We should not be talking about a Nakba, or catastrophe, to describe the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis, Professor Ilan Pappe told the guests at Interpal’s Nakba Narratives event in central London on Sunday evening. “Describe it for what it is, ethnic cleansing, which is a crime against humanity under international law,” said the Israel-born historian.
Ethnic cleansing, Prof. Pappe reminded the audience, does not peter out. “It only ends when the ethnic cleansing is completed, or until someone intervenes.”
Israel’s “brutal” ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their land is an ongoing process, as witnessed by the settlement building and colonisation of the occupied West Bank. This is an essential component of Israel’s founding ideology, Zionism, which, Pappe pointed out is the “main obstacle to peace” in the Middle East. “From Israel’s point of view,” he added, “the peace process is a means to continue the ethnic cleansing with impunity. All of this expulsion of the indigenous population was not done in the dark. It was and is done in the full view of the world.”
Ilan Pappe was one of a number of speakers and artists who highlighted the injustice of what has happened to the Palestinians, including Mizan the Poet, Tommy “A-Man” Evans and Javed Malik. “Indeed,” noted Dr Uthman Lateef, “campaigning for justice is one of the greatest obligations upon us.” In cases like the conflict in Palestine, he said, we all need to put self-sacrifice over self-interest. He quoted the late French Holocaust survivor Stéphane Hessel’s book Time for Outrage in his presentation. Hessel was highly critical of the Israeli occupation; on one occasion he said that the Nazi occupation of France was “relatively harmless” compared to Israel’s.
Sand artist Lindsey McConnachie ended the programme with a moving depiction of what is happening in Palestine and the impact of the occupation on ordinary men, women and children who can only dream of peace.
Nakba Narratives was attended by over 200 people from a variety of backgrounds. This, said Interpal’s chairman, and MEMO’s Senior Editor, Ibrahim Hewitt, confirmed to him that the conflict is not a “Jew-Muslim” issue as many in the Zionist-controlled media would have people believe. “Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews,” he said. “It is important for us all to remember that this is not a natural disaster but a humanitarian catastrophe created by people who have made a conscious decision to act in a particular way. Happily, people from all faith backgrounds and none recognise this and are coming together to help people in desperate need.” He lamented the fact that in Interpal’s 20th year its work and that of charities like it is still essential because of the lack of political progress and the occupying power being allowed to neglect is obligations under international law to protect the people living under occupation.
Support for the Palestinian cause is growing across all sectors of society and across the world. “Just by attending this event tonight,” Hewitt told the audience, “you are thinking of the Palestinians, and that is a great source of comfort to them, because they know that they are not alone.”
The programme included an element of fund-raising, and more than £100,000 was pledged towards Interpal’s humanitarian aid programmes to help refugees.