Nakba remembered as ongoing disaster
Reports from Al Jazeera 1), Daily Star (Lebanon)2) and Gulf News 3) – which focuses on the need for Fatah/Hamas reconciliation.
Bethlehem–Thousands of Palestinians mark the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, and participate in a huge procession organized by the Badil Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees Rights, reaffirming the legitimate Palestinian Right of Return to their homeland, homes and towns.Najwa Darwish, head of the Badil Center, stated in an opening speech, “The Nakba happened, and its wounds are still open, more than 70% of the Palestinian people are refugees, living in refugee camps here, and in exile around the world”. From IMEMC Thousands Mark The Nakba In Bethlehem. Photo by Ma’an images.
Protests to be held across occupied territories to mark the “catastrophe” of the creation of Israel in 1948.
Al Jazeera, May 15, 2013
Palestinians are marking the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Arabs were forced out of their homes and into exile.
Sirens will be sounded for 65 seconds and demonstrations will take place in Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Jericho to mark the day.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their villages during the war that established Israel in 1948, an event they commemorate every year as their Nakba Day, Arabic for “catastrophe”.
On Tuesday, the eve of the anniversary, Palestinians carried 65 torches through the streets of Ramallah to mark the event, while hundreds of others gathered around a stage to hear the Palestinian National Forces band play their instruments.
In the evening, a special pre-recorded speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was broadcast on Palestinian television.
Abbas said that the Palestinian right to an “independent state” had been affirmed by “countries all over the world” and called on the Israeli government to show its positive intentions during negotiations by releasing Palestinian prisoners.
“If the Israeli government has positive intentions it should release our prisoners, especially those who are in prison before 1993 and also the sick, the women, the children and our brothers, the Palestinian party leaders and the Palestinian legislative council members,” he said.
‘Right of return’
Palestinians have maintained for six decades that Arabs who either fled or were expelled from their homes during the fighting that followed Israel’s 1948 creation, as well as all their descendants, all have the right to reclaim former properties in what is now Israel.
The uprooted Palestinians and their offspring, now numbering several million people, cite United Nations resolutions in claiming the right to return to the property they left behind.
The fate of Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian claim to what they call “the Right of Return” is an explosive issue that has loomed large in the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over the past two decades.
In previous rounds of negotiations, several ideas were floated, including allowing for a limited return of refugees to what is now Israel and settling the rest in a future Palestinian state and third countries along with compensation.
Talks broke off four years ago.
Nakba Day: Palestinians remember their home
By Mohammed Zaatari, The Daily Star
May 15, 2013
SIDON, Lebanon–Fatima Miari is adamant that she one day will return to her village in Palestine, the one she was forced to leave 65 years ago.
“You never lose the right you keep fighting for. We will return home to Palestine,” Miari, 77, said as she watched some kids re-enact a scene depicting their grandparents fleeing from their villages in May 1948, a performance organized by a number of Palestinian associations at the Ain alHilweh refugee camp in Sidon.
May 15 marks the 65th anniversary of the Nakba or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homeland as a result of a war which would conclude with the founding of the Jewish state.
The student performance was one among many events that Palestinian factions all over Lebanon have organized to commemorate Nakba Day. A number of tents will also be erected in Ain al-Hilweh Wednesday to commemorate the day.
“I still remember how our house looked. If I die before my return, I want its photo to be buried with me,” Miari explains.
With beards and moustaches drawn on their faces, kids taking part in the performance hurriedly packed mattresses, blankets and other necessities, just like their grandparents did more than six decades ago. They also carried cardboard keys, representing the ones to their original homes, along with banners bearing the names of cities and villages that Palestinians were made to leave.
“I am here for the sake of Palestine, so that we return home,” said Mohammad Qusaya, who along with all the young performers wore a traditional Palestinian kaffiyeh.
“My grandparents have experienced the Nakba. A long time has passed, we should return home,” he said, as fellow Palestinian kids waved their nation’s flag.
Passersby stood on the roads to observe as Hiam Abu Salem, a teacher, asked her students to wave Palestinian flags and sing a song with her about returning to Palestine.
“Tomorrow we will return home. My grandfather will return, carrying his house key. He will plant olives, figs, apples and oranges and my grandmother will bake and tell stories about our country,” sang the students.
“We are marking the Nakba by teaching children not to forget Palestine. They all know by now which villages their families were forced to leave,” Abu Salem said.
“We teach them these lessons about Palestine so that we can preserve our right to return.”
Palestinian children who were recently displaced as a result of the Syrian war also took part in the show.
“We came from Haifa. My family was displaced from Palestine and we were displaced from Syria. I wish we could die so that this torture ends,” said Hanan Abu Taha.
