THE NAKBA AT 70
Nahida Halaby Gordon and Sami A. Halaby are siblings who lived through the Nakba. Curiously, they cannot technically be called “refugees” because the family had the wherewithal to get to safety before it was too late (and before an artificial date established by the dominant culture of that day). But that does not make them any less children of the refugee diaspora. They were young children who with their parents escaped from their home in Jaffa, never to return. Their hearts still long for a home that shall never again belong to them. Nahida has served in leadership positions in our network for many years and in telling us her story, both she and her family have brought Palestine to life in our hearts. Their witness to us has been continual and inspiring. There is no a better way for us to remember the tragedy of the Nakba than to hear about it in their own words. We thank both Nahida and Sami for their willingness to share. Theirs is a story we must never forget.
Palestinians fleeing the destruction of their homes on May 15, 1948
WHAT THE NAKBA MEANS TO US
by Nahida Halaby Gordon and Sami A. Halaby
It has been slightly more than 70 years since we had to leave our home, our Palestine, and our Palestinian community of family, friends, and neighbors. It was a traumatic event in our lives, which we relive year after year.
Imagine how you would feel if when you visit the country of your birth, you are treated as an enemy alien and if allowed to enter you would only be able to stay at most three months. You find your home confiscated and occupied by people who were encouraged to come because they were persecuted elsewhere. As you move around you become aware that your community has been erased. Your roots have been cut. Nothing is recognizable - villages have been destroyed, churches, mosques, schools and cemeteries and other infrastructure have been replaced. Palestinian street names are replaced by Israeli names. Olive trees and farmland that have been terraced for generations are being replaced by ecologically unsustainable agriculture. The wasteful use of water has reduced the Jordan River to a trickle, the Dead Sea is shrinking, and Lake Hula in the Galilee has dried up. People in Tel Aviv and in the illegal settlements water their lawns; fill their swimming pools and plant trees unsuited to the environment in order to maintain a European life style alien to this part of the world. The injustice of it all is galling.
The Nakba has transformed Palestine from a pastoral country were people lived peacefully to an expansionist, highly militarized, insecure state that is constantly at war with its neighbors. It has a state religion; it refuses to define its borders; and it privileges those who are identified as belonging to the state religion.
The lack of a just resolution to the displacement of our community, the continual attack upon our culture and upon our memories continues the pain of separation from our Palestine. As the years pass, the realization that the end of our days will arrive before we see a resolution to our loss is a suffering that can only be lessened by our faith and hope that a better day will come, if not for us then for those who follow us.
IPMN STANDS WITH THE VICTIMS OF THE ONGOING NAKBA
On this 70th anniversary of the Nakba, The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands with the Palestinian victims who have been struggling for their rights since 1948.
This week, as Israel celebrates 70 years since its creation and hosts the Trump administration who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem without the support of any allies, Palestinians commemorate 70 years of the Nakba, (‘catastrophe’ in Arabic). Now referred to as The Ongoing Nakba because it has been in progress since 1948, the catastrophe has crescendoed in recent years as Palestinians begin to transform their struggle into a resistance struggle for liberty and equal rights.
To mark the 70 years since 1948, Gazans have been staging weekly protests near the border of Israel, demanding their “Right of Return,” enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since March, literally caged within the militarized borders of Gaza, they have been staging a weekly “Great March of Return,” and have been met by Israeli sniper fire and drones dropping tear gas. The loss of life has been tragic and horrifying.
Today, as Jared and Ivanka Trump celebrate in Jerusalem with Benjamin Netenyahu who declared it “a glorious day for Israel,” less than 50 miles away, Israel is slaughtering innocent civilian protestors demanding their human rights. The juxtaposition is abhorrent. At time of this writing, there is a massacre underway with 55 dead and 2700 injured.
Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem said today, “Firing live ammunition at Gaza demonstrators shows appalling indifference to human life. The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition…B’Tselem calls for an immediate halt to the killing of Palestinian demonstrators. If the relevant officials do not issue an order to stop the lethal fire, the soldiers in the field must refuse to comply with these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders.”
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said today, “…The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The international community needs to ensure justice for victims.”
The IPMN joins this call for justice.
Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue... ~ Deuteronomy 16:20
The Nakba, 70 Years On:
Seeking a Hopeful Future in a Time of Yearning
Read the ecumenical statement issued on the 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel and the resulting Palestinian Nakba ("catastrophe"), signed by the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.)