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Nakba 2016: Then and Now

May 12, 2016, midnight

On the occasion of the commemoration of the Nakba, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian says:

“The Nakba is ongoing as long as the occupation continues and as long as the Right of Return is not implemented according to UN Resolution 194 which enshrines the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees.

Almost one hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 7 million Palestinian refugees still suffer displacement and dispossession. There is increasing awareness among the British people of the great injustice done to the Palestinians which continues to this day. They understand it was a direct consequence of the British Government’s creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.

Today the British Government continues to turn a blind eye to Israel’s blatant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The British nation, however, is principled and has a great sense of fairness. I appeal to them to call on their government to work to rectify the great wrong done to my people”.

The 68th Anniversary of the Nakba

The commemoration of the Nakba is especially significant this year. The Middle East is in turmoil. People are fleeing war and borders are being redrawn. It is almost 100 hundred years to the day when Britain and France made a secret agreement, the Sykes Picot Agreement, to carve up the Arab world between them. This was the prelude to the Nakba which was no less than the destruction of Palestine. Israel is presiding over the death of the two state solution in its unashamed violation of Palestinian human rights and theft of more Palestinian land, believing it can weave its expansionist plots without ever paying the price for its crimes.

Palestinians will never forget. They continue to resist the annihilation of their human rights and their integrity as people. A new generation of Palestinians in occupied Palestine, in the refugee camps and in the diaspora worldwide are creatively and steadfastly re-asserting their identity and their culture, reclaiming their past and agency through civil society campaigning and protest, through film, through music and in academia. Palestinians refuse to be the passive victims of the immense pressures designed to silence and stunt them. They will continue to fight for freedom and justice.

Remembering

Once an old man was prodded into reminiscences of life in Palestine by a group of his young male relatives. He spoke about it very elaborately – the village he grew up in, family gatherings, feasts and memorable occasions, the pleasures of being at home. But when I asked how it ended, how he became a refugee, he suddenly stopped. Then he got up and left. (from Edward Said’s After the Last Sky 1986).

Catastrophe! That is what ‘Nakba’ means. What happened to the Palestinian people in 1948 was a catastrophe. It was a destruction of their past, their future and their identity. Commemorating the Nakba must be an act of recuperation, of reclaiming as well as remembering.

Nakba 1948

The Nakba was not an unintended result of war. It was a systematic act of displacement and transfer of the greater part of Palestinian population from historic Palestine planned and premeditated by Zionist Jewish leaders to create a Jewish settler majority on the land. This is called ethnic cleansing today.

This calculated expulsion of an indigenous people, the Palestinians, was the result of political Zionism in 19th century Europe, a movement to create a state for Jews in Palestine. This was endorsed and supported by colonial Britain through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and facilitated by British policies and actions while they controlled Palestine until 1948 when they left, abandoning the Palestinians to their fate at the hands of Zionist militias.

We commemorate the Nakba, 68 years on, by remembering the refugees, the destruction of homes and violence against Palestinians in 1948 and in the current time.

Refugees

  • 750,000 Palestinians were violently removed from their homes in towns and villages and forcibly expelled.
  • 67% of the Palestinian people became refugees by 1948 and never allowed to return.
  • 150,000 Palestinians remained in the areas of Palestine that became Israel and 46,000 Palestinians were internally displaced and never allowed to return to their homes.
  • When Israel launched its military occupation of what remained of Palestine in 1967, 300,000 Palestinians were yet again violently forced to leave their homes, creating a new wave of refugees. Of these 120,000 were previously dispossessed in 1948 and now had become doubly displaced.
  • Destruction of homes and occupation Between 1947 and 1948 over 400 Palestinian villages were systematically depopulated through acts of ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias and later destroyed.
  • In 1947 the UN, picking up the pieces during Britain’s messy exit from Palestine, voted by a slight margin to designate 55% of Palestine for a new Jewish state despite only 7% of the land being Jewish owned, acquired by Zionist organisations. Barely a third of the population at that time were Jewish, most of whom had immigrated to Palestine during the previous fifty years. For example, Haifa, which were designated to become part of the new Jewish state under the UN partition, had a Palestinian population 47%. This was neither just nor logical.
  • Zionists militias launched attacks on Palestinian towns and villages culminating in the seizure of 78% of historic Palestine followed by the self-declaration of the Israeli state.
  • In 1967 Israel occupied what remained of Palestine and this territory is known today as the occupied Palestinian territories.

