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Fighting occupation must not blind us from remembering the Nakba

A solution to the problem of the occupation will be worthless if we do not gain the courage to take apart the human food chain that has become entrenched in this land since 1948.

Border police officers stand in front of Palestinians as they wait to cross from Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the second Friday Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 26, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Border police officers stand in front of Palestinians as they wait to cross from Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the second Friday Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 26, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

On Sunday night, I spoke at the annual protest march — this time in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv where it is usually held — calling for an end to the occupation of the East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, despite the protests’ emphasis on the occupation that began in 1967, I spoke at length about the need to shift our focus to the root of the issue: the 1948 war, the Nakba and the creation of a system that grants Jews privileges over those who have lived on this land for hundreds of years. Below is my speech in full:

This year we’ve reached an interesting intersection, in which we mark 67 years since 1948, and 48 years since 1967. I have noticed that coming to terms with this almost-poetic alignment of dates has excited a great many people, who took the opportunity to make witty, ironic jokes about this numerical coincidence.

And perhaps, after 48 years we have said everything there needs to be said about the occupation: that it corrupts, it destroys, it kills. After 48 years we know well how to describe the occupation. We don’t, however, know how to stop treating it as a matter of fate.

Perhaps this random meeting between 67 and 48 is a good opportunity to remember the deep, fundamental connection between these two dates, and remind ourselves, once again, that one cannot truly understand the atrocities of the occupation of 1967 without recognizing the catastrophe of the Nakba in 1948.

For 48 years there has been an attempt by large segments of the Zionist Left to present 1967 as the moment in which we strayed from the path — the breaking point which started the downfall. And here we are — many of us who do not view ourselves as Zionists — marking 48 years of occupation, as if this was the moment the clock started ticking.

It is not for nothing that we are here. ’67 marks another, significant point in a process of oppression and theft. It is true that ’67 birthed the messianic settlement movement, but we cannot forget 1948, which birthed Ben-Gurion-style messianism. And it is true that ’67 is checkpoints, arrests and humiliations in the West Bank, but ’48 was military rule — the birth of humiliation and oppression — and which in many ways has never been lifted from Palestinian citizens. And it is true that ’67 includes the choking of Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Silwan, but ’48 was the destruction of Yaffa, Akka, Bisan and Al-Quds.

Palmach troops overseeing the displacement of Palestinians from the central city of Ramlah in July, 1948. (Photo: Palmach Archive)

Palmach troops overseeing the displacement of Palestinians from the central city of Ramlah in July, 1948. (Photo: Palmach Archive)

We stand here today because the sights of day-to-day, arbitrary military violence in the occupied territories beyond the Green Line are ones that would horrify any decent person. Just two weeks ago I saw how, just dozens of meters from here, the state sent its forces — armed from head to toe — to protect the right wing’s violent provocations, all while heavily suppressing the local Palestinian residents.

We mark ’67 because it is the ugly, maskless face of ’48. The crazy idea of engineering the region through force, and the militant aggression that feeds it, were not born in 1967.

As someone who is of this region, I reject the colonialist mentality of barricading ourselves in Ehud Barak’s imaginary “villa in the Jungle.” I know that a solution to the problem of ’67 — that is, a return to the Green Line — will not change a thing if we do not gain the courage to take apart the human food chain that has become established here since ’48. One that classifies the sons and daughters of this land to supreme or inferior, all the while setting them against one another. This is my moral call and political obligation as a Mizrahi, as a Jew and as a person who comes from this region.

I get my moral and political inspiration from the Musrara neighborhood, not far from here, where the Israeli Black Panthers had the courage to present a different vision for this place. That vision was also silenced by the drums of war.

I immigrated to this country when I was nine years old. It took me years to understand that even at nine, when my feet first stepped on this land, I had more rights than the native people of this land, who had lived here for hundreds of years. It took me many years to understand that the privileges granted to me as a Jew were part of the same mechanism that oppresses me as a Mizrahi who hails from this region.

Today I stand in solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters against the injustices of ’67. But I know that the necessary change that this place needs takes us back 67 years, not 48. That is our only chance to finally breathe the clean air of respect, justice and equality in this land.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Jello

      Hahaha. Yes, we already know that you will not rest until Israel is destroyed. Just say it openly rather than hiding behind weasel words.

