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Remembering the Nakba means understanding this is a shared land

What’s the importance of acknowledging the Nakba? Remembering it is the only way for both Jews and Palestinians to understand that this land is shared. It’s the only way of preventing the system from duplicating the same injustices over and over again.

By Muhammad Jabali

Palestinians march through the streets of Bethlehem to commemorate the Nakba, May 14, 2013. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A friend and I visited Ramallah last Saturday. It was a sunny afternoon; we took a friend’s car and hit the road so we could arrive in time for last minute preparations for the first screening of the Tunisian Documentary Film Month at Ramallah’s Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center. We are helping to organize the screenings as members of the Palestinema Group, an unregistered group of cinematographers, writers and cinephiles who work toward breaking down the Iron Wall between Palestinians in Israel and the Arab World. We work to better organize the Palestinian film industry inside Israel, and to improve connections between Palestinians inside Israel and those in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora.

The film was Degage, a first-hand Tunisian documentary of the country’s revolution. We were fully aware of the meaning of the date we chose for the festival. Launching screenings in the historical Palestinian cities of Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramallah in the month of May, Nakba month, is our way of expressing which regime we are demanding should fall. In effect, it is demanding our full rights – as one Palestinian people – both to live in the coastal cities as Palestinians, as equal citizens with equal access to political participation and urban planning, and to do so without either compromising our Palestinian identity or our cultural and natural connections with the Arab World. Somehow, altering the Arab Spring’s best-known slogan (“the people demand the fall of the regime”) to “the people demand that the Nakba end,” represents a wish that our spring too will come.

We had already held screenings in Jaffa on Friday afternoon and in Haifa the same evening, and we were eager for our first-ever collaboration with such a respected cultural center in Ramallah. We were thrilled that immediately after publishing the program we were invited to bring the Film Month to Gaza. We can’t actually visit Gaza, but the thought of screening the films there brought out a childlike excitement. Just knowing that we could have brightened some peoples’ day there would have been priceless.

But we still fight and live in a very divided, sliced-up and segregated country and communities within it. This is the direct result of whoever – in Europe and the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century – thought it was logical to divide a land. A land, which back then was a normal extension of its Arab surroundings divided into two units, one Arab and the second Jewish.

The ironic tragedy is that this mindset of creating a “Jewish entity” on a land that was predominantly Arab didn’t seem to bother any of the European minds creating the project’s master plan 100 years ago. It didn’t even bother them that the plan inherently meant displacing hundreds of thousands of locals, or subjecting them to eternal foreign control. Because back in the beginning of the 20th century, population transfer was “conflict resolution,” and foreign control was common.

The sad and not-so ironic part is that today, this same idea of separation and denying Palestinian rights in the coastal area is perpetuated in current peace talks, which turn the unbelievable situation created by the atrocities of 1948 into permanent facts. For Palestinians like me, who were teenagers in the 1990s, the Oslo peace process was about ending military rule over the West Bank and Gaza and a healing reconciliation process containing some transitional justice to redeem this conflicted land. It was about acknowledging the simple fact that there were people on the land that Israel claimed for so many years was “a land without a people for a people with a land.” But on the contrary, the peace process, as designed by Israel, is actually a direct continuation of the same old mentality. Through peace, the Israeli establishment just wants to achieve what the first Intifada prevented it from obtaining through war: when the Palestinian revolt threatened Israeli control, peace talks were supposed to help, but Israel gave no recognition and the settlement free-for-all continued.

Approaching the West Bank, driving with my friend who herself is a descendent of an internal displaced refugee family from the village of Ma’lul near Nazareth, we couldn’t help but notice the never-ending one-sided change in the landscape. Israel is building everywhere. Checkpoints move further and further into the West Bank, restricting the areas in which Palestinians can move through with relative freedom and pushing them into smaller and smaller ghettos. In addition to all that, we couldn’t get over the similarity between two Israeli policies: first, using the curtain of the peace process in order to prevent West Bank Palestinians from moving inside Israel through the creation of the permit system, in addition to pushing millions of Jewish immigrants into Israel and diverting many of them into the settlement creations; and second, between 1948 until the mid 1950s, when refugees were prevented from returning, were shot at when they tried to cross the borders and prevented from cultivating their lands. At the same time, the young Israeli state doubled its numbers by bringing more than half a million new immigrants and doubling the number of settlements, all while an Israeli regime of martial law imposed restrictions on the movement of our parents.

Same same, a copy-paste system. What was implemented back then is still being implemented now, not to mention the continued use of shared public space exclusively for settling Jews inside Israel.

