70 years ago, Israeli paramilitary groups were in the process of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the land of Palestine. From the winter of 1947 through the fall of 1948, nearly 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes. The Nakba, or the “catastrophe”, was the beginning of decades of human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians. During this cleansing, many villagers within UN mandated Palestinian land (such as Deir Yassin) were massacred, and their villages wiped off the map. These massacres were used to send a message to Palestinians who remained: they must flee their homes, or face the same fate. Most Palestinians left their belongings and savings in their houses, assuming they would be able to return when the terror subsided. For 70 years, Nakba survivors have lived in exile as refugees.
For Palestinians, the Nakba is a living history. It is ongoing through the current destruction of Palestinian lands, and the abject disregard for Palestinian life. The continued desecration can be felt by the constant encroachment of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a violation of international law. It can be seen as the US opens a new Israeli embassy in Jerusalem while Israel illegally occupies its eastern neighborhoods: a move that encourages Israel’s attempts to clear the city of its Palestinian inhabitants. The loss can be heard as shots pummel peaceful protesters in Gaza in a deadly reign of fire – just yesterday snipers murdered 60 Palestinians. On Nakba day we urge you to consider that the annihilation of Palestine is a reality, and that Americans are complicit in this demise.
70 years after the Nakba, Palestinians still lack fundamental rights and dignities. In Israel proper they are treated like second class citizens under 65 discriminatory laws. In the West Bank they are subjected to foreign military occupation, without sovereignty. Homes are demolished on a regular basis, and movement is difficult due to checkpoints within and around Palestine. In Gaza, Palestinians are simply treated like cattle. All of this is to say that Israel violates international laws and essential respect for humanity, and Palestinians, like all people, deserve better.
Palestinians are not silent throughout their oppression. Just this year, they have constantly demonstrated peacefully calling for their right to return, in continuation of 70 years of resistance to this catastrophe. Collectively, Palestinians demand 3 fundamental steps be taken:
- End Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Apartheid Wall;
- Recognize the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
As an individual, you have the power to resist the colonization of Palestine and support Palestinians to work towards these goals. Americans can contact their representatives (at any level of government) and insist that they publically decry the ongoing massacres in Gaza. You can join your local Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, or another Palestinian solidarity organization. As a consumer, you can leverage your purchasing power and boycott Israeli goods, particularly those directly complicit in the colonization, massacres, and occupation.
Today we remember the Nakba to signal to the powers that be that we will not forget.
Today we remember the Nakba in hopes that Palestine will be free in our lifetime
Today we can decide to push for change.