Nakba Commemoration in the Balfour Declaration Centenary Year: It’s time to go home! It’s time to make it right for Palestine. The Right of ReturnMay 15, 2017, midnight
I Come From There
I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland.....
What is The Nakba?
Every year, we Palestinians commemorate 15th May which has a special symbolism. It is not a day for celebration. We Palestinians have had little to celebrate in the last 100 years. It is a day for grief, for a process of painful remembering, a day to ponder and to acknowledge the full weight of the tragedy, the catastrophe which befell us. It is a day which symbolises the destruction of our nation, of our organic connection to the land we tilled, to the village square with its mosques and churches, to our neighbours, to our cities, Yaffa, Haifa, Lydda, Jerusalem and Akka where a cultural and intellectual life was growing and blossoming. On 14th May 1948, after a programme of systematic and deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist terror groups, Jewish colonial leaders unilaterally declared the creation of Israel. The 15th May, the day after, marks the day of our forced displacement from our homeland, the Nakba.
Before the Nakba: Harvest time
Before the Nakba: A family gathering
Berfore the Nakba: Gossiping with neighbours
Before the Nakba: Watching the footie
The Forced Displacement of the Palestinian Refugees
Between 1948 and 1949, the Zionists achieved their strategic aim. They had ethnically cleansed key regions of their Palestinian inhabitants to create a Jewish majority in historic Palestine. They expelled Palestinians from their homes, their farms, their businesses, their towns and cities. 750,000 Palestinians were ‘transferred’. Three quarters of the entire population of Palestine, who owned 93% of the land, became refugees virtually overnight. 150,000 became internally displaced and were prohibited from returning to their homes and farms which were often in view of their site of dispossession. These internally displaced refugees number 1.6 million today and make up 20% of the population. They have been subject to discrimination ever since. Those Palestinian refugees who were driven out of Palestine altogether, Nakba survivors and their descendants, officially number over 7 million and live in terrible conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and some still in Syria, despite the terrible conflict there. Many more live in the global diaspora.
The Destruction of Palestine
Over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed and Palestinian properties, both homes and businesses, in rural areas and in towns were rampantly looted. Over 4 million acres of land was expropriated during, and following the Nakba. The estimated monetary loss of Palestinians dispossessed during Israel’s violent creation is estimated to amount to 200 billion pounds today.
Forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians
Britain, The Balfour Declaration and 69th year of the Nakba
This year marks the 69th year of the Nakba and is particularly significant as it coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 2017. Arthur James Balfour, Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, oversaw the newly acquired colony of Mandate Palestine. In ‘the most famous letter in history’ addressed to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish Community, he promises that the British government favour “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, despite the fact that, at that time, 92% of the population were Palestinian Arabs, both Muslim and Christian. Speaking of the Balfour Declaration the Hungarian-British Jewish writer and philosopher, Arthur Koestler said it amounted to the strange case of one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation.
Britain abdicates its responsibilities
After the Balfour Declaration and once Britain had full mandated control over Palestine, European Jewish migration began to increase under the auspices of British rule with 182,000 entering the country between 1930 and 1936 alone. Palestinian opposition to this colonial engineering expressed itself in acts of resistance which were brutally supressed by the British. The new Jewish immigrants seeing the possible fulfilment of the Zionist vision of a Jewish homeland formed terror groups which carried out attacks against the British and the Palestinians. Unable to cope with the Pandora’s Box which they had opened, the British handed over responsibility to the United Nations. They left Palestine, and left the Palestinians to their fate, at the hands of the well-armed and brutal Jewish militias. At least 24 massacres were carried out against the Palestinian civilian population by these pre- Israeli-state terrorist groups and later, by the Israeli army. This included the massacre of the village Deir Yassin, where 100 Palestinian men, women and children were murdered in cold blood. Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion is on record as saying “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation and land confiscation to rid Galilee of its Arab population”.
A population of refugees was created
The UN Partition Plan
In September 1947, the UN tabled a resolution to partition Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state even though it was not in its mandate to create states, nor to give the territory of one people to another people. This, however, is just what happened when Partition Resolution 181 was passed on 29th November 1947. The UN plan allocated 55% of Palestine to the Jewish state although Zionist Jews, even after the massive immigration after the Second World War made up only one third of the population and owned 7% of the land through Zionist fund land purchases. The Palestinians were allocated 45% of the land and were to be transferred from their villages and urban centres.
Despite great pressure from United States and Soviet delegations, the Partition Plan would not have passed but for the concerted and significant lobbying by Zionist groups and promises of economic support to Liberia and 12 out of 20 South American nations if they voted in favour. Britain the instigator of this terrible injustice and, arguably, the prime guilty party actually abstained at the vote. Emboldened, the Jewish terror groups completed their programme of ethnic cleansing and declared the creation of the State of Israel, not on 55% of historic Palestine as in the UN Partition Plan but on 78% of Palestine, land gained through bloody violence. Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine, the remaining 22% in 1967 and still does today, 50 years on. In violation of international law, it builds illegal settlements and confiscates private Palestine land under any pretext. Ethnic cleansing continues incrementally, in the form of Israel’s unabated expropriation of land, refusal to give permits to Palestinians to extend their homes, illegal house demolitions, revocation of residence permits and the endless acts of humiliation and oppression under occupation.
The Right of Return. We will go home one day
There has been no precedence in modern history of a foreign minority destroying the entire society of an indigenous majority, occupying their land and expelling them from their homes. Despite this, the determination of Palestinians to return has not wavered. Their culture and their traditional values, their dignity and resolve remain unbroken whether under occupation, in the refugee camps or in the global diaspora. UN Resolution 194 of December 1948, passed after the magnitude of the ethnic cleansing was realized, states, “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts the right of every individual to return to his/her country and it is a principle of international law that occupation does not confer sovereignty on the land, due to the inadmissibility of conquest.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the UN Partition Plan of 1947, the Armistice Agreements of 1949 and the occupation of 1967 cannot take away the inalienable rights of the Palestinians. They are entitled to and will return to their homeland. One day, justice will be done. After 50 years of occupation, 70 years after the partition plan and 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, Palestinians have not given up and will return to a state they call their own, to the State of Palestine. It is time to make it right for Palestine. It is time to go home.