That’s the main reason why it is important to acknowledge the Nakba: remembering it is the only way for both Jews and Palestinians to understand that this land is shared. It’s the only way to prevent the system from duplicating the same injustices over and over again. As long as the so called “left wing” in Israel sticks to the righteousness of “redeeming the land” and doesn’t acknowledge the basic injustice of 1948, it is only legitimizing a colonial project, and more and more directly legitimizes the same settlement of the land – both in the West Bank and inside Israel.

Repeating the mantra of a “Jewish homeland” will only keep this land hostage to world Jewry, without giving its residents the ability to enjoy it.

Read more:
PHOTOS: Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day with rallies and protests
The Nakba: Addressing Israeli arrogance
The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?
Despite efforts to erase it, the Nakba’s memory is more present than ever in Israel
Report: Forced displacement on both sides of the Green Line

Muhammad Jabali is a Palestinian Israeli activist and facilitator. He is a coordinator for the Ayam Association’s Jaffa Project-Autobiography of a City, which works to reconcile memory and space for a cosmopolitan Jaffa. He writes for Palestinian media and blogs within Israel, and has published poems in both Hebrew and Arabic. He is also a part of the Palestinema Group, which promotes films from the Arab world inside Israel-Palestine. He is also an occasional DJ. Visit his personal website here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      Amazing. The title is about understanding and sharing. The content is about destroying Israel. It is amazing how many hoops one has to jump through to espouse the destruction of a country on the basis of understanding and sharing and ‘rights’.

      You say that your choice of date is meant to express “which regime we are demanding should fall”. Just say it explicitly. You and your friends wish to see Israel fall and wish to live in an Arab state where Jews are treated as they were in the rest of the Arab world – oppressed, massacred and expelled. At least be explicit about what you are demanding and practical about the implications of your demands.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joe

        Withdraw to the 1967 borders (and yes, they do exist, enough already) and the whole world will support your right to exist.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Get the Palestinians to say the following magic words and I will believe you – Two States for Two Peoples – Jewish and Palestinian.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “Get the Palestinians to say the following magic words and I will believe you – Two States for Two Peoples – Jewish and Palestinian.”

            If only Palestinians would say the magic words. I can feel how ready Israel is to give up the occupation and recolonialization of parts of “Eretz Israel”, to share eternally Jerusalem, to compensate Palestinian refugees and to allow them having a “state” which has been always different then Begin’s Bantustan version of ’78 and its reiterations.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            If only they would say it they could have already had a state and a shared Jerusalem. They could have had it in 2000 and they could have had it in 2008 but they insist on clinging on to the idea that as long as they can avoid recognizing Israel as a Jewish state they will be able to flood it later with Arabs.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “If only they would say it they could have already had a state and a shared Jerusalem. They could have had it in 2000 and they could have had it in 2008 but they insist on clinging on to the idea that as long as they can avoid recognizing Israel as a Jewish state they will be able to flood it later with Arabs.”

            LOL. Please elaborate. What does a “Jewish state” mean in a state in which “Jewish” is not a citizenship? I mean, I know what happened in Germany when “Aryans” considered themselves to be “nationals” and Jews only to be “citizens” before they were expelled and denationalized. Of course in this case it’s the other way around. The Palestinians were allready expelled and denationalized. And what does Israel mean when it talks about a Palestinan “state”? Does it mean a state which owns the land and controls its borders and airspace?

            Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      “Shared land” is the wrong term. Sharing is mutual, reciprocal. Israel doesn’t share, Israel takes.

      Reply to Comment
      • jjj

        Israel was always about sharing.
        1947, pre-1967, 1977 (Israel/Egypt), 1987 (London accords), 1994 (Israel/Jordan), 2000 (Taba talks), etc.
        Palestinians just don’t want Israel, in any border. If you could, you would also have erased Israel from the history books.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Israel’s attitude towards sharing can be see at the Western Wall, where men grudgingly share the space with women – if men get 80% of the space, all the best space, there’s a separation barrier between them, and the women have to keep their mouths shut.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Say, you have a hole in a monitor for your nose?

            Reply to Comment
    3. David T.

      “Israel was always about sharing … Palestinians just don’t want Israel, in any border.”

      You are a very keen observer! Cause this can only be the only explanation why Israel

      – wanted to split Palestine with Jordan
      – acquired territory since April 1948 beyond the borders of the partition plan although it declared independance in May 1948 only within this borders.
      – talks about an eternal, undivided Jerusalem, demands to keep the illegal settlements instead as dismantling them as requested by the Security Council in 1980 and
      – doesn’t allow any refugee to return, although they should have been Israelis according to international law, human rights law and partition plan.

