After 75 years of the Palestinian Nakba, the question that we still confront is how should we deal with this tragic event in Arabic and Islamic modern history? Should we sit and weep, recalling our pain and suffering caused by having been uprooted from our homeland and tell an endless painful, tragic story of our Nakba? Or should we overcome being stuck at this stage of our past and move forward toward drawing our own conclusions, learning the lessons from past experience, and devising our strategy to overcome the impact of the past and head toward building our future, restoring our national rights, and living with dignity and peace.
It is possible to stand boldly and strong and face the devastating results of the Nakba that is ongoing till today and try seriously to analyze its reasons and results in order to be able to confront and change the course of history in the right direction for the sake of achieving justice for our people and their rights.
The Nakba did not end in 1948. It is still ongoing via the occupation that invades our homeland from end to end, with extreme waves of destruction, killings, and siege, almost on a daily basis, with no respect for our human lives, holy places, land, and agriculture.
The situation of our people in the Palestinian land and the diaspora is very painful, but this situation should motivate our people to act intensively to change it. There is no sense or logic to our living for seven decades under this oppression and injustice without doing anything to stop and change it.
This short essay written on the occasion of marking 75 years of the Nakba will try to answer the question: Have the components of the conflict changed since 1948 till today?
The 1967 Occupation Is an Expansion of the Nakba
To answer this question, we have to say first that the Israeli side, which perpetrated the Nakba, is still obsessed with excessive hatred motivated by the Zionist project. It is armed with a huge arsenal of conventional and nonconventional weapons, supported with unlimited political and financial aid from the United States and Europe, and doesn’t recognize the rights of our people or even their existence.
Though the Nakba started in 1948, it was expanded after the 1967 occupation to include the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Israeli practices since the 1967 occupation began leave no room for doubt that Israel is pushing forward toward the creation of Greater Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Furthermore, Israeli practices against the Palestinian Arabs, who remained in their lands after the creation of Israel and became Israeli citizens show that racist discrimination against Arabs is steadily increasing in all aspects of life.
Public opinion surveys conducted by different Hebrew media show an exacerbation of hatred against Arabs and the widening of the circle of rejecting the Arabs. The fanaticism emerging across all layers of Israeli society is accompanied by the diminishing power of the leftist streams and their absence from decision-making positions.
All these symptoms make the possibility of coexistence between Arabs and Jews almost impossible. This creates a fertile atmosphere for tension and clashes between the two sides inside Israel, especially under the current fascist Netanyahu-Smotrich-Ben-Gvir government.
The Responsibility of the West
On a wider spectrum, one cannot release the Western countries from their direct and indirect responsibility for the Nakba, because the Western world planned to get rid of most of the Jews in their countries by helping to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. To achieve this goal, they started by getting rid of the Ottoman Empire and its Islamic Khalifah regime which was the political entity containing all the Arab Islamic Ummah. After World War I, they divided the Islamic Arab world into small entities, which coincided with the Balfour Declaration. Later they put Palestine under the Mandate of the UK, the godfather of the Jewish national home in Palestine. That project led to one of the ugliest operations of ethnic cleansing in modern history: the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland and the creation of Israel.
The recognition of the State of Israel by most countries, beginning with the United States and the Soviet Union, was not the only support that Israel enjoyed. These countries facilitated the Israeli takeover of 78% of the total area of Palestine, though the Partition Plan, UNGA Resolution 181 of 1947 designated to Israel only 54% of the land.
The result of the 1948 war was shocking. More than 800,000 Palestinians were uprooted and expelled from their homes; 520 cities, towns, and villages were destroyed; and dozens of massacres were committed against Palestinians with thousands of dead and wounded, concurrently with a systematic persistent campaign to erase the Palestinian civilization with its cultural and religious identity. All this is a portion of what Israel has continued to do against our people until today.
Israeli Leadership Looking to Commit a New Nakba
The current leaders of Israel do not hide their intentions against the Palestinians, and they say publicly that there may be a new Nakba to complement what Ben-Gurion left incomplete after 1948. By this, they don’t want only to intimidate the Palestinian people and deter them from continuing their struggle to achieve their inalienable rights in their land, holy sites, refugees’ rights, and independence but they also disclose their future plans and strategy.
The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people in the Palestinian land and the diaspora have strong faith in the justice of their cause and the inevitability of its victory. They came to the conclusion that they should responsibility for their destiny into their own hands and realized that only by legitimate struggle according to international law and norms will they be able to regain their rights.
Israel is the same as in 1948: fierce, aggressive, and denying the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in spite of the Oslo Accords and the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. At the same time, the Arabs also did not change. They are weak, helpless, divided, lack real democracy in their spheres, and suffer from corruption and dictators. This reality made the Palestinian people understand that there is no one to count on and that they should take up their cause and struggle until they achieve their rights.
The Nakba did not stop with the Zionist movement and its allies’ takeover of 78% of Palestine in the war of 1948/1949, because the Zionist plan was to take over all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. This was not achievable by the leaders of the Zionist movement in 1948, because of internal tactical elements and external international considerations. But the idea of occupying all of Palestine, including Jerusalem, continued to dominate the agenda of successive Israeli governments until it was realized in the war of 1967.
