Friday, May 16, 2008

Remembering Al Nakba in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

15 May, 2008

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Al Nakba, the catastrophe, which saw the destruction of Palestinian society and the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 indigenous Palestinians from their historic homeland.

It has now been more than 21,915 days since the Palestinian people were expelled by force by Zionist gangs and militia and forced to become refugees in their own land or in foreign lands. In Palestine today, the Nakba continues. Millions of Palestinians have been denied the right to return to their homes or to live in freedom. Israel continues to carry out its illegal and brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, while also carrying out mass illegal collective punishment (which is a war crime under international law) in the Gaza Strip.

On May 15, throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Palestinians remember their dead, their imprisoned, their loved ones in refugee camps throughout the Middle East and their family and friends who make up the 7 million strong Palestinian Diaspora around the world.

Al Awada (return) key place on Gate of Return in Aida Refugee Camp, Occupied Bethlehem (with the aparthied wall in background)

A week earlier on May 8, Palestinians began a week of commemoration with more than 1000 Palestinians from Dheisha, Al Azaz and Aida refugee camps in Occupied Bethlehem marching on May 8 (Israeli Independence Day) to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Al Nakba. The march began at Dheisha refugee camp, marched to Azza camp and then onto Aida camp. Hundreds of Palestinian school children joined the rally, as did Palestinian refugees who experience the events of 1948 first hand. The world’s largest key also accompanied the march and was later erected on top of a specially built “gate of return” in Aida camp, which was erected next to the apartheid wall. As the Al Awada (return) key was lifted up to the sky to be placed on the gate of return, Israeli warplanes performing a flight show to mark the Israeli Independence celebrations flew overhead. Through out the crowd, people began to call out as this very telling clash of Palestinian Nakba commemorations and Israeli independence celebrations in the sky over Aida refugee camp.

Al Nakba Rally in Occupied Bethlehem, May 8, 2008

On May 14, in the occupied Palestinian cities of Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem on the eve of Al Naka events, Palestinians, internationals and Israeli anti-occupation activists gathered to begin the mammoth task of blowing up 21.915 black balloons – one for each day of the Palestinian dispossession – which would be released the next day.

In Occupied Ramallah, around hundred Palestinians and internationals gathered at the football field located in Qalandia refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah city at 10pm to begin the task.

Ten large tanks of helium were stationed around the field.and around each tank gathered 6 or 7 volunteers, taking turns to blow up balloons, tie them and attach string. Dozens of other volunteers carried completed bunches of helium filled balloons across the field and tied them to the rows of string stretched from one end of the field to the other or were busy measuring and cutting the string, while others brought tea to the volunteers many of whom worked until 3.30 am in the morning to fill the balloons. More volunteers continued to arrive through the night.

The atmosphere through out the night was one filled with solidarity and energy. Many of us ran into old friends and new acquaintances. We discussed the events of the week both in the OPT and internationally as we blew up the balloons. And we made new friends as the night wore on.

Al Awda camel, Al Nakba rally, Occupied Ramallah 2008

Al Nakba rally, Occupied Ramallah 2008

The next day, prior to the balloon release, a rally was held at Al Manara – the central square in Ramallah city. By the time, myself and my team mate from the International Women’s Peace Service, along with other internationals from the International Solidarity Movement arrived at Al Manara, hundreds of people had already gathered. Soon, hundreds and hundreds more joined them as they marched up from the Al Awda (Return) camp about 15 minutes away near the Moqata (the PA headquarters). The march from the camp was lead by riders on three camels. The camels and their riders signified the return of the refugees to the cities they had been expelled from. Students and young people joined the march, chanting and carrying flags. Some young women marched in silence, their mouth taped and with signs remembering the Nakba. Many young women were also dressed in traditional Palestinian dress and black balloons were attached to the stage and around the Manara. Soon the official speeches started and the crowd began to swell even more.

