Since early May events have been taking place across all areas of historic Palestinian related to the Nakba. May 15th is annually marked as Nakba Day amongst Palestinians everywhere. The date marks the day in 1948 that followed Israel's Declaration of Independence.
Although many traditional 'commemorative' events are being held this year, many youth are taking up more direct actions in the struggle for rights including attempts to return to their original villages. Two events in particular in this year's Nakba Day calender, and the Israeli responses to them, have highlighted the collective nature of Israel's colonial policies against the Palestinian people although under different masks.
May 6th saw Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in the largest Return March held to date. More than 10,000 Palestinians, including large numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), participated in the march that was held in the Palestinian village of Lubya. The population of Lubya was more than 2,500 people when it was attacked and forcibly depopulated by Zionist militias in July 1948. It had first been attacked in January of that year, a fact which dispels the Zionist myth that the villages were depopulated when residents fled 'after Arab armies invaded and attacked Israel following its Declaration of Independence'. In reality, more than 300,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes prior to Israel's Declaration of Independence.
May 15th saw more than 1,000 Palestinian residents of the 'West Bank', including many refugees, attend a Nakba Day 'Return March' in the village of al-Walaja which lies between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. 70% of al-Walaja was colonised and depopulated in 1948 and many refugees ended up in camps within what became the West Bank or in Jordan, whilst others remained within the 30% of the village that was situated east of the Green Line. In this year's Nakba Day event in al-Walaja, activists attempted to reach their colonised lands west of the Green Line in 1948 Palestine. A small group of activists reached 1948 Palestine whilst most were repelled by IOF violence.
These two events highlight the growing movement for the right of return and against Israel's settler-colonial project, along with the collective nature of the Palestinian people. They also illustrate the Israeli responses to such events, which can vary in their usage of violence, but which have the same fundamental goals – the continuation of the settler-colonial project with the ongoing denial of return and ongoing displacement at its heart.
The following photo-essay documents these two 'Return Marches' and the varying Israeli responses to them.
MEMO Photographer: Rich Wiles