It is not possible to look at the Nakba on its 75th anniversary as a no more than a decisive battle that ended with the uprooting and displacement of the Palestinian people from their land, dispersing them in various parts of the earth and turning them into groups of refugees in camps inside and outside historical Palestine, while replacing them with another people. The Nakba must be seen as the core of the Israeli colonial system, which has not stopped for a moment over the past years in its attempts to dismantle the remaining Palestinian structures through the cleansing and dismantling policies that Israel carries out daily in the Palestinian territories.
The Israeli facts on the ground impose upon the Palestinians the need to revive the question of the Arab thinker Constantin Zureiq about the meaning and nature of the Nakba. There is an urgent need to re-read it, not as a passing event in history but rather as a continuous process in its repercussions and forms, in order to anticipate the future of the Palestinian people and their just cause.
Any attempt to understand the Nakba takes us to the establishment of the Zionist project, which realized early on, that the only way forward to establish the Jewish state, and enable it to continue cohesively is by pulling the Palestinian people apart, and finishing them off in a battle that began before the Nakba, and this is still perpetual up till now.
It will become evident to any observer of the Israeli policies — since the Nakba until now — that Israel has not hesitated for a moment, nor has it stopped taking that path. On the contrary, it has practiced and is still taking all possible measures to tear the Palestinian geography and demography apart and distort Palestinian history and memory.
Matrix of Israeli Control
Israel has succeeded in separating the components of Palestinian geography through the matrix of control it imposed on Palestinian society in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. While the settlement policies and the separation wall turned the West Bank into a group of fragmented pieces of land that have no contiguity and are unable to communicate, the Gaza Strip suffers from a complete separation from the West Bank and Jerusalem created by the unilateral withdrawal in 2005. In addition, a political blockade has been imposed on Gaza, restricting the movement of its citizens and turning it into a large prison. As for Jerusalem, it has also suffered from the matrix of the policies of isolation and Judaization in all the city’s neighborhoods and the expulsion of its residents as a result of the taxes and procedures imposed by Israel that make safe living impossible.
This matrix of Israeli control has always had a clear goal, which was clearly expressed by the American Zionist historian Daniel Pipes; it was dubbed the “Victory Rally” designed to end the conflict. He claims it is a result that will only come through the policy of subjugating life to the power of death in the Palestinian territories, which will ultimately lead to Palestinian acceptance of defeat and recognition of Israeli victory and commitment to it. It operates through two forms of violence: organic violence represented by the use of excessive destructive force, whether through continuous Israeli aggressions against the Gaza Strip or continuous incursions into the cities and villages of the West Bank or the policy of field executions practiced by the army and police forces in cold blood; and structural violence represented in a series of multiple “disciplinary” measures, such as the closure of cities and villages, the imposition of an unjust siege on the Gaza Strip, or the Judaization of the Holy City, etc. — the measures described by Amnesty International in a 2021 report entitled “They Crossed the Line,” The report indicates that Israel aims to inflict maximum annihilation and destruction on buildings and the population and to create worlds of death that make internal defeat a reality and a foregone conclusion for the Palestinians.
Thwarting a Two-State Solution
Since the Nakba, Israel has not abandoned the colonial essence of the Zionist movement, and therefore it has never stopped trying to deny Palestinian existence materially and symbolically. In this context, Israel has continued its policies aimed at thwarting any solution that would lead to a Palestinian entity, even on part of the Palestinian land. Therefore, all Israeli policies since the start of the settlement process are aimed at thwarting the two-state solution by adopting fait accompli policies that it imposes on the ground and increasing the settlement movement by seizing the Palestinian geography and permanently attempting to impose legal sovereignty over Area C, which constitutes 60% of the total area of the West Bank. This leads to the impossibility of establishing a Palestinian political entity on a continuous and connected physical area in the West Bank.
Thus, it has become quite clear that what is known as the two-state solution (or the establishment of a Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967) has become unrealistic. What is happening in the West Bank is proceeding according to an expansionist settler/colonial scheme, the establishment of an apartheid regime, and the construction of “Bantustan” ghettos on all the land of Palestine from the sea to the river, as recognized by Amnesty International and the Israeli B’Tselem organization, and before them the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Gaza Is an Israeli Dilemma
All studies indicate that before the Nakba, the Gaza Strip was not part of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, unlike the rest of the Palestinian cities at that time, such as Jerusalem, Haifa, and Jaffa. However, the consequences of the Nakba forced the Gaza Strip to enter forcefully into the conflict. It became the Palestinian spearhead in confronting all Israeli policies as a result of four main determinants imposed by the facts on the ground. The first is that the number of refugees in the Gaza Strip accounted for 75% of its total population, and the second is that the Gaza Strip lay between the influence of two regional powers at that time: the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt. The third factor is the lack of natural resources and wealth, and the fourth is the proximity that makes the Palestinian refugee in the Gaza Strip the only refugee who can see the village and lands from which he was expelled with the naked eye.
Later, these combined factors contributed to the Gaza Strip becoming a dilemma for Israel and pushed it to the forefront of events until the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987. The famous statement by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that Gaza he wished Gaza would sink into the sea implicitly expressed the failure of Israeli policies designed to keep the Palestinians in check and suppress their voice which demanded their political rights to national salvation and the establishment of their independent state.