      On the other hand Palestine

      – in 1947 wanted the independence of Palestine and proposed a secular, democratic state granting minority rights.
      – redeclared independence in 1988 within 67 “borders” which is half of their partition territory and asked for recognition of statehood within this borders
      – wants to share Jerusalem and
      – asks only for the repatriation of a few refugees.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Unsubstantiated nonsense.

        – wanted to split Palestine with Jordan
        Not a shred of evidence exists of any agreement with the Jordanians on the matter. The Jews certainly wished to have a non-aggression pact with Abdullah, but what Abdullah did with the part of Palestine he occupied was up to him and what did he do? Annexed it. Anybody care much at the time? Nope. Apparently it is fine when Arabs do it.

        – acquired territory since April 1948 beyond the borders of the partition plan although it declared independance in May 1948 only within this borders.

        Of course they acquired territory outside the partition plan since the partition plan created entirely indefensible borders and the Arabs in any case rejected partition making any possibility of a state surviving against Arab hostility within the partition borders roughly zero. It was either create defensible borders or die.

        – talks about an eternal, undivided Jerusalem, demands to keep the illegal settlements instead as dismantling them as requested by the Security Council in 1980 and

        Israel also taked in 2000 and 2008 about dividing Jerusalem and made the corresponding offers. Where were the Palestinians after those offers? Well, Arafat rejected it and launched a war against Israeli civilians and Abbas spent 6 months trying to figure out how to reject an offer without taking any blame (directly from the Palestine Papers).

        – doesn’t allow any refugee to return, although they should have been Israelis according to international law, human rights law and partition plan.

        And never will and there is no international law that forces a country to open its borders to anyone, especially those that are likely to be hostile to it. See the fate of the Sudetenland and East Prussia Germans and many other peoples after WW2 on the matter. Then again, obviously, we are perfectly fine here accepting a double standard that insists that Israel take in Arabs to the point where it ceases to exist. I wonder why?

        On the other hand Palestine
        – How can someone here be telling me that Palestine proposed anything in 1947 and somebody else telling me that there was no Palestinian unified leadership? Additionally how is it that Palestine proposed a secular democratic state in 1947 when all that was announced by all leaders of the Arabs is that the Jews must leave or die?

        – wants to share Jerusalem
        wonderful, they should have accepted the offer from 2000 or 2008 in that case.

        – asks only for the repatriation of a few refugees.

        no, actually they insist on repatriating a few refugees now and keeping the issue open indefinitely so as to force Israel to accept unlimited return in the future until they can ensure that Israel ceases to exist and the Palestinians can declare a state where Israel used to be and oppress and expel the Jews.

        Reply to Comment
    4. David T.

      >Not a shred of evidence exists of any agreement with the Jordanians on the matter.Of course they acquired territory outside the partition plan since the partition plan created entirely indefensible borders and the Arabs in any case rejected partition making any possibility of a state surviving against Arab hostility within the partition borders roughly zero. It was either create defensible borders or die.Israel also taked in 2000 and 2008 about dividing Jerusalem and made the corresponding offers. Where were the Palestinians after those offers? Well, Arafat rejected it …… and launched a war against Israeli civilians … and Abbas spent 6 months trying to figure out how to reject an offer without taking any blame (directly from the Palestine Papers).How can someone here be telling me that Palestine proposed anything in 1947 …<

      Well: "Declaring that, once Palestine was found to be entitled to independence, the United Nations was not legally competent to decide or impose Palestine's constitutional organization, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee outlined the following principles as the basis for the future constitutional organization of the Holy Land: 1. That an Arab State in the whole of Palestine be established on democratic lines. 2. That the Arab State of Palestine would respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and equality of all persons before the law. 3. That the Arab State of Palestine would protect the legitimate rights and interests of all minorities. 4. That freedom of worship and access to the Holy Places would be guaranteed to all."
      http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/5CE900D2DE34AADF852562BD007002D2

      And: "The Second Subcommittee, which included all the Arab and Muslim States members, issued a long report arguing that partition was illegal according to the terms of the Mandate and proposing a unitary democratic state that would protect rights of all citizens equally"
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-state_solution

      "no, actually they insist on repatriating a few refugees now and keeping the issue open indefinitely …"

      Please provide a source and explain how they could keep this issue open indefinitely after a peace deal.

      "… so as to force Israel to accept unlimited return in the future until they can ensure that Israel ceases to exist and the Palestinians can declare a state where Israel used to be and oppress and expel the Jews."

      LOL. How could they then force Israel to unlimited return, who would recognize such a declaration and what makes you think that they could and would treat Jews like Jews treated Palestinians? Did they opress and expell Jews before Zionists revealed their plan to takeover the country?

      Reply to Comment