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Journey into the Nakba

May 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

The founding of Israel resulted in the displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and kick started the ethnic cleansing of those who managed to stay within historical Palestine. Today marks the 68th year since the events of the Nakba, that’s 68 years of oppression, land appropriation, mass deportations and injustice.

Since the beginning of the British Mandate, there was underlying tension due to the presence of UK forces in Palestine. Conflict sprouted between settlers and locals, over basic living commodities such as agriculture, homes and water. Palestinians were becoming frustrated with British rule which was allowing unchecked immigration to Palestine – this was due to political pressure from Zionist organisations. The influx of Jews from Europe continued to exacerbate the situation within Palestine, which was seeing an increase in the number of foreign nationals.

A propelling factor of Jewish migration to Palestine was the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. A prime example was of course the Holocaust. Approximately 60,000 Jews emigrated from Germany to Palestine in the 1930’s. As numbers increased, Britain applied restrictions on the entry of Jews, in the hope of stemming the flow of Jews entering Palestine and maintaining control of the situation on the ground, which continued to intensify. Jews resorted to entering illegally. Not only did the Holocaust result in the genocide of more than six million Jews, but it also created a concrete platform of appeal on an emotional level for the creation of the State of Israel, a permanent homeland for Jews.

After 30 years of British rule, the Palestinian issue was brought to the limelight and now demanded international attention as the “bad atmosphere” had matured into a conflict over national identity between the locals and settlers. On November 1947, UN Resolution 181 divided Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an international city. British rule was withdrawn following the establishment of the State of Israel.

In the lead up to these events, extremist Jewish groups had formed; they had already ethnically and culturally cleansed Arab villages and communities to create a vacuum which was to be fulfilled by the “State of Israel”. They also later established an official government policy called the “Dalet Plan”, the policy of conquering Palestinian villages and the expulsion of their citizens. This policy remains at the epicentre of the Israel-Palestine conflict, as it creates a Jewish majority in Israel and slowly erases any remanence of Palestinian heritage, culture or even existence.

Scores of homes and communities were forcefully emptied of their inhabitants by these groups, as if they were unwanted objects. Those who defended their homes and their livelihoods faced clashes and massacres. Reports of expulsion spread fast, Israeli forces made sure of this – to generate panic amongst people and in turn “scare away” as many as they could. Families fled their homes to escape the brutality which was being inflicted on their neighbours. Households were left empty, some were taken over by settlers and many were bulldozed or demolished in order to remove any hint of the area’s Arab heritage. By wiping Palestine out and replacing it with settlers, Israel was able to have a distinct Jewish character and political culture.

Palestinians were forced to enter neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Laws were passed setting up strict rules regarding the re-entry of Palestinians. The Prevention of Infiltration Law banned the entry of Palestinian refugees and sympathisers into Israel, those found in the country would be deported. Others, including the Absentees’ Property Law, ensured any property left by Palestinians fleeing the violence was confiscated by the state and annexed by Israel.

Seven decades after the Nakba, Palestinians still do not have the right to return to these properties.

Archived footage of a British newsreel which broadcasted Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948

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