This led Israel to see the Gaza Strip as a dilemma by all standards, even after it reached a settlement with the Palestine Liberation Organization) and following the subsequent unilateral withdrawal by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004. The withdrawal was not meant to acknowledge the political rights of the Palestinian people as much as it aimed first to free Israel from the burden of Gaza and secondly to delude the international community into thinking that Israel is serious about a peace process and that the main problem lies with the Palestinian side.
Palestinian Division Serves Israel’s Goal of Domination
In June 2007, the internal Palestinian political division contributed to strengthening the Israeli narrative about the absence of a Palestinian partner, giving Israel a free hand in the West Bank to devour more land through the settlement policy and the construction of the Separation Wall and annihilating any possibility of the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lands occupied in 1967. It also helped Israel entrench the system of domination, control, and monopolization of the various Palestinian communities in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which are subject to widespread Israeli sanctions against the background of attempts to resist the Israeli occupation. This is what we are currently witnessing in the Israeli dealings with the hotbeds of resistance in Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip.
Israel continues to create discrepancies and fundamental differences between all the Palestinian communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and deliberately and intentionally obstructs all possibilities of creating bridges of communication between them. This is done by imposing a racist, settler regime that tears Palestinian society apart, dispels Palestinian national identity, and makes the Palestinian environments unlivable, making it easier for the Israelis to carry out a transfer of the Palestinian people, especially the young generation, which is considered the primary target of these Israeli policies.
This reveals to us the urgent need to reread the Nakba as a continuous historical process that did not stop with the uprooting and dismantling of Palestinian society. Rather, it is a continuous cycle of Israeli action that never stops. And that is clearly evident in the current far-right government, considered the most fascist in the history of Israel as it adopts clearly racist policies toward the Palestinian people and seems determined to liquidate its national rights and resolve the conflict in favor of the Zionist colonial project, including the liquidation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) or at least transforming its role into a functional one that serves the colonial system.
The statements of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir in this context were clear when he offered a number of options to the Palestinian people: either comply with the Zionist requirements of living under Israeli military rule without political rights in exchange for economic rights, such as work “economic peace” or, in case of refusal, emigrate outside Palestine or endure sanctions that will not have mercy on anyone who tries to resist Israel’s desires and dreams.
Such statements illustrate the real position of the Israeli Government backed by the Israeli public, which refuses to recognize the right to selfdetermination of the Palestinian people and all of their national rights. It is a position that had been quietly and subtly held by all successive Israeli governments since the Nakba until now, but this extreme right-wing government has revealed clearly the true face of all the Israeli policies aimed at liquidating the Palestinian presence on the land of historical Palestine, by continuing what the Jewish organizations were unable to do on the eve of the creation of Israel in 1948, to completely empty the land of its original inhabitants.
Policies of New Israeli Government Extend from the Nakba
It is not possible to separate the Israeli policies pursued by the extreme right-wing government from the process and essence of the Nakba, as they are rather a continuation. The processes of cauterizing Palestinian consciousness and awareness by the occupation government aim to complete the Israeli victory arc that it has been pursuing since the early beginnings of the Zionist movement on the land of Palestine.
Faced with this reality of fragmentation imposed on Palestinian society, an urgent need has arisen to propose Palestinian solutions to address the structural crises that the Palestinian national movement suffers from, especially in the face of the intractable political division which serves the Israeli vision and clearly threatens the entire Palestinian national project, which is retreating in the face of Israel’s policies.
The long Palestinian experience through the various stages of the Palestinian national struggle indicates that the Palestinian people have always been ahead of their leadership in their ability to capture the historical moment and the imperatives of confronting the occupation and its liquidation plans; however, this requires rebuilding the Palestinian national movement on the basis of pluralism and political partnership and providing a leadership to the movement of the masses which has begun to talk of the launch of a new uprising in the face of the Israeli policies that are forcing the Palestinian situation to disintegrate. This is evident in the phenomenon of lone “tigers”: independents, armed Palestinian groups that were formed in different locations in the West Bank, such as the “Lions' Den,” the “Jenin Brigades,” and others. It is important, however, for the Palestinian action to be organized collectively and within a unified Palestinian vision and strategy, because individual action and diligence is more like a cry in the wilderness that does not accumulate and does not affect the central issues.
Need for Unity and International Support
I believe that those formations and uprisings that Jerusalem witnessed during the last five years, the latest of which was the uprising in Sheikh Jarrah, call for a number of conclusions. Most importantly, that they were not subjected to the logic and calculations of various blocs within the Palestinian division. Success in confronting the Israeli plans depends on the official institutions support to the Palestinian national movement, especially the PLO, by arming it with serious steps on the ground that are integrated and based on popular diplomacy and knocking on the doors of international courts to expose the racism of the occupying government and its endeavor to consolidate a system of racial discrimination in the OPT. It is also necessary to influence international public opinion through official and popular Palestinian diplomacy and mobilize the broad forces of international solidarity, especially in Europe and the United States.
Restoring a rereading and understanding of the Nakba puts two options before us: Palestinian surrender to Israeli policies, or start from the centrality of the national struggle and mobilize potential capabilities of the Palestinian people to end the political division, carry out radical democratic reform in the structure of the Palestinian political system, and strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian citizen on the ground in the face of Israel’s colonial aggression and its delusional belief in its ability to defeat the national liberation project and resolve the conflict in favor of the Zionist colonial project.