Jewish Voice for Peace is asking Americans, during the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, not to forget the “catastrophe” or Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of two thirds of the Palestinian population from their homes, lands, and villages and towns just before and after May 15, 1948.
Today, Jews around the world are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. These celebrations reflect the understandable joy of Jews who view Israel as the symbol of 60 years of freedom from centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, not all Jews will be celebrating.
While Israel provided a safe haven for countless Jewish refugees who had nowhere else to go, many of them members of our own families, the terrible fact is that over 700,000 Palestinians were made into refugees to make room for the future state of Israel. Sixty years and several generations later, that number has swelled to an estimated 7 million. Many live in 58 registered refugee camps dispersed throughout the Middle East, and some 4 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories continue to endure reprehensible collective punishment to this day.
That is why the creation of the state of Israel, an occasion marking great celebrations for many Jews throughout the world, is known as the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, to Palestinians.
And that is why many of us will not be celebrating, for as long as Palestinians are still fighting for their fundamental human rights, we can not rejoice.
Any peaceful future depends on recognizing both the Palestinian and the Israeli narrative. And yet, just as the names of over 400 pre-1948 Palestinian towns and cities have been deliberately erased from maps, the history of the Palestinian Nakba itself has been all but erased from consciousness.
At Jewish Voice for Peace, we cannot participate in celebrations that erase both the history and modern-day injustices experienced by Palestinians. It is precisely this rendering invisible of Palestinian experience and claims for justice that makes reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians impossible. We choose instead to remember, to know, and to work towards justice and self-determination for both peoples. As Jews and Palestinians, our pasts are intertwined, and so too are our futures.
Today, because much of the world has forgotten, we remember that:
· In April, 1948, the same month as the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin, Plan Dalet was put into operation. It authorized the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state.
· On May 22, 1948, Jewish soldiers from the Alexandroni Brigade entered the house of Tantura residents killing between 110-230 Palestinian men.
· On October 28, 1948, in the village of Dawayameh, near Hebron, Battalion 89 of the 8th Brigade occupied the village. Israeli soldiers said of the massacre that babies… skulls were cracked open, women raped or burned alive in houses, men stabbed to death. 145 men, women and children were killed. Over 450 went missing, of which 170 were women.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person “has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Israel has never accepted the legitimacy of this basic human right as a basis for peace negotiations, whether by return, compensation, or resettlement. Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-Semitism and Hitler’s genocide. As the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said emphasized, “Like it or not, this is the historical reality. We must better understand them, and they must better understand us. We must make clear the link between the Shoah (the European Jewish Holocaust) and the Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948). Neither experience is equal to the other, and neither should be minimized.”
Many of us will not celebrate as long as Israel continues to violate international law, inflicts a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza, and continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.
We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East.
Lest one think that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians ceased in 1948, a further 100,000 were driven out of the West Bank and Gaza en masse during the 1967 war, where some Palestinians, who were refugees from the 1948 exodus, became refugees again (see below). Since 1967, continual slow ethnic cleansing has enabled Israel to wrest a further 42% of West Bank land from the Palestinians.
Jewish Voice for Peace has prepared a RESOURCE CENTER and footnoted downloadable fact sheets about both the Nakba and the story of Jews of the Middle East.
BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights also has publications available that educate about the Nakba.