What is the Nakba? Why is it said that the Nakba continues to this day?
The meaning of the word Nakba in Arabic (نكبة) is a great disaster or catastrophe. In the Palestinian context, the term refers to an ongoing process of expropriation of the Palestinian people by the Zionist forces and later Israeli government. This process began before 1948: the Zionist movement aspired to assume as much land as possible for exclusively Jewish use, expelling peasants from their residences and depriving them of their livelihood. Thus, from the beginning of the Zionist settlement until 1948, 57 Palestinian villages were uprooted and destroyed. The 1948 war represents the culmination of this process: along with the horrors of war and massacres, rape and looting, the Nakba entails the destruction of over 500 settlements and the displacement of over 750,000 refugees – about 85% of the Palestinian residents in the area on which the State of Israel was established.
With the 1948 war, Israel cemented Palestinians’ refugee status with the decision to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of those who fled or were uprooted. Prevention of return contradicts international law and human morality because civilians seek temporary refuge during disasters and wars with the intention of returning to their homes once the fighting ceases.
The Nakba, therefore, continues today, first through the prevention of return, and secondly through the further dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people in various ways. Israel splits Palestinians into units of distinct legal status: refugees, the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, the inhabitants of East Jerusalem, and those who remained within the State of Israel (including the internally displaced). Israel also exercises military force, employs administrative detention, restricts Palestinians’ movement, institutionalizes land discrimination, expropriates Palestinian property (millions of acres of land, houses, factories, vehicles, bank accounts, books, etc.), use of military force, administrative detention and more.