Balloons with children's messages attached

Reproduction of the Banksy mural "Balloon Girl" which is on the Qalanda section of the aparthied wall

At 1pm, my team mate and I and the other internationals made our way back to Qalandia to finish blowing up the balloons for the 2 pm launch. When we arrived, we discovered that the remaining balloons had already been blown up but volunteers were busily attaching thousands of notes written by Palestinian children. The notes outlined their hopes and dreams and were a message to the world, that despite 60 years of ongoing Nakba and 40 years of illegal and brutal occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian people were still strong in their resolve to be a free people once more.

As 2pm approached, volunteers began to bring out the thousands of thousands of balloons that been stored overnight in the football club hall. The 2pm release coincided with the time that American President George W Bush would address the Knesset to congratulate Israel on its 60th birthday. At a few minutes before 2pm, volunteers began to release the balloons. The wind which had been steadily increasing quickly picked up the balloons and carried the skyward. Over the next 20 minutes, thousands upon thousands of black balloons marking the Palestinian al Nakba filled the sky.

Bringing out the balloons - Qalandia refugee camp, Occupied Ramallah,Al Nakba 2008

Release of balloons - Qalandia refugee camp, Occupied Ramallah,Al Nakba 2008

After the release of the balloons, a group of internationals decided to make our way towards the Qalandia checkpoint, which is the main checkpoint leading into Occupied East Jerusalem. I had been wanting to document on film for over 12 months that section of the apartheid wall. As we made our way towards the checkpoint, we could hear gun shots and sound grenades being fired off. It quickly became clear that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were firing on groups of young Palestinian boys. The closer we got to the wall and the checkpoint, we could see the IOF firing on the shaabab (boys) who were hurling stones back at the Israeli military.

IOF firing on Palestinian youth along the busy road into Occupied Ramallah

IOF at Qalanda checkpoint taking aima at Palestinian youth

As more boys gathered and began to throw stones, the IOF retreated into their armed vehicle and left, only to return 10 minutes later. The soldiers immediately began firing live ammunition, as well as rubber coated steel bullets, along with teargas and sound grenades. It soon became clear that to stand out in the open was to put yourself in danger as the soldiers began firing teargas, sound grenades and ammunition in the direction of anyone in the open. We quickly retreated to a side alley where we could still film and document what was happening.

As the shaabab (boys) continued to throw stones in defiance of the IOF, the soldiers once again retreated to their armoured vehicle. As they moved back to the checkpoint, the boys and young man made their way up toward the apartheid wall. Some began to barricade the road with boulders and rocks to prevent the IOF vehicles returning. The other boys began to gather at the base of the wall and began to help one of their number up the wall where he planted a Palestinian flag.

IOF firing on Palestinian youth, Qalandia checkpoint, Al Nakba 2008

IOF firing on Palestinian youth, Qalandia checkpoint, Al Nakba 2008

On the day, G W Bush congratulated Israel on advancing “the cause of hope, freedom and liberty, as the great alternative to tyranny and terror”, their military continued to fire on young boys gathered at the base of the wall [1]. Despite the boys being at least 400 or 500 metres away from the checkpoint and there was no danger to any Israeli military soldier gathered there, IOF continued its fire both towards the boys and into the oncoming civilian traffic, where hundreds of cars, buses and trucks were passing down the busy main road. At one stage, the IOF soldiers came out from behind the small cement pillars near the checkpoint running into the traffic stream and firing reckless into it, endangering many innocent civilian lives.
Israel’s advance of “hope, freedom and liberty” had also been on display the week before when its military police force attacked with teargas and batons, thousands of unarmed Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and other Israeli citizens who participated in a peaceful and non-violent march to one of the Palestinian cities razed by Zionist gangs in 1948 to commemorate Al Nakba, north of Nazareth. Prior to the march, the chairman of World Likud, Danny Dannon, demanded that the Israeli security minister ban the Al Nakba procession. He also demanded that any Palestinian-Israeli leaders be arrested who criticised the Israeli state, as well as anyone seen carrying a Palestinian flag [2]. Since the rally, the Israeli police have been arresting young Palestinian-Israeli youth, many of who participated in and lead the rally, including a number of them who are youth leaders in the Young Communist League.

