The anniversary of the Nakba comes every May. But we, the Palestinians of 1948, live in memory of the Nakba in different circumstances than all other Palestinians. Here from within Israel, we can hear the sirens declare the beginning of the celebration observed by those who occupied us while we are still deeply rooted inside of our homeland. We suffer because we feel alienated in our own country, we shout and scream and no one hears us.
Palestinians flee from Gaza's beaches onto boats during the Palestinian nakba, 1949. (Photo: UNRWA)
Israel’s Independence Day is marked on May 9 this year, the holiday follows the Hebrew calendar. Israelis celebrate 71 years of independence with picnics, parties, and fireworks. Yet Palestinians, we mourn this day as our Nakba, or catastrophe in Arabic, the start of an ethnic cleaning, the destruction of our villages, and the creation of a refugee population. While international law regards Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands as only the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, many Palestinian citizens of Israel like myself regard ourselves as also living under occupation. Indeed, at the close of the 1948 war, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under formal military occupation inside of Israel for two decades.
Khadra Ibrahim holds up her refugee documents. Ibrahim was born in Khan al-Sheikh refugee camp in Syria several years after the Nakba. Baharka is her fourth refugee camp. “All the Palestinian here are tired,” she says. Photo: Abed Al Qaisi
Israel’s establishment occurred with the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages by Zionist militias and the early Israeli Defense Forces. In the Acre area, 30 villages were destroyed, 64 villages in Ramla district, 31 villages in Bisan, 88 villages near Beer Sheva 88 village, 46 villages in Gaza, 59 by Haifa, 16 in the Hebron area, 25 around Jaffa, 39 near Jerusalem, six by Jenin, five by Nazareth, 78 outside of Safad, 26 by Tiberias, and 18 in the Tulkarem area.
It is understandable then that another anniversary of the Nakba is commemorated as an anniversary of uprooting, displacement, terrorism and ethnic cleansing. It is 71 years of suffering, displacement and in the world 71 years of international condemnation without a result. The Palestinian people are still one of a few people who lives as refugees in their homeland. There has been 71 years of deprived rights where our land was settled mostly by people who came from all over the world, claiming that Palestine was vacant in the 20th century slogan, “A land without a people for a people without a land.”
In memory of the Nakba …
Israelis celebrate their Independence Day, but it comes with celebrating the suffering of our ancestors, the displacement of our people and the memory of the massacres perpetrated against us over the years.
This victory that is celebrated is at the cost of what the Zionist movement did in what it calls its War of Independence: Zionist militias and later the IDF carried out around 70 massacres, in which around 15 thousand Palestinians were killed, and destroyed some 531 towns. More than 6,000 Israelis were killed in the fighting. In present day, just over the last weekend Israeli forces killed 24 in Gaza, and Palestinians killed 4 Israelis.
To date, all of Israel’s war have created a Palestinians refugee population of 7 million.
Celebrating Israel’s independence means celebrating Palestinians who have been imprisoned. From 1967 to today, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports Israel has at some point detained around one million Palestinians. From 1948 to today, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics calculates 100,000 Palestinians and other Arabs have been killed in the context of the conflict with Israel, including 20,000 killed in wars in Lebanon.
And, there is no talk of the number of trees that were killed since the Nakba in 1948 until today. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates around one million trees on lands owned by Palestinians were uprooted since the year 2000.
The memory of the Nakba …
We salute it with our tears and suppress our pains and our sins. We salute it on the same day that Israelis commemorate the establishment of their state. Starting from the ashes of the Nakba to the battle to stay on our land in order to preserve our heritage and identity, and to confront a series of authoritarian and racist laws.
The day of their independence, the day of our Nakba, oh, how hard and deadly are the day. We walk through the streets of our towns and see the new Israeli banners decorated everywhere, on our schools, our streets, on cars and gas stations … we are tired of this life and we are killed every day, a thousand times as the Israelis wave blue and white flags. When we look at them, they remind us of our martyrs, remind us of our prisoners behind bars.
We commemorate the homes of our destroyed ancestors, we commemorate the Nakba with a march of return and visits to our desolate towns, we send messages of longing to displaced refugees who are waiting to return. We renew their loyalty and visit their destroyed villages. We wander on the soil of our towns and sit on the remaining stones of the rubble of houses that once stood there. We suffer in silence and pride and remain, despite freedom being only a dream.