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65 years on, and the Nakba continues

January 23, 2014 at 4:39 am

Earlier this month, Israeli forces declared plans to demolish 11 homes in Deir Nidham in the northwest of Ramallah; their destruction will make way for the expansion of the Halamish settlement, which has been established on part of the village’s land. Authorities say the houses were built without permits in areas under Israeli control, though in reality some were built as early as 1936.

Every time this new, illegal cluster of houses grows a wall is built (there are now three), and it is topped with barbed wire, in the name of security. It’s a familiar story in the occupied West Bank, which is riddled with restrictions, divisions, obstacles and the absence of freedom of movement.

Israeli authorities have also approved the building of 300 houses in the area, as ‘compensation’ for those evicted from Ulpana settlement last year. Again it’s shocking, but again, it’s nothing new; Israel controls 60% of the West Bank upon which it builds settlements, and establishes military areas. In the last ten years alone, the Israeli state has demolished over 2,200 homes and left 13,000 Palestinians homeless.

This latest set of demolitions coincides with the 65th anniversary of the Nakba – the Catastrophe – when thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes to make way for the creation of a the state of Israel; it is a day which symbolises forced removal, destruction of homes and ethnic cleansing.

To mark the commemoration, in the occupied territories yesterday, 65 sirens sounded. Today protesters carried 65 torches through the streets of Ramallah, hundreds gathered to listen to the Palestinian National Forces band and demonstrated in Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Jericho.

Over in Tel Aviv, for the second year running, students at the University also attempted to honour the Nakba, but were met with a counter-protest which disrupted students’ readings of the destroyed villages.

But it is not only today that the Nakba’s memories are crushed. As a historical event, it does not exist in Israeli textbooks and laws have been passed that ban empathy with the day. United Nations resolutions stipulate that those who were forced out, or escaped from their homes, have the right to reclaim their property. But there are currently 5 million Palestinian refugees who have been displaced by Arab Israeli wars, 1.4 of which are in one of the 58 camps in their neighbouring countries.

That the Deir Nidham incident and the Nakba commemoration happened so close to each other shows not only a complete lack of respect on behalf of the Israeli authorities for the Nakba, but that the process of forced removal, destruction of homes and ethnic cleansing has taken place continually, for over 65 years, and is still present right up until today.

The Nakba is not only a perpetual political process, but one that is developing and spreading its tentacles, with no end in sight. For many Palestinians, the commemoration today is about this present day battle for equality, land and respect.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.