Zionism as a Colonialist Movement
The books of the new Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, and Tom Segev, adopted an approach calling for a new study of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with neutral standards. This meant refuting the traditional Zionist narrative - which for many Israelis became an established historical fact - and reconsidering the Palestinian narrative. This draws our attention to the myths upon which the Israeli policies were built before the Nakba and till today.
These historians considered the Zionist movement to be the other face of the Western colonial movement in modern history. It was expressed by the British-Zionist cooperation in planning and implementing the 1948 war that enabled the Zionist movement to execute its plan of expelling the Palestinian people from their homeland and settling the Jews instead of them in accordance with the conclusions of the Campbell-Bannerman conference in 1905 and its document which was published in 1907. That document was the basis for all the resolutions and conferences that came after it. They include the Sykes-Pico Agreement, the Balfour Declaration, the Versailles Conference, the San Remo Conference, the Treaty of Sevres, the Treaty of Lausanne, the Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, and the Declaration of Independence that established the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, which became a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.
As said earlier, the idea of expelling the Palestinians from their homeland was and still is the source of inspiration for all the Israeli governments’ policies. Such inspiration found itself in the form of legal expression when the Nation-State Law was legislated in 2018. This law considers Jews alone entitled to all of Palestine, excluding any non-Jew from any right in this land. Such ideology makes it easier for us to understand Israeli right-wing leaders’ statements about the necessity to fill the gaps left after the 1948 war, described as mistakes committed by Ben-Gurion because he did not expel all the Arabs at that time.
The brutal Kafr Kassem massacre committed by the Israeli army on the eve of the Suez Campaign on Oct. 29, 1956, against innocent Arab civilians had a political agenda and exposes the hidden agenda of the fanatic Israeli politicians. Its aim was to terrify the Arabs and make them flee their homes to save their souls as happened after the massacres committed against them in several villages during the 1948 war. The massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, became the most well-known of them.
Speaking about the Kafr Kassem massacre remains incomplete, however, if we do not mention Operation Mole1, which was part of its execution.
Kafr Kassem Massacre Tied to Plan to Expel Arabs
Shalom Ofer, the deputy commander of the military brigade that perpetrated the massacre, was interviewed by the Israeli journalist Dalia Carpel in her special investigative report published in the Ha’ir weekly on Oct. 10, 1986, on the 30th anniversary of the massacre. In her report on the massacre, she wrote that “most of those who committed the massacre did not regret or feel guilty for what they had done and justified it by saying that the victims did not obey the orders.” She quoted one of them, Shalom Ofer, who ordered his soldiers to “harvest” the victims who were children, women, old men, and unarmed youngsters, saying: “We were like the Germans. They stopped the vans, took the people out of them, and fired at them. We did the same as them. We implemented the orders exactly as the German soldiers implemented the orders of their officers to kill the Jews.”
The Israeli historian Adam Raz authored a new book about the massacre titled Kafr Kassem Massacre - A Political Biography. According to a report published by Haaretz on October 12, 2018, this book is the first historical research about the massacre. Raz spent years reviewing all available documents in the archives and all the Israeli institutions’ meeting protocols and interviewing many of the persons who were involved in the massacre.
In his book, he says that “most of the information is still sealed. I was surprised to discover that writing about the history of the Israeli nuclear venture is easier than writing about Israel’s policy and intentions toward its Arab citizens,” and he calls the court to order the Israeli army to disclose the documents of this massacre.
One of the people interviewed in the book is Issachar Shadmi, commander of Battalion 17 of the Israeli army in the Central Region when the massacre took place. The interview was attended also by Haaretz correspondent Ofer Aderet and took place a year before the book was published in 2018.
Shadmi said in the interview that the trial that took place after the massacre was a staged show in front of the international community, and its aim was to release the security and military leadership from any responsibility for the massacre. This leadership included David Ben- Gurion, the prime minister at that time, Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan, and Commander of the Central Region Tzvi Tzur, who later became the army chief of staff.
Raz claims that he is convinced that the background of the massacre was an attempt to hide Operation Mole, a secret plan to expel the Arabs residents of the Triangle to Jordan, a plan whose details had not been disclosed until then. However, the Israeli Military Court accepted the request made by Raz and the Public Committee to Memorialize the Victims of the Massacre (chaired by the writer of this article) and ordered to disclose that document and hundreds of other documents from that massacre. All these documents shed light on the hidden policy of expelling the Arabs that was admitted to by the army officers at the show trial. The documents can be found on the website of the Akevot Institute, which specializes in discussing the Israeli-Arab conflict and recently published the plan Israel intended to implement at the time of the massacre within the context of its ethnic-cleansing policy.
Appeal to the International Community
To conclude, there is no doubt that the ultimate policy of the rightwing camp in Israel is to get rid of the remaining Palestinians and to create opportunities to justify their expulsion to neighboring countries. This is what a second Nakba means, and this is what the ongoing Nakba is. To prevent this from happening, the international community should not underestimate the dangers of the growing fascist movement in Israel. It should assume its responsibility for upholding human rights and democracy by first recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination on their own national land and by confronting the fascist trend in Israel by isolating it and preventing it from developing into another nightmare version of what the world witnessed in the modern history of Europe.