Palestine’s Nakba continues

Posted on 18 May 2011

Published in Labour Briefing, May 2011

Al Nakba was not the random result of the chaos of war but the deliberately planned ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

OVER THE past week, Israel celebrated its 63rd birthday. On May 14th 1948, David Ben Gurion announced the creation of the Israel. And while Zionists laud their colonialist success, for Palestinians, this day marks the tragedy of their dispossession. Al Nakba — the literal translation means catastrophe — started before 1948 and has continued relentlessly ever since.

On November 29th 1947, the United Nations partition plan was approved and the cleansing of Palestine began in earnest. While the UN had presumably not envisaged mass expulsions of Palestinians, this was nevertheless the result. The tension between Jews and Arabs that had simmered for decades, with sporadic violence from both sides, intensified. The Zionists were by now well-organised and well-armed. Villages were attacked in systematic operations led by Jewish paramilitary organisations, including the Irgun, which had blown up the King David Hotel the previous year, killing 91 people and injuring scores more.

For the Zionist plan of the Jewish State to become reality, Arabs had to be removed. Yossef Weitz, director of the Jewish National Fund played a major role in acquiring land for the Yishuv (pre-1948 Jewish community). He stated: “Transfer does not serve only one aim—to reduce the Arab population—it also serves a second purpose by no means less important, which is to evict land now cultivated by Arabs and to free it for Jewish settlement. The only solution is to transfer the Arabs to neighbouring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off.”

The Dalet plan was devised during February 1948 by the Haganah — the Jewish paramilitary organisation succeeded by the Israeli Defence Forces upon Israel’s establishment. The plan was simple: the systematic expulsion of the Arab communities. The expulsions were conducted by the Palmach (elite Haganah fighters), the Irgun and the Stern (Lehi) gang. Villages and towns were attacked, depopulated and destroyed.

For many years Zionists have insisted that Palestinians left of their own volition, claiming they’d been encouraged to do so by the Arab armies. However, evidence that Palestinians were attacked and forced from their homes even before the war of 1948 began, is now beyond refute.

When the fighting between the Arab armies and Israel ceased, over 400 cities, towns and villages had been depopulated. Many were destroyed; others were renamed in Hebrew and became Jewish settlements. Over 700,000 Palestinians had become refugees and around 150,000 remained in Israel. Refugee camps were established across the Middle East. But this was not the end of the Nakba; it was just the beginning.

Since 1948, Israel has continued to dispossess the Palestinians that remain, both in Israel and the occupied territories. For example, a complex series of laws ensures that Palestinians inside Israel struggle to expand their towns and villages, unlike their Jewish neighbours. Many have lost all rights to any land they once owned. Today 45 villages (comprising almost 90,000 residents) are unrecognised by the state. They are ineligible for any state funding, municipal services or political representation.

In 1976, the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate vast swathes of Palestinian-owned land for “security and settlement purposes”. A general strike was called for March 30th and marches were organised in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Negev. The authorities responded with excessive violence, killing six Palestinians. Hundreds more were wounded or arrested. These events, a blatant attack against its own citizens, have been commemorated every year since and are known as Land Day.

Construction permits are rarely issued and families end up building structures deemed illegal by the state. These buildings are regularly demolished and even entire villages are under constant threat. The Bedouin settlement of al-Araqib, a community in the Negev desert that consists mainly of tents and a few other basic structures, has been destroyed 21 times since July 2010.

Palestinians in the West Bank also suffer from the continued aggressive expropriation of their land. The Oslo Accords ensured that Israel maintained its control over the majority of the West Bank and Gaza. While Gaza has been turned into an isolated and impenetrable enclave, the West Bank is swiftly being carved up with the land being designated as closed military zones, swallowed up by the erroneously-named “security wall” or handed over to the illegal Jewish-only settlements for their expansion.

Palestine is very much still the issue, and pressure on Israel will continue to increase until Palestinians have finally achieved self-determination, justice and freedom.

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