Sunday, 15 May 2016

An-Nakba - the meaning of disaster

Today, May 15, is Nakba Day, the day that Palestinians name for the 'catastrophe' that overtook them in the late 1940s.  For Israelis, it's Independence Day, the day the new 'Jewish state' of Israel was declared in 1948.

For Israel, 'independence' (from Britain?  from the United Nations?) has consisted in becoming the predominant military power, and in some respects economic power, in the region.  Israel does not have the oil wealth of the Gulf princedoms, but it appears to have a real economy: a highly educated multilingual workforce developing formidable export industries in high technology that sell sophisticated machinery all over the world.

For the Palestinians, the 'catastrophe' has not stopped since the armistice of 1949.  Various attacks and punishments of refugees in Gaza and Egypt in the 1950s led up to the Suez War, where Israel, in alliance with France and Britain, assaulted Egypt and took over the Canal zone.  Much greater harm was initiated in 1967, when Israel conquered the Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Another 250,000 Palestinians were uprooted, and the last vestiges of historical Palestine disappeared into Israeli control.  Settlement construction started slowly in the 1970s, accelerating with the arrival of Likud in government in 1977.  Ever since, the Nakba has continued, albeit more slowly - one roadblock, one demolished farmhouse, one life blighted, one baby lost, one olive tree stolen at a time.  The Israeli upward-curving story of economic and political expansion has been matched by the downward-curving Palestinian story of slow but unending dispossession.

The paradox is that Israeli 'independence' is built on, among other things, continued remittances of funding to Israel by Zionist Jews elsewhere in the world, particularly in the United States; and on the largest single aid programme in the world - the American programme of approximately $3 billion per annum in loans and military aid to Israel, which has been in place for decades.   So much for the independence of the Jewish state celebrated today.
Here is some reading to mark this grimmest of days for Palestinians - the online Resources of the Institute of Palestine Studies, and this superb collection of articles and information on the Nakba:
The Nakba - In The Words of Palestinians | The Institute for Palestine Studies



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