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Nakbeh — never again?

May 14,2016 - Last updated at May 15,2016

On May 11 and 12, many Israelis marked the 68th anniversary of their so-called Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, according to the Hebrew calendar.

That day laid the groundwork for implementing the myth of a greater — only in size — Israel, a colonial state if there ever was one. 

Israeli media outlets covered the festivities, which included Israeli Air Force flybys, barbecues, picnics, a dramatic increase in military presence, excessive television coverage along with racist rhetoric and so on.

Even Google displayed to its users in Israel, many of whom are Palestinian, a doodle that marked the day. 

For Palestinians, however, that was not a festive day; it was a day of remembrance.

Many Palestinians who live in Israel, where Palestinian schools were forced to take the day off and were ordered to avoid any mention of the Nakbeh took to the streets to remember the losses of Palestinian lives, land and houses — lost as an immediate consequence of the establishment of the state of Israel — and to keep alive the hope that many Palestinian refugees will return to their homeland. 

They also wanted to remind everybody, by virtue of their very presence, that the Israeli festivities take place on land that was taken by force, land that nestles the graves of large numbers of Palestinians.

The message was loud and clear: the Israeli commemoration is a distortion of history and is predicated on the suffering of other human beings.

But most Palestinians remember their collective loss and express their outright rejection of that distorted version of history on a different day, namely May 15, the notorious day when Palestine was partitioned.

That day had an indelible impact on Palestinians, primarily because it legitimised expelling Palestinian refugees to neighbouring states. 

That legitimacy was definitely reinforced by the circulation of the official Israeli narrative, which runs — against actual facts — as follows: Israel did not terrorise or force Palestinians into exile, Palestinians left of their own volition, abandoning their houses and country. If that had been really their country, they would have stayed.

Even when some Israelis acknowledge that what happened was an expulsion, they claim that refugees are a “natural” consequence of any “war”.

Benny Morris, the right-leaning Israeli historian who is also known as a “new” historian, preposterously suggests that the refugee problem was “inevitable” and “born of war, not by design”.

But even in the camp in which Morris is typically classified, the “new” historians belie that narrative.

Palestinians did not become refugees; they were rendered refugees.

That creation was part of a systematic plan, called by Israeli generals “Plan Dalet”, as Palestinian historian Walid Al Khalidi reminds us. 

Israeli state archives confirm the existence of such a plan; they include statements made by influential Israeli generals and statesmen such as David Ben Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Yitzhak Moda’i, Yigael Yadin, Moshe Carmel and many others that, all, show that there was a premeditated plan of transfer. 

Palestinians, to quote Norman Finkelstein in his informative book “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict”, “did not take flight at the behest of Arab orders”.

The expulsion of Palestinians was and continues to be a strategic goal of the Israeli colonial machine.

A cursory look at the increasing numbers of Palestinian refugees corroborates the existence of such a goal.

In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians became refugees; in 1967, Israel made more than 350,000 Palestinians refugees.

In between those two pivotal years in Palestinian history and after 1967, many Palestinians were unobtrusively forced to leave. More and more Palestinians have had to undergo internal displacement and extradition.

The numbers and facts are consistent with Israel’s stance vis-à-vis Syrian refugees: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently refused to grant asylum to Syrian refugees.

Moreover, Israel discriminates against and deports African refugees. 

Israel, to state the obvious, is consistent in its colonial, discriminatory and racial policies. 

It is not consistent, however, when it comes to even its own slogans.

The Jewish Defence League, one of the strongest supporters of Israel, popularised the phrase “Never again” to make people remember that Jews should never be discriminated against in human history.

That slogan is selectively applied; it ignores the sufferings of other groups of human beings.

The grandchildren, children of Palestinian refugees and the refugees themselves are determined to reimagine that slogan and make it inclusive of all human beings.

For them, there will never be more Palestinian refugees or another Palestinian Nakbeh, and their return to their homeland is a legitimate right.

More importantly, their suffering, they believe, should not be repeated. 

Is Israel willing to come to grips with this desire and facts?

Absolutely not.

But that unwillingness, the supporters of the Israeli colonial machine should remember, is the real threat to the state of Israel.

 

The writer, a Fulbright scholar, contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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