Israeli armed police attacking peaceful Al Nakba rally in Nazareth, norther Israel. Footage filmed by local Alarz.Tv

Israel’s support for “hope, freedom and liberty” was also on display on Thursday (15 May) when Israeli foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni told the world media that Palestinians would only “be able to celebrate their independence day on the same day that the word ‘nakba’ or catastrophe was erased from their lexicon”. The same demand was made of the UN and its General Secretary by Danny Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN. Carmon demand that any reference to ‘nakba’ be erased from the UN’s lexicon.

And while the Israeli foreign minister and its deputy ambassador to the UN, were displaying their adherence to the principles of freedom and liberty and demanding that Palestinians and everyone else deny and forget the tragedy that had befallen the Palestinian people, the Israel Defense Minister, Ehud Barak told Israeli citizens “there is no future for a nation that doesn’t know its past” and urged them to remember and not forget the tragedy of the holocaust and the history of the Jewish people[3]

As Israel celebrates its “independence day” and world leaders gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, the Palestinian Nakba and the stories of murder, destruction and exile which paved the way for Israel’s independence were not recalled and neither were the millions of Palestinian refugees who have been waiting for six decades to return home.

However, while Israel and many other world leaders engage in what can only be called “Nakba denial”, the Palestinian people did remember, as did many of us, the ordinary people of the world. And we will continue to remember, as the Palestinian people continue their struggle for freedom and justice. Just as we will continue to stand in solidarity with them in their struggle to be free because in the words of late Edward Said, it is “a moral quest for equality and [for] human rights”

[1] Miller, S., Bush: We must be firm in face of those who murder the innocent, Haaretz, 15 May 2008

[2] Stern, Y., World Likud chief calls for cancellation of Nakba Day procession, Haaretz, 6 May, 2008

[3] Rotem, Sela, Israel protests UN chief Ban Ki-Moon's use of term 'nakba', Haaretz, 16 May, 2008


Jaakonpoika said...

Who has heard that in the 1930's Bagdad every 3rd citizen was a native Jew? The Sefardi (Safrati) Jews have a 400 year old history and the Mizrahi Jews over 2,500 year old history in the Middle East - outside the location of the state of Israel (Palestine).

Here's the statistics regarding not ONLY the expelsion of Jews from various Moslim countries in the last 60 years that Israel has been an independent state, but also numbers expelled from the Europe in a longer time interval. The Jews are no settlers of colonialism:

60 years of survival. This is statistics, not Zionism. When the military means have lacked the power, it is now a time of a media war to spit on the Jews and curse the Jewish Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testament were written by Jews. Although Jasser Arafat in his books claimed that there never was any Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and that Jesus was not a Jew, he could not deceive the honest spectator

As a matter of fact, the population of Arabs (my beloved friends and brothers, just like the Jews, our common fathers) under the Israeli government was increased ten-fold (10X) in only 57 years. This is close to the world record for any tribe, nation, tongue or culture on the whole planet at the same time interval. The Sefardi Jews were expelled from Spain in the very date when Christoffer Colombo lifted up his anchors and sailed away from Spain. The Jews had to leave and their possessions were stolen. In the case of the Mizrahi, the Jews have lived for millennia all around the Middle East since the first exile of Israel 500 B.C., in what are now Muslim-dominated countries. While much has been made of the 700,000 Palestinians having been made homeless with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, it's peculiar that there is no official recognition of their Jewish counterparts. A greater number of Jews - some 856,000 - were forcefully expelled from Arab countries after the creation of the State of Israel, their homes forfeited, their belongings seized. They became refugees, migrating to Israel, mainly. But they did not spoke any Hebrew but Arabic and Farsi (Persian).

