PNN/Exclusive Published 14 May 2014 Palestine News Network
By Amjad Alqasis.
The year 2014 marks the 66thcommemoration of the Palestinian Nakba. The Nakba encapsulates events which have taken place from 1947 to the early 1950s by which approximately 750,000 Palestinians have become refugees. At the beginning of the 20thcentury, most Palestinians lived inside the borders of Palestine, now divided into the state of Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territory (The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). Five major periods or episodes of forcible displacement transformed Palestinians into the largest and longest-standing unresolved refugee case in the world today. By the end of 2013, an estimated 7.4 million (66 percent) of the global Palestinian population of 11.2 million are forcibly displaced persons.
All these policies aim at forcibly displacing Palestinians by creating an overall untenable living situation which leaves no other choice for the inhabitants other than to leave their homes. The term forcible displacement:
... is not restricted to physical force, but may include threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power against such person or persons or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment.
Silent Forcible Transfer
This transfer is carried out today by Israel in the form of the overall policy of 'silent' transfer, and not by the mass deportations witnessed in 1948 or 1967. This displacement is silent in the sense that Israel carries it out while trying to avoid international attention, displacing small numbers of people on a weekly basis. It is to be distinguished from the more overt transfer achieved under the veneer of warfare in 1948. For instance, over the years Israel imposed increasingly restrictive procedures for the registration of children of couples where one or both spouses are Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. The legal framework governing child registration is Section 12 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Regulations, and lacks any real clarity on issues relating to Palestinians.
Israeli statistics on the processing of applications for child registration have been consistently scarce, vague and/or contradictory. This dearth of statistics is deliberate, designed to obscure the degree to which the impact of Israeli policy on family unification, consequently on child registration, has been disproportionate and irrelevant to the reasons Israel officially invokes to justify it. Nonetheless, to data of Physicians for Human Rights, there exist now some 10,000 children who are not registered with the Ministry of Interior.The psychological impact of this Israeli policy is vast.
Those individuals affected are deprived of one of the most fundamental tenets of human existence; that of an identity. Other than a birth certificate, they have no other form of identification and as a result are denied the ability to travel, to obtain high school diplomas (and by extension, higher education) or to access social benefits. Parents must therefore make the impossible decision between remaining as a family in Jerusalem and in doing so, subject their children to the hardships associated with having no identification, breaking up the family unit, or relocating as a family from East Jerusalem to another domicile. Review of the historical background and contemporary reality surrounding child registration paints a picture of ever-tightening restrictions on the ability of Palestinians to enjoy the most basic of human rights, that of a family life. Israel’s child registration policy can be seen as a blatant attempt to reduce the Palestinian population in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in order to secure a Jewish demographic majority. As such, Israel is turning child registration into a tool for forced population transfer.
Israel’s continuous and calculated strangulation of the Palestinian people must be properly challenged by the international community, and this challenge must come from an assessment of Israeli actions and policy through the lens of international law. The facts on the ground demonstrate that such an assessment will reveal elements of an international crime against humanity and Israel's regime must be judged accordingly, with the state’s impunity for these crimes brought to an end. Yet, the silence - if not complicity - of powerful members of the international community in relation to these crimes continues. The resulting reality represents a worst case scenario: the intense and prolonged suffering of a colonized and occupied population, witnessed in conjunction with an emphatic politicisation and devaluing of international law.
Israel can't erase the Nakba from history
Palestine recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988, but Israel's government is asking Palestinians to deny the existence of our people and the horrors that befell us in 1948
by Saeb Erekat 15 May 2015 Haaretz
Today is the anniversary of what we Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, our catastrophe – although a single word cannot begin to explain it, and a single day cannot begin to commemorate it.
More than ever before, Israel needs come to terms with the horrors it has caused since 1948, by ending its subjugation of millions rather than intensifying its denial and trying to legitimize its persecution. Peace can only come through justice and reconciliation.
This day, in 1948, marks the forced exile of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands. Some were subjected to brutal massacres, many fled for fear of their lives. A few managed to stay in what would become Israel. All suffered. Sixty-six years later, all continue to suffer.
The Nakba is a story of fear and intimidation, of denial and persecution, a cruel, unending reality.
Today in occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian families are evicted from their homes due to claims that their property belonged to Jews before 1948, while being forbidden from returning to their pre-1948 homes in West Jerusalem.
In Gaza – one of the most densely populated areas in the world – 1.2 million refugees overlook the open areas of what is now southern Israel. In my own home town, Jericho, there are two refugee camps where thousands continue to live in miserable conditions. In 2014, Palestinian children died of starvation at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.
Israel, which claims to be a democracy for all its citizens, continues to ban the villagers of Iqrit and Kufr Birem, two Christian villages in the Galilee, from returning to their lands, despite a ruling from the Israeli High Court of Justice on the matter.
This is not the only example of persecution within Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promotion of the “nationality bill,” determining Israel as the Jewish nation-state, is one more in a long line of discriminatory laws against a fifth of Israel’s own population, the original inhabitants of the land. A list of laws which make it not only acceptable, but legally admissible, to discriminate against Israel’s own citizens for belonging to a different ethnic-religious group.
Meanwhile, in the land which Israel has illegally occupied since 1967, settlers and soldiers use similar methods of intimidation and fear to force Palestinians from their homes.
The reality in the West Bank is no less than apartheid, and, in Gaza, out and out siege. Both within occupied Palestine and further afield, those who have been waiting 66 years, with their keys in hand, continue to wait.
Palestine has recognized Israel’s right to exist since 1988. We are not asking for Hebrew not to be an official language or Jewish holidays not to be official holidays. The character of Israel is not for us to define.
But we will not allow any Palestinian to be portrayed as the immigrant or intruder in his or her own land. We were here in 1948: We were here for centuries before that – Muslims, Christians and Jews – all Palestinians. The concept of an exclusively Jewish state naturally entails the denial of the Nakba. It tells us: "This is our land. You were on it illegally, temporarily, by mistake." It is a way of asking us to deny the existence of our people and the horrors that befell them in 1948. No people should be asked to do that.
We will not be complicit in the notion that any ethnic-religious group should have dominance over any other. We will not accept the denial of basic human rights to which all are entitled.
Rather than accepting historical responsibility, rather than acknowledging a painful truth about the birth of Israel and addressing it, as a step toward peace, the Israeli government attempts to wipe the event from history.
In Israel, it is forbidden by law for higher education institutions to promote or celebrate the Nakba. If you can erase the narrative, it is much easier to erase the people. This Israeli government, in particular, is taking extraordinary measures to achieve this. Is it any wonder that we have not managed to reach an agreement at this time?
Today, we remember those who have lost their lives, at the hands of their oppressors, in their quest for freedom and dignity. Despite this, we are ready to live side by side in peace with our Israeli neighbors. We hope Israelis, if not their current government, will move in that direction.
At this point we do not know what the future will look like in terms of a solution, or when it will come. What we know for certain is that we will remain.
Saeb Erekat is a PLO Executive Committee Member and Head of the Palestinian Negotiations Team.
2 Palestinians shot dead at Nakba march near Ramallah