The “Nakba” (“catastrophe” in Arabic)
May 14 marks the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding; May 15 is a day Palestinians know as their nakba,
or “catastrophe,” the traumatic expulsion of hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians from their homes in 1948 by Israelis.
In April 1948, the Zionist forces launched a more concerted campaign of massacre and forced displacement, including the notorious Deir Yassin massacre of about 100 Palestinians on April 9. This spread panic among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee.
When terror didn’t do the trick, Palestinians were forced out by Zionist militias. Early April saw the launch of the “Plan Dalet” military campaign, which sought, in part, the ethnic cleansing of most or all of the Arab inhabitants from areas claimed for Israel. By the end, approximately 750, 000 Palestinians had either fled or been expelled.
The Palestinians who remained in what was now a Jewish state made up
around 18 percent of the population of Israel, and for the next 20 years
lived under martial law. The society the Palestinians had composed over
the centuries was, for the most part, now gone. Towns and villages were
renamed or bulldozed. Property was expropriated
en masse through various legal mechanisms. And, most importantly,
whether Palestinians fled or were expelled, virtually none were allowed
to return. Most Palestinians who left their homes in 1947 and 1948
believed they would one day come back when the fighting stopped, no
matter what the outcome.
The great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote that the Nakba is less a memory than “a