“We feel pain every day. Life is difficult here; there is no place to have fun,” she added. “Isn’t it my right to live like the children in other parts of the world? Isn’t it my right to sleep at home in Palestine?”
Mahmoud Hasan Mohammad, a former fighter for the pro-Syrian Palestinian Liberation Army still believes that resistance, rather than diplomacy, is the only way to return to Palestine.
“Palestine will be back only when we obey God’s orders to fight the Jews, the enemies of God. Negotiations only create obstacles, not solutions,” says 53-year-old Mohammad, from Haifa originally.
“We have to organize ourselves and then prepare [for resistance].”
Palestinian factions in Lebanon began holding events, similar to the students’ performance, to commemorate the Nakba.
To mark the day the Hamas Movement held a rally in Sidon’s Martyrs Square Sunday. The speakers at the rally unanimously emphasized that only resistance could liberate the Palestinian territories.
On Monday, refugees and representatives from most Palestinian factions demonstrated in the southern town of Naqoura. A delegation of protesters handed officials from the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon a memo meant for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the need for the agency to help implement their right of return.
All Palestinian factions, save Hamas, will combine their efforts and hold ceremony at the Mar Elias refugee camp in Beirut Wednesday.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization also held an exhibition Monday of photographs taken during the Nakba.
PLO urges Fatah and Hamas to bridge their differences and achieve reconciliation
By Nasouh Nazzal, Gulf News
May 14, 2013
Ramallah: Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the 1948 areas and the diaspora marked the 65th anniversary of the Nakba by organsing activites in the Palestinian territories and around the world.
Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem along with children of Younus village (the E1) planted saplings to remember the residents who were forced to leave their homes.
West Bank cities witnessed major processions to mark the occasion and several streets in Hebron were given new names.
A major celebration was organised in Beir Zeit University where black flags signifying the right of refugees’ return were installed around the campus
Families of Palestinian prisoners and hundreds of activists held a strike in front on the premises of the UN Headquarters in Ramallah. Representatives of families of prisoners handed the General Commissioner a letter signed by thousands of Palestinians urging the international community to pressure Israel to release prisoners in Israeli jails.
Many plays were staged and films shown in various Palestinian cities highlighting the sufferings of the Palestinians due to the Nakba which is considered the worst disaster in Palestinian history.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said the Nakba anniversary gives the chance for rivals – Hamas and Fatah- to end their bickerings and achieve reconciliation. The PLO warned of a permanent split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip if there is no unity and counselled that that would be the worst ever Nakba (disaster) in the Palestinian history. “It is time for the Palestinians to open a new page in their history without looking back to the dark era of the Palestinian split,” said the PLO in a statement.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in a a special bulletin said, in 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages.
More than 800,000 were driven out of their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighbouring Arab countries and other parts of the world. Thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes but stayed within the Israeli-controlled 1948 territory.
According to documentary evidence, the Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba. The atrocities of Israeli forces also included more than 70 massacres in which 15,000 Palestinians were killed.
The bureau said that the Palestinian population was 1.37 million in 1948. By the end of the 2012, the estimated population of Palestinians scattered around the world totalled 11.6 million. This indicates that the number of the Palestinians worldwide has multiplied eight-fold in 65 years.
According to statistics, the total number of Palestinians living in historic Palestine (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean) by the end of 2012 was 5.8 million and this number is expected to rise to 7.2 million by 2020, based on current growth rates.
Data also shows that the refugees constitute 44.2 per cent of the total Palestinian population.
UNRWA records showed that there were 5.3 million Palestinian refugees registered in mid-2013, constituting 45.7 per cent of the total Palestinian population worldwide. 59.0 per cent of these refugees are living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, 17 per cent in the West Bank, and 24 per cent in the Gaza Strip. About 29 per cent of Palestinian registered refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 per cent are in Jordan, nine per cent in Syria, 12 per cent in Lebanon, 19 per cent in the West Bank, and eight in Gaza Strip.
Palestinians believe that the Nakba did not end in 1948 as Israelis still destroy villages, displace Palestinians and apply ethnic cleansing in the territories. According to Dr. Mustafa Al Barghouti, the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, “Palestinian existence on Palestinian national soil is currently under serious Israeli threat and it is endangered more than at any time in Palestinian history. The Israeli plans never ended with the 1948 Nakba. Taking over the West Bank and the occupied East Jerusalem is a typical Israeli policy and gives us a clear picture of what happened in 1948.”
“The Israelis are changing the facts on the ground by force,” he said, stressing that the Palestinians maintain their links to their land and will never repeat the 1948 tragedy.