Remembering – and arming against – Nakba Day
Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ireland
To know who we are we must know where we came from
Speech by Diana Neslen of Jews for Justice for Palestinians at a protest outside Downing Street, London
We gather here at a sombre moment. The Palestinian prisoners are in the throes of a hunger strike to show the world the nature of the Israeli occupation and the indignity, cruelty and illegality to which they are subject.They remind us most forcibly of the reason we are here today.
Without memory there is no identity. Without memory we lose our bearings. So it is fitting that today we remember that Palestinians still wait to be recognised and mourn their exile from the land they love.
We need to think what exile means. For the Palestinian refugees who live in the West Bank or Gaza, it means being unable to return to the land their ancestors ploughed, the places where their homes once stood, the soil that is for them so precious. And many of them are unable to worship at either Al Aqsa mosque or at any of
the churches in Jerusalem on their holy days.
As Jews we still mourn the destruction of the temple on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. But while Israel cherishes its days of mourning, it denies Palestinians the same rights. The dispossession gathers pace, now encompassing the Bedouin, of the Negev. Today we reflect on the plight of the people from the Al Araquib, a village settled by the Bedouin since Ottoman times and subject to destruction over 30 times. The people are living in their cemetery. Thus does the mourning continue. But national leaders so often believe that if they airbrush the truth it will disappear. Last year Israel enacted a law that reduces funding for bodies that mark Independence day, which corresponds to the Nakba, as a day of mourning.
People may not realise what this means. It means that Palestinian schools already funded at a far lower level than the Jewish Israeli schools cannot teach Palestinian children their own history, namely the Nakba without losing money. Thus the very identity of indigenous Palestinian children is being systematically destroyed.
Israel has made sterling efforts to hide the evidence of destruction of the places where Palestinians once lived.
The Jewish National Fund has planted trees over the ruins; the names of the villages have been Hebraized; the new Jewish Israeli generations are taught nothing of this past. It can only be that Israel is ashamed of its history and wishes to wipe the slate clean. However not all Israelis feel that way. There is an organisation in Tel Aviv called ‘Zochrot’, Remembrance, made up of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, which seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a particular responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948. Every Independence day they sally forth to commemorate the Nakba by posting the names of Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948, in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. This year their building was surrounded by riot police who prevented them from leaving on the grounds that what they were doing was seditious and that they were a threat to public order.
In the Western Galilee College where fully one quarter of the students are of Palestinian Arab descent, the Arab students were forced to stand on the day when Israel remembers the soldiers who died during their wars. They tried to go into the college but the doors were locked and the benches were hosed down to prevent them from sitting down. The authorities demanded that the Palestinian students pay homage to the people they regard as representative of those who conquered their land. It is hard to imagine a more callous demand. A poll, taken after an article reporting this action was published, showed that almost 80% of those polled agreed with the college authorities.
Israel calls itself the Jewish and democratic state. There is nothing democratic about dispossession or about denying people their rightful history and in my view there is nothing Jewish about contempt for anyone who does not conform to Jewish demands. So today we mourn with those who remember their homeland, and we also mourn for those who have lost their moral compass.
Protest Against the On-Going Nakba
Event: Saturday 12th May from 1 to 3pm outside Downing Street
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) warns ‘the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) isn’t over – the ethnic cleansing continues today’.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign is holding a protest outside Downing Street on Saturday 12th May from 1 to 3pm to commemorate the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 and to warn against the ‘on-going ethic cleansing’.
Speakers will include: PSC Chair Hugh Lanning,MP Andy Slaughter, singer/poet Melissa Melodee, Diana Neslen from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi, Baroness Jenny Tonge and the Ambassador for Palestine in the UK, Prof Manuel Hassassian.
Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
” When looking back on the horrors of war and ethnic cleansing, people say ‘let us never let this happen again’. But for the Palestinians the ethnic cleansing has never ended. The refugees are still barred from their homeland; Palestinians are being forced from their land to make way for Israeli settlements, and the Israeli administration have even stated that they don’t want Palestinians to exceed 30% of the population of Jerusalem – a blantatly racist target.