      I have an unfortunate piece of information for you.. Iran is not actually in “this region”. It is a thousand kilometers away and historically and culturally very much in a different world. So, if your claim to fame is being “from this region”, you are not. If you do want to live in a place where you can make that argument get in a car and start driving East. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be far more authentic for you to fight for whatever it is you think you believe in back in your “region”?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      The nakba continues as you say (1948 and 1967 as the defining milestones in a longer arc that started earlier than 1948 and continues). The nakba as “the persecution”.

      The holocaust also continues (which you don’t say), with 1939-45 as most prominent defining milestone, but also predating ww1, and continuing in willing terror directed at Jews for being Jews, whether individuals or desiring to self-govern.

      Both must be remembered and reformed. Never forgotten ever. But never again applied in practice or ideology.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Zeev Sternhell says something very similar though from a European Ashkenazi Zionist not a Mizrahi perspective. About the failure both before and after 67 to “ratchet down the conquering nationalism and gradually shift to a situation in which tribal particularism could be tamed by the universal principles of democracy.” But that with the six day war the nationalism completely won out. “While it’s true that the Zionism of the Labor Party and its antecedents wasn’t much less radical than that of the right-wing Revisionists, and the cult of historical rites was natural to Labor even without “the two banks of the Jordan,” there was still a chance the party would recognize that all Zionism’s goals had been attained within the existing borders. But even that tiny spark of normalization was obliterated…”


      “…And so, unless today’s center-left leaders undergo a deep intellectual and conceptual turnaround, the question of who will rule has no real meaning. To most of the public, a colonial regime is preferable to dealing with the settlements, and disadvantaged groups willingly sacrifice their economic interests on the altar of Jewish national superiority.

      This is the reality the Labor Party refuses to address for fear of losing half its voters. Thus, all the pronouncements about two states aren’t worth a thing without the genuine political will to withdraw from the vast majority of the occupied territories…

      The problem lies deep within Israeli society. After nearly half a century of controlling the territories, most Israelis view the colonial regime as something to be taken for granted and the invalidation of the Palestinians’ rights as part of the natural order of things.

      The segregation of the buses was an interesting symbolic test that reflected reality. The average Israeli will rebel against apartheid only the day he’s barred from trading with Europe and has to wait three months for a visa to visit Paris.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      The Forward – which can only be described as a Jewish journal – has an article on Canary Mission titled “The BDS Blacklist Is A Jewish Moral Failure”:


      “First, this website is a disgusting perversion of Jewish values. The Jewish canon teaches us two things that I think are particularly important. One is “thou shalt not humiliate” – and that includes respecting people’s dignity, which is paramount to any political cause. In addition, there is something far more basic here, and appropriate for the recent holiday of Shavuot: “thou shalt not lie.” A distorted profile with the intent of harm is definitely not mindful of the truth, and certainly not of dignity. Just because someone disagrees with you does not make this site appropriate – and imagine the outcry if Students for Justice in Palestine had made a similar blacklist of pro-Israel activists! Those who advocate for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions are fellow human beings, too – and commands on human dignity apply to all.

      Second, what sort of tendencies in the Jewish community have allowed for the creation of a website that major Jewish organizations have refused to condemn?…”

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “imagine the outcry if Students for Justice in Palestine had made a similar blacklist of pro-Israel activists!”

        Yes. And reverberates with what Greg Pollock said here:


        “The best way to understand this, Ginger, is to replace the Palestinian owners with Jews and the soldiers with, well, some other nation.”

        Reply to Comment
    5. rose

      Orly, this is a good piece/talk. But this conflict started in 1907: 1948 was just the final point.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Anon Forrest

      The night of the last Israeli elections, the BBC interviewed the Minister of Defense for Israel. The BBC asked about Netanyahu’s pledge of NO two-state solutions. The minister calmly explained that the Israeli Economy is dependent on the occupation, demolition, and construction of the settlements and their infrastructures, from plumbing to roads. I never heard him quoted again, but I think his admission should be plastered on every billboard in the United States. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment