The attacks on protesters came after authorities in the German capital banned a Jewish group from holding a vigil in memory of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera correspondent assassinated last week, with all evidence pointing at Israel being responsible. “The gathering in memory of Abu Akleh had been organized by Jüdische Stimme, a Jewish group that supports Palestinian rights,” Al Jazeera reported. “But police told the group that the event – planned to take place on Friday evening – fell under the ban on protests in the run-up to Nakba Day.” Every year on 15 May, which this year fell on Sunday, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba – their 1948 ethnic cleansing from their homeland by Zionist militias, before and after Israel was founded.
A few days before Palestinians were set to commemorate the 74th anniversary of their forceful displacement from their ancestral lands, known as the Nakba or catastrophe, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a 23-year-old petition by the residents of Masafer Yatta in the occupied southern West Bank and allowed the Israeli military to demolish hundreds of their houses arguing that they are in “firing range”. The incident is part of a systemic policy of the Israeli state to grab more and more Palestinian lands and force the Indigenous Palestinians to live as a refugees in their own country. This everyday Nakba, however, fails to dampen the will of Palestinians to fight for their freedom, land, and right to return.
Seventy-four years ago, I witnessed the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. I experienced it from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy in my rural village of Battir. Battir was linked by train to Jerusalem, about 12 kilometers away. The steam locomotive shuttled twice a day to the city, allowing villagers to bring their produce to market. Jerusalem was also where many people went to work, visited doctors and met other basic needs. Though many in Battir were illiterate, each day newspapers would come from Jerusalem. People would gather and listen as someone read aloud the news of the events swirling around us and on which our future hinged. For a long time, it was well understood that the British promise of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine was an existential threat.
In an outrageous attack on Palestinian rights, memory and even identity, the police in Berlin, the capital of Germany, have banned all public commemorations of the 74th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, when over 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and lands by Zionist militias. The Nakba is commemorated on 15 May, known as Nakba Day or the Day of Palestinian Struggle. Events are being organized throughout Palestine and globally. The events banned by the police include two marches, two awareness-raising tents and a cultural gathering, scheduled for 13, 14 and 15 May. Samidoun Deutschland was the organizer of one of the cancelled marches, Palestine Speaks the organizer of another, and the cultural event was organized by a group of Palestinian community organizations. After the ban, an application for a memorial vigil for Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh — shot dead by Israeli occupation forces — was also prohibited as a “replacement for the banned events.”
Johns Hopkins University students gathered on Thursday, May 12, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Nakba—or “catastrophe”—when, in 1948, what was once Palestine was no longer recognized and was recognized as Israel. Many were killed during what the official account of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement called “Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing.” At least 750,000 Palestinians were displaced. Those advocating for the fundamental human rights of Palestinians argue that the Nakba continues to this day. “The Nakba is ongoing. Families just this week in the village of Massafer Yatta were expelled from their homes,” Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Johns Hopkins, who held Thursday’s event, explained on Instagram.
It is the stubborn resistance of the Palestinian people and their refusal to accommodate the Zionist settler-colonialist project that have brought us thus far; it is the Palestinian spirit of sumoud that has delivered, albeit 72 years later, the B’tselem and Human Rights Watch reports that now acknowledge Israel is an apartheid state. This is the message of Nakba73 going forward…as the Nakba continues, so will Palestinian resistance. There can never be, and will never be, co-existence with apartheid and settler-colonialism.
Friday marked the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, signifying the mass displacement of Palestinians from their homelands in 1948. Every year on May 15, the day after Israeli independence day, Palestinians commemorate the occasion, typically with massive protests and demonstrations against the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine. This year, however, protests and demonstrations were canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, which continues to affect Israel and Palestine, the latter on a much lesser scale. Palestinians instead opted for smaller scale, and online commemorations of the occasion. Cars hooked up with speakers roamed the streets of the West Bank playing national songs, people flooded social media with tributes to the struggle of Palestinian refugees, and in refugee camps across the occupied territory, people rose their Palestinian flags and vowed to return to their homelands.
The Zionist conquest of Palestine, which began haphazardly in the early 1880s and was intensified after the turn of the century, reaching its apogee with the British invasion and occupation of the country before the conclusion of World War I, was the inaugural moment of what would become known as the Nakba – the Catastrophe. Whereas the term “Nakba” was used by Syrian intellectual Constantine Zureik to describe what was befalling the Palestinians in August 1948 (when he wrote and published his classic book Ma’na al-Nakba), others used words like karitha (disaster), as Jordanian military officer and governor of East Jerusalem Abdullah al-Tall did in his 1959 book Karithat Filastin, or ma’saa (tragedy), as Palestinian anti-colonial nationalist intellectual Muhammad Izzat Darwaza did in his 1959 book Ma’sat Filastin.