” We will be joining global protests to call for an end to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. We will also be calling for international support for Palestinian prisoners who are hunger striking against illegal captivity and inhumane prison conditions. ”
IDF is concerned it will face repeat of 2011’s Nakba Day protests when nearly 100 Syrians crossed into Israel at Golan border
By Yaakov Katzo, JPost
Amid concerns that violence may break out, the IDF is beefing up forces and anti-riot teams along Israel’s borders ahead of “Nakba Day” on Tuesday.
The IDF is concerned that it will face a repeat of last year’s Nakba Day protests when nearly 100 Syrians succeeded in crossing into Israel from the Golan Heights.
A number of protesters were reported killed by the IDF along the borders with Lebanon and Syria.
Nakba Day – or the “day of catastrophe” – is the day Palestinians mark the establishment of the State of Israel and its subsequent refugee crisis.
“There are preparations and we will not allow a violation of Israel’s sovereignty,” one officer explained on Sunday.
Since last year, the IDF has upgraded its riot gear with new nonlethal systems such as the “Skunk” and “Scream,” which have been used in the West Bank to disperse demonstrators. “Scream” is a device that emits penetrating bursts of sound that leave protesters dizzy and nauseous, while “Skunk” contains a foul-smelling liquid that is sprayed on protesters.
The IDF has equipped battalions with new receivers for the standardissued M-16 semi-automatic rifle so that it can shoot 0.22 mm. rounds.
The standard 5.556 mm. round is not as lethal when fired from a distance by sharpshooters.
The army has also purchased impact rounds for snipers to use with Remington M-24 7.62 mm. rifles.
Impact rounds are usually made of non-lead materials and do not penetrate the skin but rather inflict a painful blow to the target or victim.
The new equipment comes on the heels of ordering other riot gear such as tear gas, rubber bullets and protective equipment.
The IDF also recently completed the erection of a new fence along the Syrian border as well as the construction of new minefields aimed at preventing infiltrations.
Israel has passed on messages to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon warning that the IDF will use force to prevent an infiltration of its border.
In response, UNIFIL plans to deploy large forces along the border.
In the West Bank, the IDF and civil administration are coordinating with Palestinian Authority security forces to allow Palestinian protest without an escalation in violence. Expected hotspots will once again include the Kalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said standard law enforcement deployments would occur on Nakba Day, in line with security assessments.
The police’s seven districts will hold further deliberations in the coming days, and coordinate their preparations with one another, Rosenfeld added.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
Christians hold mass to mark Nakba day
By Jenny Baboun, Ma’an news
BETHLEHEM — Palestinian Christians held a mass Friday on the lands of the Cremisan monastery near Bethlehem, which is threatened by construction of Israel’s separation barrier.
Rev. Ibrahim Shomali, the Roman Catholic parish priest of Beit Jala led the mass which was held to mark Nakba day and honor the hundreds of prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.
Bishop Munib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation and a Fatah leader, and Mahmoud al-Aloul, the Chilean consul, also joined along with the ambassadors of Chile and Brazil.
Al-Aloul said long-term hunger-strikers Thaer Halahla and Bilal Diab entered their 75th day without food, which he called “something beyond the human realm of comprehension.”
Diab, 27, and Halahla, 33, are being held in a prison clinic because Israeli authorities refused to allow the prisoners society’s lawyer to visit them. An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman says the detainees are being treated and will be hospitalized “if it is necessary.”
Younan said the hunger strikers were suffering but humans endure pain to regain their dignity.
He added that “Our weapons are not less than Israel’s weapons, as our weapon is to call for peace and to cling to the land, which breaks the occupation’s strategy.”
Bishop Younan said “no Palestinian house was unaffected by the Nakba,” referring to the exodus of some 750,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled during Israel’s establishment.
He added that the Palestinian cause is not only a political issue, but a spiritual pursuit.