The Second Intifada is called the Oslo War. Israel has been forced to damage the very infrastructure she has constructed and administrated while hunting the weapons from the milittant "freedom fighters". Between 1967-1993 roads, system of siewers (gutters, ditches), electricity supply, water supply, schools, health care system, and social welfare system to the West Bank and Gaza. Even for the Arab citizens of Israel, ideal was that everyody gets the same salar for the same job, with the same social benefits. This is stated in the law, officially. In contrast, even the official law in Jordan which has the peace treaty with Israel, it is forbidden for a Jew to live in the country. The health care services have been free for the Arab population, only a portion of the price of the drugs must have been paid by the patients. Under the administrations of Great Britain (1920-1947) or Jordan (1948-1967), no universities were established for the Arabs in the country. According to The Association of Arab Universitiesin mukaan (, in contrast, under the Israeli administration altogether six universities appeared during the time (of course by the force of the local Arab people, though). Also, since 1969 an independent newspaper has appeared in Jerusalem, which has NEVER been put under a censorship.

The Palestinian life expectancy increased from 48 to 72 years in 1967-1995. The death rate decreased by over 2/3 in 1970-1090 and the Israeli medical campaigns decreased the child deat rate from a level of 60 per 1000 in 1968 to 15 per 1000 in 2000. (An analogous figure was 64 in Iraq, 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan, and 22 in Syria in 2000). During 1967-1988 the amount of comprehensive schoold and second level polytechnic institutes for the Arabs was increased by 35%. During 1970-1986 the proportion of Palestinian women at the West Bank and Gaza not having gone to school decreased from 67 % to 32 %. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in West Bank and Gaza increased in 1968-1991 BKT from 165 US dollars to 1715 dollars (compare with 1630$ in Turkey, 1440$ in Tunis, 1050$ in Jordan, 800$ in Syria, 600$ in Egypt. and 400$ in Yemen).

One-fourth of the judgements of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations strike Israel. Out of the incidences dealt in the Security Counsil one-third is having to do with Israel. I think this resembles the hysteria seen in the Black Plague in Europe, when the European Jews were accused of the pandemia and burnt alive. (As an example, one the biggest Jewish populations in the continent was in Basel, Switzerland, and all the 4000 souls were burnt in one Rhein island.)

PLO was founded in 1964 - three years before the 6-day failed attack and occupation. The PLO articles openly state that it was not a project of the Palestinians but a project TO the Palestinians. They were commanded to literally sacrifice for them in the name of a greater war:
Helsinki, Finland

Kim said...

Okay, I am not sure what is going on, but I seem to be having trouble with moderating these comments and accidently end up deleting at least one! Apologies to those who I did, it wasnt deliberate. I will try and see if I can get this restored, but please feel free to make the comment again.

cheers, Kim

Yishai said...

There are no "Palestinian" territories. There's ONLY Israel.

The Arabs choose war instead.

They choose their own destruction:

“50,000 Arabs Left Gaza Since 2006, Many More On The Way”

Ojalanpoika said...

I will quote from here again:

PAY ATTENTION that it is USA that profits from Israel, rather than the opposite. Israel gets nearly 2 billion euros from USA almost every year, that is true. But. US demands that Israel is not allowed to stop BRAIN DRAIN from Eretz israel to USA. Before the Second Intifada, there were 200 Israeli companies listed in the US High Tech Nasdaq, after the Intifaca the count had dropped to 70. At the moment, the number is back in 100, which is still greater than from all the European countries combined.

Dollars are green since the yankees pull the down from the tree when still raw and fresh. Israel has not been allowed to let any of its companies to be scaled up in their homeland but most are imported straight from the garage. The scaling up of industrial production would mean jobs, to both Jews, Arabs and other ethnic groups. Israel is ordered to stay as some kind of innovation laboratory only, as the 51. state. Astonishing number of 25% of the Israeli researchers have moved from Israel to the United States - and this figure does not yet even include the people with double citizenship! The next largest brain drain of researchers to US are 12.2% from Canada, 4.3% from Netherlands, and 4.2% from Italy.