Victims of Violence

  • 15,000 Palestinians were killed. Massacres of Palestinian civilians played a crucial role in spurring their terrified flight from their homes such as the brutal killing of 254 unarmed men women and children in the village of Deir Yassin on 9th April 1948. There were over two dozen documented massacres by Zionist militias.

Nakba 2016: 68 Years On

The Nakba did not end in 1948 but it continues today in the form of its consequences for the millions of Palestinians who are dispossessed or suffer under Israeli occupation and the ongoing Israel policy of ethnic cleansing and continued theft of what remains of Palestinian land.

There are today, millions of stateless Palestinians who are denied their internationally recognised legal right of return, enshrined in UN Resolution 194. Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian homes, deport Palestinians and revoke resident permits, particularly of Palestinians living in Jerusalem. There are continuous military assaults such as the bombardment of Gaza most recently in 2014, as well as the daily killings or arbitrary arrests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

Refugees

  • There are 7 million refugees in the world today. 1 in 3 of all refugees worldwide are Palestinian. 70% of all Palestinians worldwide are in fact refugees and are refused the right to return to their homes. Half of these are stateless.
  • 1.5 million refugees are registered with UNWRA and live in 58 UNWRA refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There are many more who are not registered who live in these camps.
  • Today 5 million refugees, those displaced in 1948 and their descendants, are eligible for UNWRA services and humanitarian aid.
  • The largest refugee population is in Gaza, numbering 1.26 million.
  • 50% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are refugees from 1948 and 1967. Approximately 260,000 internally displaced Palestinians reside in present day Israel.
  • Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria was home to 160,000 Palestinians refugees who fled in 1948. Today only 18,000 remain. They have been displaced again.

Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria 2016

Destruction of homes

  • Since 1967 Israel has destroyed over 27,000 Palestinian homes. These figures do not include some 18,000 homes destroyed during 2014 Gaza assault.
  • In the last three months alone, Israel tripled its demolitions of Palestinian owned structures in the occupied territories. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) have documented an average 50 demolitions per month between 2012 -2015. The number rose to 235 in the month of February of this year alone.
  • The hardest hit are the Bedouin Palestinian farming communities who are at risk of forcible transfer.
  • Since 1967, 14,000 Jerusalem Palestinians have had their residence permits revoked. The new Israeli law, ‘Breach of Allegiance’ can lead to a Palestinian’s permit being revoked for throwing stones! This is a calculated policy of forced displacement to thin out Palestinians. This also includes the demolition of family homes in East Jerusalem. 208 Palestinians were displaced in 2014 after Israel demolished 97 buildings. In the same year, according to OCHA figures, the Israeli authorities destroyed 590 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,177 people.
  • 500,000 Palestinians were internally displaced in Gaza during the Israeli assault in 2014.
  • Throughout the West Bank including East Jerusalem some 90,000 Palestinians are facing potential displacement according to OCHA.

Victims of Violence

  • Since the second Palestinian uprising of 2000 approximately 9,000 Palestinians have been killed according to OCHA, of which 1400 were children.
  • In 2014 alone, approximately 2200 were killed in the assault on Gaza and 11, 000 were injured of which 3,000 were children and 1000 of these will suffer lifelong disabilities.
  • Since 2000, 1,412 children have been killed.
  • The UN has catalogued 2600 acts of violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers.
  • Since October 2015, 190 Palestinians have been killed and over 15,000 injured by Israeli soldiers.

Reaffirming our right to justice, to a state of our own and our right of return

Surely the facts and numbers speak for themselves. The Nakba was the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and their displacement from their land. Today Palestinians still suffer as refugees in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in Gaza, in neighbouring Arab states and in the wider global diaspora. They are denied their human rights, they continue to be displaced, oppressed, injured and killed.

On the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, we reaffirm our right of return, that injustice has to be rectified and that Israel has to acknowledge and recognize its culpability for the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians and the destruction of an entire nation.

Britain also must bear the blame for this tragedy and it is high time it shouldered its responsibility to work proactively for justice and peace for the Palestinians.

Prepared by the Palestinian Mission UK

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