandate ended, the Palestinian issue was to be decided by the United Nations. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181, which called for partitioning the Mandate of Palestine into two separate states: Jewish and Arab. Meanwhile, the migration of European Jews to the Palestinian territories continued while Zionist armed groups began to intensify attacks on Palestinians systematically.
On 14 May 1948, the creation of the State of Israel was proclaimed. By that time, approximately 200 Palestinian villages and towns had been destroyed, burned, or blown up, and 175 thousands of Palestinians were banished from their homes. These events were accompanied by acts of violence and rape at the hands of Zionist soldiers.
The open wound
“My eldest brother decided that we should leave immediately, like most of the other villagers. But one of the farmers, Abu Rayya, didn’t leave as he wanted to stay on his farm where he had planted okra and beans. Then the (Zionist) gangs came and slaughtered him.” – that’s how 89-year-old Shukria Othman remembers those days. “We left in a hurry, taking only two mattresses and two blankets,” she recounts sorrowfully. “We left behind jars of olive oil and our chickens. All our belongings and supplies were left behind as we believed we would return in a few days. ” – she adds in an interview with Middle East Eye.
The years 1948-1949 were historically considered to be the First Arab-Israeli war. For Jews, it was a fight for freedom; for Arabs – it was Nakba, the catastrophe. The statistics were equally tragic. By the war’s end, Zionist forces had carried out at least 30 massacres of Palestinians. One of those tragedies happened in Deir Jassin, where Jewish militias slaughtered over 110 men, women, and children of Arab origin. The Israeli side massacred approximately 530 villages and towns. As a result, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Today, there are over 5 million Palestinian refugees. Some of them ended up in the camps, where they often stayed forever. In turn, Jews began “to return” to the newly created state. Israel occupied 78% of the Palestinian territories. The Jewish state thus covered 21% more Palestinian territory than the resolution stipulated.
Palestinians, who survived Nakba, still dream about returning home. The catastrophe still takes place, and the events of 1948 remain an open wound. Israel engages in systematic discrimination against the Palestinians and continues to control them. “For them, we were just points on the territory that belonged exclusively to them. They could push us over it with the snap of a finger, like paws on a chessboard.” – that’s how Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh sums up those events in his book “Occupation Diaries”.
The catastrophe is still ongoing
Today, Israeli forces destroy Palestinian houses and schools and carry out raids regularly. The situation is tragic, especially in the Gaza Strip, where 80% of people need humanitarian aid. In turn, in the West Bank, Israeli settlers are building illegal Jewish housing estates. However, according to the Geneva Convention, an occupying power cannot relocate its own civil population into occupied territories. And that’s only a few examples of breaking international law by the Israeli government.
Palestinian writer, Raja Shehadeh, ends “Occupation Diaries” with these words: “Israel may be able to establish settlements among us, provide the settlers with best land and opportunity for further development and at the same time limit our spatial expansion, but whatever political strategy it will use, Israel cannot win, not only because of this immunity that we acquired through years of fighting but also because of simpler truth – like the farmers in the south – we aren’t going anywhere.”
Not only today but every day, we express our solidarity with the Palestinian people. On the anniversary of the Nakba, let’s read a book by a Palestinian writer and share this post. These are little gestures that will show Palestinians that the world remembers them.
Translated by Natalia Grzela.