15 May 1948 and beyond
Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) marks the day of the mass expulsion and the dispossession of the Palestinian people during the war which had broken out in Palestine. A newly-created Israel forcibly seized around 675 villages and towns in historic Palestine. Of these, 476 villages were totally destroyed and ethnically cleansed of their Palestinian inhabitants. A Palestinian population of almost 1.5 million people – the majority in their country – was effectively reduced by an estimated 85 percent to make way for Jewish immigrants from mainly Eastern Europe fleeing renewed persecution in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
There are many tragic personal stories experienced by some half million Palestinian men and women on that fateful day 15 May 1948 and the terrifying days afterwards. No one believed that this would probably be the last time they would see their homes and country again. All had left thinking that they would return after the fighting was over. Most had left their personal possessions behind never imagining that a foreign people would move into their homes and claim ownership of their private property. At the most, they believed, it would be a matter of weeks and they would be back.
By 1949, some 750,000 Palestinians had become refugees and several tens of thousands had become internally displaced in their own homeland. Only some 150,000 of them had remained behind only to be subject to Israeli rule.
Nor was this catastrophe a one-time event. Further population displacements and dispossessions followed during the 1967 war and they continue to the present day as a result of Israel’s military attacks house demolitions, land confiscations and expanding Jewish colonies.
Today, Palestinian refugees are still waiting to have their homes and lands returned to them after almost sixty years of living in camps, while those internally displaced, have to endure the humiliations, demonisations and punishments meted out unrelentingly by the Israeli occupiers. And all the while, the rest of the world watches and does nothing to right this terrible, terrible injustice. – SK