Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reflections on the Nakba, May 15, 2012

Some reflections on the Nakba as I prepare to participate in an Interfaith Peacebuilders Delegation to Palestine/Israel May 21 to June 1. I hope to be able to post here about the trip. May 15, 2012 marks 64 years since the Palestinian Catastrophe.


"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." James Baldwin, Civil Rights Leader and Author


Jaffa, 2009

Steve and I decide to take my father-in-law who is 89 years old to his childhood home in Jaffa. From Ramallah, we travel by private car. We must hire a driver from Jerusalem who has the required yellow license plated-vehicle that will allow us to travel from the West Bank over the "green line" into Israel "proper".  When we arrive to the sea, we meet the Jada' family at their pharmacy--the same pharmacy that was operating in 1948. The Jada's are one of the dozen Palestinian families from Jaffa that managed to stay in their homes after Israel's founding or the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe.

 They tell us my father-in-law's house is still there. It is now a rehab center. "Just go. The door will be unlocked," the pharmacist tells us. We enter. My father-in-law is overcome by emotion.


In 1991, I was a young woman in love with justice politics and fell in love with boys who worked for justice. That made the West Bank a very interesting place for a young woman like me. When Kamal and I were dating, his favorite place to go was to his family's village inside Israel. It was nothing but ruins. A few stones marking where people had raised crops and fed and educated their children. He would just sit quietly in one of the old houses for hours.


"I never heard the word Nakba before the nineties. It was simply not present in the Israeli language, or in the popular culture. Naturally, we knew that some Arabs left Israel in 1948, but it was all very vague. While we were asked to cite numbers and dates of the Jewish waves of immigration to Israel, details on the Palestinian parts of the story were sketchy: How many Palestinians left Israel? What were the circumstances under which they left? Why didn’t they return after the war? All these questions were irrelevant, having almost nothing to do with our history—that’s what we were made to think.

 Occasionally, we were told that the Arabs had left under their own will, and it seemed that they chose not to come back, at least in the beginning. Years later, I was shocked to read that most of the notorious “infiltrates” from the early fifties were actually people trying to come back to their homes, even crossing the border to collect the crops from their fields at tremendous risk to their life – as IDF units didn’t hesitate to open fire.

 We were made to think they were terrorists…" Israeli journalist, Noam Sheizaf in "Why Jews Need to Talk About the Nakba"


Genuine recognition is a sine qua non for the process of historical redemption. Peace is a phase of healing that must be established on truth, justice, transparency, and equality. There is no other formula. By recognizing our historical narrative and suffering, Israel will be embarking on a true journey for a just and comprehensive peace. Hanan Ashrawi in today's Haaretz


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