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As pope departs, Palestinian refugees reflect on Nakba

May 15, 2009

Pope Benedict visited Palestinian refugees this week in the West Bank, voicing sympathy for their frustration over six decades since they lost their homes in what is now Israel. He urged them and Israelis to break the cycle of violence that has seen Israel in recent years seal Palestinians behind walls and fences. When he left today, he repeated the message.

As it happened, today is also the 61st anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, that accompanied the end of the British Mandate in Palestine at midnight on May 14, 1948, and the simultaneous creation of the state of Israel.  While Israelis celebrated their Independence Day a couple of weeks ago (according to the Jewish calendar), Palestinians staged traditional mourning marches yesterday and today. It is a mark of the factional divide that has crippled peace negotiations lately, that the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas complained of being denied the right to hold events in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas Islamists seized control two years ago. Reconciliation talks are due to resume in Cairo next week, though hopes are not running high that the two sides can mend their differences. Given all that, it’s perhaps not surprising that not a few Palestinians are depressed.

Looking for some thoughts on the Nakba from someone who was actually there, when half the Arab population of Palestine was driven from homes or fled Jewish forces, I met Amna Harb, now 91, at the Qalandiya refugee camp near Ramallah in the West Bank.

She told me she just wished she had died 61 years ago when Jewish forces opened fire at her village. It would have spared her, she said, a life of hardship and dislocation.

Harb’s family narrowly escaped death in 1948, she said. But she wishes she hadn’t.

She, her husband and four children hid in a basement in Sarris village near Jerusalem when Jewish forces opened fire on houses including Harb’s. 


The family, like 700,000 other Palestinians, moved four times, before they finally settled in Qalandia, between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

“Had I died then, I would have been spared all this suffering. It would have been easier,” said Harb as she sat on a mattress in her small, poorly ventilated house, holding the rusty metal key of the house that once stood in Sarris.  

“I spent the past 61 years in agony, misery and poverty,” she said, lamenting the passing of an easier life and the loss of her olive grove in Sarris.

Among the Arabs who remain inside Israel, now some 20 percent of its population, most boycotted Israeli festivities last month and many also marked the event on May 15 with rallies and visits to destroyed villages.


But it could be the last time they can do that if a proposal by the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party to ban Israeli Arabs from marking the Nakba anniversary becomes a law. For full article, click on this link. It seems unlikely to be passed into law and the practicalities of banning people from expressing discontent are unclear. But some are concerned that the move reflects a deepening of the divides between Jews and Arabs that the pope so deplored before returning to Rome.


Europeans moving Jews to Palestine may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the Palestinians had no hatred of Jews, and didn’t aid and abet in their suffering.

How tolerant would Germany have been to setting aside part of their nation to create a new homeland for the Jews they tried to wipe out?

The Jews deserved to have their lives finally set on peaceful and tolerant terms. Instead, they were moved to Palestine, and now the religious zealots in the Middle East and United States took over to make a bad situation even worse.

No Palestinian village should ever have come under fire from immigrants they had no government to regulate or control, didn’t invite in, and were powerless to stop as their nation was stolen away and handed to new arrivals.

Anybody out there want to surrender their home town to outsiders at the point of a gun?

Posted by Brian Foulkrod | Report as abusive

Israel-Arab Peace Plan Principles

Starting in 1948 from very first day of recreation of the State of Israel on the part of Israel territory, Arab countries waged several wars to eliminate Israel from her historic land. Israel won all wars and now Arab countries propose a peace agreement with Israel under conditions, which they intended to dictate. However, only Israel, who won all the wars and defeated Arab countries, has legal rights to formulate and dictate peace agreement terms and conditions, which, in general, shell include the following provisions:

1. Palestinian muslims must compensate Jews for damages caused by Jews massacres (actually, it was Holocaust) conducted in Palestine in 1920s-1930s under British administration supervision, for providing Hitler with idea of Final Solution and for taking active part in implementing the idea in Europe.
2. Arab countries must compensate Israel for damages inflicted on Israel during wars launched by Arab countries.
3. Arab countries must compensate several million Jews expelled from Arab countries between 1948 and 1953, where they lived for centuries, for violation of international law and stilling Jewish properties.
4. Arab countries must recognize “Article 24 of the 1964 PLO charter addressed to UN, which stipulates: Palestinian muslims do not claim Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza their territories” which gives Israel full legal rights to remove muslims from occupied Israel land of Palestine.
5. Arab countries must comply with Geneva Convention, which recognizes Israel rights on Gaza, Judea and Samaria, historic Jewish land liberated by Israel in 1967 war from Jordan and Egypt occupation.
6. Arab countries must recognize Jerusalem as historic Israel capital.
7. Egypt and Jordan are obligated to relocate Palestinian muslims (their former citizens) from Gaza (Egypt), Judea and Samaria (Jordan) inside their territories within 1 (negotiable) year term.
8. Arab countries have no right to develop or acquire WMD or weapon that can be used against Israel.

If any Arab country denies this peace terms and conditions, Israel has full legal rights for preemptive strike against this country using all available military power. All islamofascism organizations operating on Israel territory occupied by Palestinian muslims, such as PLO&Fatah (created after WWII on the principles of Hitler’s ideology and with close ties to Nazi party), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Agsa Brigade, must be totally, unconditionally and immediately exterminated. All other Palestinian muslims must be expelled from Israel back to the countries of their origin.

Mark Bernadiner, PH.D.

Posted by Mark Bernadiner | Report as abusive

What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is the same at the Germans did to them 60 years ago.
What next? symbols on clothing to denote ethnicity, palestinian ghettoes, the train journey to a camp. OOps that’s already happened to palestinians.

It’s history repeating itself and there I was thinking we’d been promised it would never happen again.

The oppressed have become the oppressors, it’s happened just as Paolo Freire said it would.

Posted by Heather Gregory | Report as abusive

A few observations:
1 – Jews were not “moved” from Europe 60 yrs ago, they just returned to their historical homeland and without this painful recognition from all Arab neighbors, it is hard to make peace;
2 – there are painful realities on the field such as refugee camps and the fact that part of the historical Israel is inhabited by Arabs that Israel cannot integrate without jeopardizing the Jewish character of the state;
3 – The modern Arab states are starting to understand that continuing with this insane state of war damages their own future; a settlement has to be found which includes money reparations from both sides for lost properties; Jerusalem as a religious issue has to be solved but it should be recognized as the capital of Israel; the future is peace and development together with Turkey and other countries in the area. The alternative is just devastation on all on a scale yet never seen.
4 – the ball is in Arab court – Israel will not make new concessions with people around screaming about their destruction including false theories that they “do not belong” or equates them with the crusaders, including waiting for the day when an Arab majority will take over democratically over Israel.

Posted by val dunbar | Report as abusive

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