Remembering the Nakba
About this time each year, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world celebrate Israel ’s independence in 1948. But what is a time of celebration for Jewish Israelis is a very different kind of anniversary for over one and a half million Palestinians in Israel, over four million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza - 40% of whom live in refugee camps, some 650,000 in refugee camps elsewhere in the middle east, and over 3 million around the world with UN-registered property claims against Israel who are now living in what is known as the Palestinian Diaspora. For them - the largest and longest-standing registered refugee population in the world - March 14 marks the remembrance of their greatest collective tragedy.
Before May 1948, three Zionist militias had carried out a violent and ruthless ethnic cleansing campaign against a third of the Palestinian population. Those groups – the Haganah, Irgun and LEHI (known to the British as the Stern Gang) – were designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations in a comprehensive report and chronology issued in October 1948.
From March through December 1948 these well-armed Zionist militias, which after May became armed forces of the new state of Israel, completed the violent expulsion of over 750,000 indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and the seizure of their land and properties. Most of these refugees were driven into 59 refugee camps hastily constructed to accommodate them by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
This is what Palestinians call “al Nakba” – their "catastrophe".
By the end of the ethnic cleansing campaign, the Zionists had destroyed and/or dispossessed the populations of 531 Palestinian villages and eleven urban areas, and had committed 33 documented massacres, which killed some 13,000 largely defenseless Palestinians.
Reports of these massacres terrorized other Palestinian villages into fleeing their homes in the path of approaching Jewish forces. (This has been used by Zionist propagandists to falsely claim that the Palestinians left voluntarily or unnecessarily upon direction by their leaders.)
Recognizing that justice and human rights is a necessary precondition to peace, in December 1948 the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 17 of this declaration states that no one may be arbitrarily deprived of his property, and Article 13 states that everyone may leave and return to his country. In that same month the UN passed Resolution 194 applying that right specifically to the Palestinian refugees, fulfillment of which became a condition of Israel ’s 1949 admission to the UN.
This obligation remains unfulfilled, and the Right of Return originating in the Nakba and refused by Israel has remained the central roadblock to peace for six decades. Consequently, Israel ’s independence celebration is an occasion of mourning for the 20% Palestinian minority in Israel, occupied and blockaded Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians displaced abroad in the diaspora.
Palestinians recognize Nakba Day on May 14, the date Israel declared its statehood. On March 22, 2011, the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) passed a bill to severely penalize any commemoration of Nakba Day in Israel.
Veterans for Peace (VFP) chooses to remember these historic violations of Palestinian human rights and deplores the continuing violations of Palestinian human rights today. Since Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign assistance and the United States routinely protects Israel from international justice through its UN Security Council vetoes, VFP believes the American public has a right to know these facts and encourages VFP members nationwide to use this anniversary to inform their communities.