Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1947-48
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What Is Al-Nakba?
“Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic (“al-nakba” means “the
catastrophe”). Throughout the Arab world, the word is used to refer to
the devastation of Palestinian society and the dispossession of the
Palestinian people resulting from the ethnic cleansing conducted by
Zionist forces during 1947-48.
What Is Nakba Day?
The most important date on the Palestinian calendar, Nakba Day is
observed throughout the world on May 15. This is a time to learn about
the history of Palestine and of Palestinians, and to remember the
tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people in 1947-48, which has yet
to be rectified.
Nakba Day is also an occasion to celebrate the continued vitality of
Palestinian culture in the face of continuing hardships, and to
reaffirm Palestinian aspirations for peace and self-determination.
What Happened During Al-Nakba?
- During the late 1930s and early 1940s, many among the European Zionist leadership in Palestine openly favored “transfer” of the indigenous Palestinian population to make way for a future Jewish state.
- As the colonial British Mandate of Palestine ended in 1947-48,
clashes began and Zionist forces attacked Palestinian communities, in
most cases driving out their inhabitants.
- In other cases, Zionist forces conducted massacres of civilians (e.g. 100 villagers at Deir Yassin, 200 at Tantura) in order to induce the rest of the Palestinian population to flee.
- Over 700,000 Palestinians — 2/3 of the Palestinian population — fled in panic at the Zionist attacks or were forcibly expelled by Zionist forces.
- Zionist forces depopulated over 400 Palestinian towns and villages,
many of which were purposefully demolished. The newly established
Israeli government confiscated refugees’ lands and properties and
turned them over to Jewish immigrants.
- Israel has since refused to allow Palestinian refugees to return to
their homes and has refused to pay them compensation, as required by UN Resolution 194 of 1948.
What Was the Aftermath of Al-Nakba?
Even though before 1948 Jews had owned about 7% of the land in
Palestine and made up only 1/3 of the population, following the
conquest Israel was established on 78% of Palestine.
What Is the Significance of Al-Nakba?
The Nakba destroyed a thriving and diverse Palestinian society and scattered the Palestinian people into diaspora.
The Nakba is also the source of the still-unresolved Palestinian
refugee problem. Today, over 4 million Palestinian refugees are
scattered throughout the world. Many of them live in Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in poverty-stricken refugee
Why Is Nakba Day on May 15?
Although May 15 is the date on which Israel declared independence in
1948, Nakba Day is not a protest against Israeli independence. Israeli
Independence Day, which follows the Jewish calendar, was celebrated on
April 17, 2002.
Where Can I Find Out More?
Visit the following web sites: