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Nakba : A Tale of Two Countries, Israel & Palestine

From the sheikh jarrah eviction, the violent intruding of illegal Israeli settlers to the attacks on al aqsa mosque. Everything holds its roots in british colonisation. It was none other than a tory foreign secretary who first signed away the right of Palestinians to live in their own land. Zionists used racism to justify their goal, but needed a major imperial power to help them achieve it. That’s where “Bloody Balfour” as he is nicknamed, came in. Known for his vicious policies, from discrimination against South Africans to the claims in Ireland, his declaration was never about helping Jewish people. It was about staking a claim to a strategically important part of the Middle East. The letter signed by Arthur Balfour over 100 years ago might’ve been just three sentences long, but it weighed enough to signal the beginning of the dispossession and murder of Palestinians that continues to this day. The Balfour declaration gave Britain’s official backing to the Zionist colonists who wanted to establish a Jewish state on Palestinian land. British thought the Jews wanted a land based on Zionist thinking and the Zionist leftists that help create the state. This decision was made without considering the actual natives of the land. Making it stolen land, given from one thief to another. The letter stated the British government supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”. This is still celebrated by the supporters of Israel, despite the Israeli oppression which has been going on for decades, and still lives to this day. The British administration cooperated with Zionist authorities to oversee Jewish migration into Palestine and the transfer of land to the colonies. Palestinians were given no say in how their country should be run. Their country was soon made into “A land without people for people without land”. Acts of Palestinian resistance were brutally crushed. Britain allowed illicit arms to be smuggled into the country by the colonists. It even armed some of the colonies itself to “defend” them from the Palestinians. The oppression against Palestinians was implicit in the declaration. It was Britain’s attempt to use a racist, colonial movement to prop up its empire in the Middle East. Through the above statement, we mean to throw light on the Nakba, and further into the article we’ll uncover the Nakba denial.

“Nakba” is the Palestinian term for a series of events which took place in 1948, which literally means “catastrophe”, Comprising of the destruction of Palestinian society and homeland, and the permanent displacement of a majority of the Palestinian people. This event both defined their future of statelessness and occupation, and now forms the basis for their distinct national identity. Many of the chief consequences of the nakba, including the displacement of most Palestinians from their ancestral lands and ongoing statelessness, remain unresolved to this day. Violence between the two communities and the British authorities grew common throughout the 1930s and 40s, including a fully-fledged revolt from 1936 to 1939. But as it became clear that Britain was simply going to leave Palestine in 1948, both sides began jockeying for position. Communal violence broke out into open warfare in the fall of 1947. This set the stage for the nakba. Up to 100,000 Palestinians, mainly from the upper and middle classes, were forced to flee the cities and towns which were the epicentre of the fighting. Until then, expulsions were rare. But in April 1948, the Jewish forces launched a more concerted campaign of massacre and forced displacement, including the notorious Deir Yassin massacre of about 100 Palestinians on April 9. This fuelled the already existing panic among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee. As Jewish military forces continued their oppression, Early April saw the launch of the “Plan Dalet” military campaign. Which sought, in part, the ethnic cleansing of most or all of the Arab inhabitants from areas claimed for a Jewish state. As the British withdrew from Palestine in early May 1948, Israel declared its establishment, and the war intensified with the intervention of several Arab armies along with the process of Palestinian displacement.

Although the Nakba is historically well-documented and preserved through the oral history and collective trauma of millions of Palestinians, many people today still deny that it happened. By distorting the facts, some revisionist historians have tried to whitewash theory and deny Palestinian claims to their ancestral homelands. They helped themselves by creating a delusion, and spreading false information regarding the same. It is widely believed that nakba was a war. It is crucial to differentiate the Nakba and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. They should be understood as two separate, but overlapping events. December of 1947 marked the start of the Nakba, a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel. May 15, 1948 marked the start of the 1948 War, fought between Israel on one side, and official non-Palestinian Arab armies on the other side. By the time the 1948 War started, the Nakba had been ongoing for six months. In this time, Israel had expelled 300,000 Palestinians and occupied 200 Palestinian towns. While debunking more myths and lies like these, it’s also important to be reminded of the fact that the Palestinians didn’t “sell” their land. By 1947, Jewish-owned land only comprised 5.8% - 7.5% of land in Mandatory Palestine. Less than a tenth of the land purchased by Zionists was sold to them by Palestinian farmers, a majority was purchased from absentee landlords in Lebanon & Syria. On top of this, only 1.3% of Israel's historical archives are public. In 2018, Israel's Chief Archivist Yaakov Lazowick said, "Israel is not dealing with its archival material in a manner befitting a democracy. The vast majority of the material is sealed and will never be opened." He called this an "attempt to conceal part of the historical truth, in order to build a more convenient narrative," especially with regards to what could "be interpreted as Israeli war crimes". By hiding records of the Nakba, the Israeli government tries to erase it from public knowledge. It attempts to suppress Palestinian history and obstruct accountability and justice. Not only have they been making constant efforts into erasing history, they also restrict remembrance. In 2011, the Knesset passed "the Nakba Law", which financially punishes any organization that marks the day of the establishment of Israel as a day of mourning. This not only denies freedom of expression, but also the Palestinian right to remember, to mourn, and educate others. Despite this law, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship still find ways to commemorate their traumatic history, with grassroots efforts like marching to the remains of Palestinian villages.

Most Israelis refuse to acknowledge the Nakba as an event and process of deliberate ethnic cleaning. The Nakba challenges Israel's very legitimacy as a state and its founding myths. It also means understanding that today's ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah and Palestine in it’s entirely are not isolated events, but an extension of the atrocity which destroyed the Palestinian civilization in 1948. Recognizing atrocities is the necessary first step towards healing. Ending today's oppression requires reckoning with its roots. But the opposite holds true as well, denying the roots of today's oppression will only fuel it further. This helps explain the enduring violence between Israelis and Palestinians, which flared up most recently on the border with Gaza. Our previous article mentions the events that recently took place in Palestine. As each day passes, the situation in Palestinian territory, now under Israeli control, continues to decay. Wrecked homes and hopeless lives, this is where racism, oppression, exploitation from decades ago has taken us. Despite the ceasefire in Gaza, which pretty much only concerns just one location, all the rest of the issues between the two sides are very much there. The damage inflicted in less than two weeks will take years to recover. Celebrating balfour, the nakba denial, or even supporting the actions taken by Israel, is celebrating the causes of Palestinian suffering today.

~ Risika Singh

1 Comment

Kapeesh Gupta
Kapeesh Gupta
Jun 01, 2021

Great Article! 😀 very informative

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