By Yanis Iqbal – May 15, 2021
May 15, 2021, marks the 73rd anniversary of Nakba (catastrophe). 1948, the year Israel was created, was also the year of the dispossession and expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians and the destruction of more than 500 hundred villages and localities. Israel’s founding violently fragmented the Palestinian people and pushed them into multiple zones of space and classification: those who remained in their homeland, refugees driven to join the original inhabitants of Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (who fell under Israeli military occupation in 1967), and those evicted beyond the borders of historic Palestine, to live either in refugee camps in neighboring Arab states or across the world.
Today, the Nakba is continuing in various forms:
• In Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Bustan, a campaign of ethnic cleansing has been initiated to expel more than 2,000 Palestinians from their homes, to expropriate their property. As residents rose up to defend their lives, livelihoods, and homes, the Israeli state responded with brutality, attacking the Palestinian people in the streets and in their places of worship.
• As Palestinians faced evictions and Ramadan came to a close, tensions mounted, and the Israeli government chose this moment to block Palestinians from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque on one of their most sacred religious days. At the mosque, stun grenades, tear gas and live ammunition injured unarmed Palestinian worshippers. This was both a physical and spiritual assault on Jerusalem’s Palestinian inhabitants. Violence erupted further on Jerusalem Day, a nationalistic celebration of the Israeli capture of the city in 1967.
• In Lydd, Jewish settlers drawn from all over Israel and the occupied West Bank have descended on the streets armed with guns, poles and stones, chanting “Death to Arabs”. These murderous lynch mobs are protected and – when needed – even supplemented by the Israeli civilian police force. During the Nakba, Israeli soldiers entering Lydd massacred 426 Palestinians on the first day of the assault. The following day they marched house to house and drove out tens of thousands of Palestinians out of the city and towards the West Bank. Journalists from the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Herald Tribune described the killing. “Practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the roadside,” wrote one. The other reported seeing “the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge.” Spiro Munayaer, who lived in Lydd at the time, remembered, “The streets were filled with people going to indeterminate destinations.”
• In Gaza, Israel’s terrorist bombardments have killed more than 100 Palestinian civilians. This is the fifth major aerial bombardment of Gaza since former prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005. Dov Weissglass, Sharon’s chief of staff, laid out the rationale behind the disengagement: it would relieve international pressure on Israel, in turn “freezing…the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” In this and earlier bombardments of Gaza – in 2006, 2008-9, 2012 and 2014 – Israel has declared a murderous intention to persist in shelling the enclave until it has achieved “complete quiet”.
The endless repetition of actions resembling Nakba is an inherent function of Israel insofar that settler-colonial movements such as Zionism are informed by what Patrick Wolfe has defined as “the elimination of the Native.” House demolitions, land confiscations, forced removals of Palestinian communities on both sides of the Green Line, no recognition of informal Palestinian settlements and planning restrictions in formal settlements, denial of residence rights to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens – these policies share a common imperative: to restrict and reduce the size, spread and capacity of the Palestinian population. It is absolutely necessary that we vehemently oppose this annihilationist-annexationist agenda of Israel and demand the liberation of Palestine.
Featured image: File Photo