Zochrot is an NGO that has been working since 2002 for exposing and disseminating historical information about the Palestinian Nakba in Hebrew, with a view to promote accountability for the Nakba among the Jewish public of Israel and the implementation of the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees.
The Nakba (نكبة), Arabic for great catastrophe, is the designation of an ongoing process of disfranchisement of the Palestinian people from their land and assets. This process had begun long before 1948, with the Zionist ambition to convert as many lands as possible to exclusive Jewish usage. The 1948 war was its calumniation: alongside the atrocities of war, massacres, rape and lootings, the Nakba is also the destruction of over 600 settlements, turning more than 750,000 men and women into refugees, comprising about 85 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants in the territory where the state of Israel was established.
Rather than a mere historical event, the Nakba is a process that still continues today, firstly by the prevention of the refugees' return in violation of international law, and secondly by the continuation of the deprivation and oppression of the Palestinian people in various ways, including their fragmentation into separate units with different legal status (refugees, the subjects of a military occupation in the West Bank, residents of Jerusalem, residents of unrecognized villages), systematic confiscation of lands and property, use of military force, administrative detentions, movement restrictions, discrimination in planning and housing, and more. In the meantime, the expulsion of Palestinians has not stopped with the end of the 1948 war, continuing throughout the1950s, via 1967 – when more than 350,000 men and women were displaced – to the present day (among others, in East Jerusalem, the Negev and South Hebron Hills).
In recent years, Zochrot and other organizations have achieved remarkable success in instilling the issue of the historical Nakba in the minds of Jews in Israel. Yet the emergence of the Nakba in the Israeli discourse still involves neither a broad recognition and acceptance of responsibility, nor an understanding of the ongoing process of Palestinian deprivation which continues today. Zochrot maintains that peace can only be established following a de-colonization of the land and only when all of its inhabitants and refugees can live in it without the threat of deportation, oppression or prevention of return. Zochrot considers the implementation of the Palestinian refugees' return and a shared existence an integral part of the establishment of a thriving egalitarian society shared by all of the land's inhabitants, as an appropriate amends for the Nakba.
Zochrot regards the return as a long-term multi-dimensional process that incorporates not only the actual return of refugees into the land, but also a fundamental change in society itself – a transformation which would allow every returnee and inhabitant a life in dignity and freedom within an egalitarian and shared framework. Return is at the core of this transformation, to be led by the returnees themselves. In this expansive conception, the return would begin long before the actual arrival of the refugees and continue for a long time after that.
To advance Zochrot's vision, the organization acts with a view to challenge and promote a cognitive, political and cultural change among the Jewish public of Israel in order to create the conditions for the Palestinian refugees' return and a shared life here. The focus on the Jewish target audience is derived from its practical and moral responsibility for Palestinian refugeehood and its privileged position of power in the current regime, as well as from perceiving this public as a necessary part of any future solution.
Means of Action
Zochrot makes accessible existing information about the Palestinian Nakba and the Right of Return mainly for the Jewish public in Israel, through guided tours in Palestinian sites that have been emptied of their residents and destroyed during the Nakba, as well as courses, workshops, direct actions in the space, public campaigns and events, and through our tri-lingual database. Zochrot is also engaged in generating new knowledge, learning materials and teaching tools which we provide to Israelis who want to initiate this transformative process through learning and teaching others.