The destruction of Hanaa’ al-Naqib’s home in Lydd this week is a reminder that Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians didn’t end in 1948 — it has simply taken on new forms.
We could hear the wailing all the way from the entrance to the besieged neighborhood. It was a heartbreaking sound. We quietly make our way between the bushes, over the fence and past the train tracks, so as not to be detected. When it comes to the police, using words like “the media” or “photographers” doesn’t really grant you access.
We make it to the yard of one of the houses, which I recognize immediately. This place belongs to Maha al-Naqib, a member of the Lydd City Council (“Lod” in Hebrew, “Lydda” in English), and a veteran political activist in the city. We climb the fence, walk for ten seconds to the front, and there they are. Maha looks broken, tears in her eyes, as she stands near Hanaa’, her neighbor and relative. Hanaa’ is a single mother who was tossed into the street with her four children just minutes ago.
The women take turns hugging and holding Hanaa’ — I feel helpless, bordering on useless. The cops stand before them, smiling. No one goes in, no one goes out. Everyone is in the yard staring at the bulldozer destroying the house across from them. A group of women try to speak directly to the policemen, but they don’t respond. They just stare back and smile.
I remember how Maha and I sat in this very same yard just two months ago when I interviewed her for a documentary on Lydd during the Nakba, when many of the local residents were expelled from the city, and were the victims of one of the most terrible massacres of the 1948 war.
I sat in that yard, listening to Maha tell the story of her parents, who were expelled from the city but luckily were able to return. On Thursday, we got another taste of the same policies. No, the destruction of Hanaa’s house is not as terrifying as the firing of a PIAT projectile into the Dahmash Mosque, where families of refugees took shelter — an act that killed 300 Palestinian refugees in 1948. As part of the third generation of the Nakba, what I saw happening in front of me was enough to know that the State simply cannot repeat what it did to us back then. They may be able to do that in Gaza — they do different things to us. The massacres of the Nakba never ended; today Gaza carries the burden of Israel’s bloodletting. Lydd, like Silwan, Beit Hanina, the Negev and the rest of historic Palestine, suffers from other aspects of never-ending dispossession — a creeping Nakba.
There is no blaming the Palestinian residents for living in a city where 80 percent of their neighborhoods are, according to the state, considered “illegal.” It is obvious that these conditions are part and parcel of the establishment’s polices.
An old grudge
The case of the “Kerem al-Naqib” neighborhood in Lydd is a clear example. The al-Naqib family survived the Nakba, meaning that its current family members are the descendants of the original Palestinian residents of Lydd, from before 1948. The family homes were built on it land, adjacent to the Ganei Aviv neighborhood, built as a Jewish neighborhood for immigrants from the Soviet Union, partially on the land of the al-Naqib family.
WATCH: Police evict Hanaa’ al-Naqib and her family
The neighborhood has an approved urban planning plan, but the city refuses to implement a master plan that would give the Palestinians building permits. Without those permits, all building (even on private land) is considered illegal. This gives the political establishment the power to use force against the residents whenever it deems necessary. Lydd’s mayors have always viewed the “problem of illegal construction” in the city as one that can be blamed on the residents, as if the Zionist establishment didn’t expropriate most of their lands and is currently at work building new neighborhoods for Palestinians in Israel.
The situation in Lydd is special. We aren’t talking about just another Palestinian city that was occupied during the Nakba and is today considered “a mixed city.” We are talking about a city that fought back against Palmach war criminals and was able to hold them off for months, until Nobel Peace Price winner Yitzhak Rabin, along with Palmach commander Yigal Allon, gave the order to use non-discriminate fire in order to “dilute” the residents of Lydd. Most of the city’s residents were either expelled, killed or massacred. Everything is on display in the Palmach Museum in Tel Aviv.
The feeling of anyone who grew up in Lydd and is aware of its bloody past, is that the Zionist establishment does not cease from taking revenge against the city’s residents, despite the fact that most of them today are themselves refugees from other places. Every Palestinian resident of the city is seen as a target, and the ones who suffer the most are those who cannot afford decent legal protection or an alternative to building “illegally” on their own land. As my colleague Samah Salaime Egbariye once told me: “They are trying to hurt all of us, but can only succeed in harming the weakest among us.”
In the past they fired rockets at refugees in mosques. Today they are demolishing “illegal” homes. The Nakba never ended, it just adjusts itself according to the times.
Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call here.