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Remembering the Nakba

May 15, 2017 at 10:17 am

Palestinian refugee Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, 83, was forced out of his home in Beersheva during the Nakba. He carries the key to his former home as he sits outside his home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on 15 May 2016, on the 68th anniversary of the Nakba. [Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images]

Sixty-nine years ago, the state of Israel was born following the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

What: The Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe)
When: 15 May 1948
Where: Palestine

What Happened?

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the executive head of the World Zionist Organisation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Israelis mark the event as their “Independence Day”. Ever since, 15 May has been remembered internationally as Nakba Day.

Nakba Day commemorates the forced displacement of more than half the Palestinian population; 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and into refugee camps. The catastrophe later became the longest running refugee crises in the modern era.

Nakba journey - Palestinians fleeing during the Nakba in 1948
More than 1 million Palestinians were displaced in 1948
Relive the journey of Nakba refugees

The day is also marked in Palestinian communities across the world in remembrance of the brutal end to three decades of struggle for Palestinian self-determination in historic Palestine. Their right to self-rule was denied first by the British and then quashed by a new Israeli state. Subscribing to the Zionist ideology, the Israeli state, with exclusive claims to the land for the Jewish people, was ideologically opposed to accommodating the vast majority of the inhabitants of Palestine.

In addition to the many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were forced into exile, over 600 Palestinian villages and towns were razed to the ground, in an effort to ensure Palestinians never returned to their homes.

What Happened Next?

Nearly a million Palestinians had been displaced. Some were subjected to misery under a military rule in the new State of Israel. They were prevented from returning to their homes, even when military rule was lifted 20 years later, and continued to face extreme discrimination.

The vast majority were forced into Gaza, the West Bank and the neighbouring Arab countries. They lived in tents for years at the mercy of the international community. The UN mobilised humanitarian relief for the Palestinian refugees, setting up United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the process. It passed Resolution 194 which called on Israel to permit Palestinians to return to their homes and to compensate the hundreds of thousands of refugees for their losses. Israel has failed to do either.

Seventy years on from the Nakba, Palestinians seem to move from one cycle of oppression to another. They remain stateless and the vast majority continue to suffer under a brutal Israeli occupation.