Letter to the Editor: Commemorating, reflecting on Al-Nakba

Friday, May 15th marks the 67th annual commemoration of Al-Nakba, the Catastrophe. This week we commemorate the ethnic cleansing of Palestine as well as the steadfastness and resistance of the Palestinian people. We look to the present systems of oppression suffocating the Palestinians, and we recognize that as long as the illegal occupation continues, Al-Nakba remains ongoing.

In 1948, Plan Dalet was adopted by the Haganah, the predominant Zionist paramilitary terrorist organization at the time. As prominent Israeli historian Dr. Ilan Pappe recounts, “(Plan Dalet’s) goal was to take over as much as possible of the territory of Mandatory Palestine and remove most of the Palestinian villages and urban neighborhoods from the coveted territories.” Over 500 villages were destroyed, and over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled in what the Palestinians call Al-Nakba, the Israelis call the War of Independence, and countless historians call an act of ethnic cleansing.

Though important to commemorate the events of 1948, we must also use this occasion to reflect on the obstacles faced by the Palestinians today, and recognize that Al-Nakba is ongoing.

There are 5 million Palestinian refugees, consistently denied their UN-declared right of return to their lands in Historic Palestine, as well as any form of compensation for the land stolen from them. Over a third of these refugees live in impoverished refugee camps, scattered around the Arab world, without access to basic necessities such as electricity and water.

There are the 2.7 million Palestinians that live in the occupied West Bank, and 1.8 million that live in the Gaza Strip. Both lands are under illegal Israeli occupation. Gaza has been described as an “open-air prison” with no materials or persons allowed in or out, and over 40 percent of the West Bank has been claimed for illegal Israeli settlements.

There are the 1.4 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, systematically oppressed by virtue of not being Jewish. There are over 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against its Palestinian citizens, or, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes to call them, a “demographic problem.” Such laws and state-sponsored discrimination against minorities amount to apartheid, as defined in UN GAR 3068 (XXVIII) and pointed out in countless studies — notably by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa.

This week Northwestern students will commemorate Al-Nakba with a series of events designed to shed light on the struggles facing Palestinians today, the connections between oppressed peoples around the world and Israel’s apartheid policies. We encourage you to attend these events, and to come speak with us.

Al-Nakba isn’t over until the occupation is.

Students for Justice in Palestine