The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London held a webinar entitled “Ongoing Nakba at 75: Palestinians Demand Right of Return”.
Chaired by Mick Napier, from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the webinar tackled the tragic aftermaths of the Nakba of 1948, when tens of thousands of civilians were forced out of their homes during the war that led to the creation of the self-proclaimed State of Israel in 1948.
The first speaker was Mark Muhannad Ayyash, the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada, where he is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University. He is currently writing a book on settler colonial sovereignty in Palestine/Israel.
On the panel was also TD Richard Boyd Barrett, an Irish People Before Profit/Solidarity TD, who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since the 2011 general election. Boyd-Barrett helped to organise mass protests against the war in Iraq in 2003 as chair for the Irish Anti-War movement. He has continuously politically fought for Ireland's Israeli Ambassador to be expelled, and to place sanctions on Israel, for its brutal treatment of Palestinians and its apartheid regime.
The third speaker was Palestinian-American attorney and human rights activist Huwaida Arraf. She is co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the former chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, which, in 2008, sailed the first two boats across the Mediterranean to confront and challenge Israel’s illegal blockade on the people of Gaza. She was one of the primary organisers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was sailing with it when it was lethally attacked by the Israeli navy on May 31, 2010. She currently practices law and organises in Detroit, Michigan. Recently, Huwaida served as a 2020 Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
The speakers said that after 75 years of the Nakba, the Israeli colonial-apartheid regime continues to prevent the return of millions of Palestinian refugees and increase the number of those displaced. At the end of 2023, there are over 9 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, many of which are internally displaced persons on both sides of the Green Line.
The webinar stressed that Palestinians continue witnessing the Nakba in myriad Israeli policies of forced displacement and colonialism, such as looting of natural resources, annexation, repression, denial of residency, segregation, fragmentation and isolation, home demolitions, and the imposition of discriminatory planning and permit systems. These policies, among others, are implemented as part of the Zionist-Israeli strategy aimed at seizing the largest area of land with the fewest number of Palestinians. The forced displacement in the Naqab, Sheikh Jarrah, the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron hills, in particular in Masafer Yatta, are glaring examples of the ongoing Nakba.
The activists highlighted that seventy-five years after Zionist militias killed 15,000 Palestinians and violently expelled hundreds of thousands from their lands, the Nakba an all-encompassing system that affects all aspects of life. From expanding illegal Jewish settlements to severely restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement, taking Palestinian resources and arresting Palestinians on a near-daily basis – such policies have become a blueprint for successive Israeli governments.
The policies heavily affect Palestinians, already fragmented by occupation, with some living as “second-class” citizens of Israel, some besieged in the blockaded Gaza Strip, and some subject to Israel’s annexations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem,
The speakers stressed that the continuation of the Nakba reflects the extent of international complicity with the Israeli-Zionist colonial and apartheid regime in Palestine. In their view, ending the ongoing Nakba, establishing peace, and achieving justice and fairness for the Palestinian people, especially refugees and displaced persons, can only be accomplished through the implementation of UN Resolution 194 of 1948, which affirms the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their original homes, restoration of their properties, and compensation for any damage they have suffered.
They added that in spite of the many UN resolutions urging Israel to review its discriminatory policies, the international community has failed to deliver justice to the Palestinians for a variety of reasons
Watch the recording here
On May 15, 1948, some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled into refugee camps that still exist in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.
Millions of Palestinians, including those displaced with the establishment of Israel, now found themselves having to live under military occupation, as well as further Israeli expansionism in their lands.
The word “Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and refers to the systematic ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of the Palestinian population at the time by Zionist paramilitaries between 1947-1949 and the near-total destruction of Palestinian society.
For the Palestinians, the Nakba is the first chapter in a process of land grab and dispossession that began in 1948 and continues to date.