May 15th is Nakba Remembrance Day. Nakba, Palestinian Catastrophe, describes the suffering of the Palestinian people with the ongoing persecution, displacement, and occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and refugee camps in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.
On May 14th, 1948, in violation of their human rights and as an assault on human dignity, half of Palestine was taken to create a Jewish state without their consent, denying the Palestinian people their God-given right of self-determination. Overnight, over 750,000 Palestinians became homeless refugees, and about the same number became foreigners in their own land. 2022 is the 74th year of grief and suffering of the Palestinian people: Christians, Jews, Druze, Arabs, and Muslims alike.
On a side note, Nakba usually does not coincide with Israel’s Independence Day because Israel celebrates it on the Hebrew date 5th of Iyar of that year. In 2022, it was on May 5th.
The current history of Palestinian suffering goes back to the late 19th century, when the rise of the popularist conservative movement in Europe, a bourgeoisie retaliation of the workers’ revolution for dignity, fueled anti-Semitism and Jewish expulsion. The Jewish migration to Palestine increased following the promotion of a “national home for Jewish people” by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, leading to an 1100% increase in the Jewish population in Palestine. However, many newly arriving white European Jews came with the goal of creating a Zionist state and perpetrated systematic feloniously violent terrorist attacks against native Arabs. Unable or unwilling to stop the white Jewish violence, the British turned to the UN to divide Palestine.
On May 14th, 1948, the United Nations created Israel, and about 50% of the non-Jewish population became homeless refugees overnight, fleeing for their lives. Today, more than 5 million displaced Palestinian refugees are waiting for the “Right to Return,” and over 6 million Palestinians live as prisoners of war-like conditions in Israel.
Apartheid best describes Palestinian plight; they are denied citizenship, right to vote, mobility, healthcare, education, water, right to purchase land, permission to build homes, employment, and more. They live in a state of constant fear; they have no legal protection as Palestinians can be arrested and held without being charged, and their homes can be seized or bulldozed by the Israeli government at any time. The official plan is to keep increasing human suffering to force all non-Jews, to leave Israel. Religious cleaning is the official state policy.
At the close of WWII, the Christian Church had two fears and one hope. It feared the rise of Communism, an ideology it considered an enemy of the Church because it questioned the ubiquitous plutocracy of Western Europe and the U.S., on which the Western Church had built its wealth and power. The other fear was the rise of Islam, which the Christian Church considered heresy and an enemy. Islam was the Arab Church breaking away from the Western Church due to cultural differences. The hope it had was to use the WWII reconstruction of Europe to restore the Christian Church’s political and social influence, which included removing all Jews from Europe. The Christian Church is shamefully pro-Israel and scandalously will remain silent on Israel’s atrocities, including the recent murder of a U.S. citizen, journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, by the Israeli military.
At the close of WWII, as the Allies celebrated their freedom from Nazi Fascism, the Middle Eastern, South American, African, and Asian countries sought freedom from their colonizers, the U.S., and Europeans. Palestine was no exception, as both Arabs and Jews worked to overthrow the British, their common oppressor.
However, the newly arriving racist white European Jewish immigrants terrorized native Palestinians. Unable to control the Jewish violence, the British turned to the UN to divide Palestine. Contrary to the claim that the partition was for the safety of the Palestinians from Jews, white Europe created Israel to ensure an ally in the region, a permanent state of war between Jews and Arabs which guaranteed a need for their neo-colonial presence and their control of the Suez Canal.
Israel, upon creation, immediately embarked on the One Million Plan to bring in a million Jews and extradite all non-Jews, including Christians. At the time of partition, the Palestinians made up about 70% of the population, but they were given only 48% of the land. At the height of the One Million Plan, Jews made up about 80% of the population, and there were only about 150,000 Palestinians remaining. Since then, Israel has systematically seized land through wars and illegal expansions, and they now claim 80% of the land even though they only make up about 50% of the population.
During my last trip to Palestine, I had the privilege of sitting with young people at the Dheisheh refugee camp to hear their stories. One young man shared that he had received a complete scholarship offer from Brown University, but he could not attend because the Israeli government would not grant him a permit to leave the refugee camp. For him to get to the airport, he had to go through Israel. Others told me that they had never seen their relatives living in a neighboring refugee camp because it required travel through Israel to get there.
I was amazed at their commitment to peace. They were articulate in expressing their pains, but they were equally resolute in their commitment to a peaceful resolution. I saw the beauty of human dignity that embodied a lump of coal being made into a diamond. May we remember the Palestinian people. May we remember Nakba with them.