“We have to pray when someone denies the other their rights,” Younan said.
A person who understands that an Arab citizen should not be forced to sing ‘a Jewish soul still yearns’ should be expected to let that citizen commemorate the Nakba without having to pay for it.
“I don’t expect an Arab national to sing ‘A Jewish soul still yearns,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said two months ago, after Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran refrained from singing the national anthem. Although the message was conveyed to Joubran indirectly, it reflected Netanyahu’s understanding of the fundamental contradiction underlying an anthem that addresses only one people, the Jewish one.
Yet such an understanding is nonexistent when it comes to remembering the Nakba, or “catastrophe” – the Palestinians’ term for what happened to them when the state was founded in 1948. This is the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of refugees and their millions of relatives, for whom May 15 – the day the establishment of the State of Israel was announced – symbolizes the day they lost their land, property and status.
The historic controversy over the responsibility for the Palestinian people’s tragedy is still pending. It will continue to hover over both nations, and its explosive potential will continue to grow as long as the conflict is not settled at the negotiating table.
But washing our hands of the responsibility for the Palestinians’ suffering should not mean revoking the right to remember it. Nor is it supposed to prevent us from empathizing with the suffering of the other nation living in Israel.
The tremendous effort that the state puts into wiping out the Nakba’s memory is astonishing and outrageous. The Nakba has been scoured from textbooks, and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has “suggested” that Tel Aviv University reconsider holding the Nakba Day ceremony it had planned. Does the government really believe that thwarting a commemoration ceremony, imposing a ban on teaching the Arab chapter in Israel’s history, and passing laws that forbid empathy with the Nakba will erase the tragedy from memory? Will the state’s expression of grief for the refugees’ suffering really shatter Israel’s right to exist? And why shouldn’t the state allow the uprooted villagers of Ikrit and Biram, who are citizens of Israel, to return to some of their land, which has been abandoned and unused for decades?
A person who understands that an Arab citizen should not be forced to sing “a Jewish soul still yearns” should be expected to let that citizen commemorate the Nakba without having to pay for it and without being denied government funding. Nakba Day does not belong only to the Arabs; it is an inseparable part of the story of Israel’s revival.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar calls Tel Aviv University’s decision permitting the ceremony ‘wrong and infuriating.’
By Talila Nesher, Haaretz
Education Minister and Council for Higher Education Chairman Gideon Sa’ar is attempting to interfere with the decision of Tel Aviv University to allow a Nakba Day memorial ceremony to take place on campus on Monday.
Sa’ar called TAU President Professor Yossef Kalupter on Sunday and requested that the university reconsider its decision to allow the event to take place.
Sa’ar’s press advisor told Haaretz in response that “the education minister is of the opinion that the decision is wrong and infuriating.”
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), who chairs the Knesset’s Education Committee, plans to hold a discussion on the subject on Monday. “It is shameful that such an event is meant to happen in public, it’s a direct blow against the symbols of the state and its sovereignty. The university’s management must cancel the event immediately and return sanity to the system,” he said.
Last week, Haaretz reported that the university’s dean of students had decided to allow the ceremony to take place, on the condition that students pay for security guards for the event themselves.
In January, the High Court of Justice upheld the controversial Nakba Law passed by the Knesset last March, which grants the Finance Minister the authority to reduce the budget of state-funded bodies that openly reject Israel as a Jewish state or mark the state’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.
The university’s security unit also decided to change the location of the protest to a less central location.
On the ceremony’s agenda is a reading of a poem by poet Mahmoud Darwish, a moment of silence, as well a reading of an alternative version of the “Yizkor” prayer traditionally read at events commemorating fallen soldiers.
In order to make for equal, open, and calm relations between Jews and Arabs in this country, Israel must recognize the disaster that befell the Palestinian people,” explained Noa Levy, one of the organizers of the ceremony.
“We must recognize the catastrophe, and begin to understand the correct, and just way to fix it. Acknowledgement is the first step, and that is what is happening here on Monday,” said Levy.