One of the secrets of innovative success in Israel is the fact that cheating is minimized in the public funding: Money is not delivered according to research plans but steady income and thus the market analysis is emphasized. The support is designed so that the first 2-10 years a startup company does not have to pay taxes. But no direct funding without compensation is offered.

Today, Israel draws Venture Capital (VC) more than the Europe. A novel phenomenon is the strategy by which Israel has been able to claim victory over China and other Far-East countries regarding the most modern High Tech factories: As an example, the supranational Intel transferred the mass production of Centricon-processors to Israel, where 25% of citizens possess a higher decree from the university but where people respect patents and are not plagiating every item they produce for others. (China is a great country of thieves. The Empire of Pirates steals every moving article in your machine.) Intel was also offered an overall tax rate of 10%, which is about three times lower than that of US. Also, the biggest generic drug factory in the world was recently established in Israel. Over half of the export from Israel are High tech products, compared to the 25% which is the average in the OECD countries.

Although the export of the agriculture has remained constant past the last 30 years, its relative amount has dropped from 70% to 3%. Out of the 3000 companies in Israel 80% are less than ten years old, and the average failure rate of these start ups is very low, less than 50%. In biotechnology and drug development, about 400 experimental drugs have been approved or accepted in clinical phases. The greatest portion of funding of research per capita is found in Israel. Israel also has the greatest ratio of researchers per square meter or population in the face of the world, far exceeding I.e. Japan which was also raised by plagiation and copying of other peoples ideas after the WWII:

Ojalanpoika said...

Tel Aviv (literally: Dumb-Hill of Spring) was plain desert at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, in the advent of its 100th year celebrations in 2009, it is the Silicon Wadi (Valley) of not only Mediterranean but of the whole globe since 1990's. The world has never seen such a rocket area of original Hi Tech innovations, I would say.

In short, even the immigrant PhD's have to be humble enough to make their living by cleaning toilets before they get the hold of making living. Although the export of the agriculture has remained constant past the last 30 years, its relative amount has dropped from 70% to 3%. Out of the 3000 companies in Israel 80% are less than ten years old, and the average failure rate of these start ups is very low, less than 50%. More Israeli patents are registered in the US than from Russia, India, and China combined, despite the enormous population disadvantage (about 7 million in Israel vs. 2.5 billion combined in the other 3). One of the secrets of innovative success in Israel is the fact that cheating is minimized in the public funding: Money is not delivered according to research plans but steady income ("kassavirta") and thus the market analysis is emphasized. The support is designed so that the first 2-10 years a start-up company does not have to pay taxes. But very little, if any, direct funding without compensation is offered. Today, Israel draws Venture Capital (VC) more than the Europe. A novel phenomenon is the strategy by which Israel has been able to claim victory over China and other Far-East countries regarding the modern High Tech factories: As an example, the supranational Intel transferred the mass production of Centricon-processors to Israel, where ~20% of citizens possess university decrees (ranking 3rd in the world) but where the environment respects patents and are not plagiating every item they produce to others like the rocketting China.

Aviv is Hebrew for "spring", symbolizing renewal, and tel is an archaeological site that reveals layers of civilization built one over the other. The Jewish population has been such a layer of native culture not only in the Palestine, yet the expulsion of the native Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews from Pakistan to Morocco since 1948 is totally ignored in the European media:

Don't You think for a blitch second that the industrial countries have desired peace in the Middle East. A collaboration between the Jews with their technology and science and Arabs with their oil, loyality and commitment has been the greatest nightmare of the Europe at least. The intimate friendship between the cousin nations, as officially declared by Chaim Weizmann and Emir Feisal in Versailles peace conference was deliberately mutilated. Expulsion of the native and national Jews from Muslim countries since 1948 has been al Nakba to nations from Pakistan to Morocco.

Pauli Ojala, evolutionary critic
Biochemist, drop-out (MSci-Master of Sciing)