Ottawa group organizes virtual commemoration of Palestinian Nakba – now 72 years old and counting

nakba 72

When meeting restrictions arising from the Corona crisis prevented public gatherings to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba, an Ottawa group decided on another approach. For the next eight weeks – March 29 to May 22 – the “Nakba Commemoration Initiative” will be on-line. Viewers from across Canada and around the world are invited to share their stories. CTIP shares a story about Jaffa. Read more….

The “Judaization” of Jaffa – a little known story of the Nakba.

Today, most people know Jaffa as an Israeli city, part of the larger urban agglomeration of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. But that was not part of the 1947 UN partition plan. That plan proposed partitioning Palestine into two states – one for Jews and one for Arabs. Jaffa was to be part of the new “Arab State”, but physically separated from it – a kind of “island”. The Jewish Agency immediately announced it would accept the offer.

jaffa partition

In 1947, Jaffa was the largest Palestinian city and an important port. By the UN Partition Plan it was to be part of the new Palestinian State, but with no connection to the rest of the Arab state. It was an unworkable plan. Zionist terrorist militias started expelling non-Jewish inhabitants the day after the UN vote.

But the day after the UN vote, one of the Zionist militias opposed the plan and forces began armed action to take over as much of Palestine as they could while driving out as many non Jewish Palestinians as possible.

Capturing Jaffa was a key strategic objective for Etzel one of the Zionist militias even if was supposed to be part of the new Arab state. It was an important port for the export of oranges. It was also the largest Palestinian centre and would inevitably be a centre of Palestinian resistance. The Zionists wanted it as their own and immediately began terrorizing the Palestinian population with bombs, assassinations and even artillery shells.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians fled from Jaffa in fear for their lives. Some went north to Lebanon, some south to Gaza, many eastward toward the hills of the West Bank, and even further to Jordan and Syria.

etzel museum photoThe expulsion of Palestinians from Jaffa is commemorated in “Etzel Museum”  located on Jaffa’s beach.  The panels inside the museum describe how Zionist militia leader Menachem Begin, (who later became Prime Minister of Israel) used terrorist violence to force the non-Jewish Palestinians to leave. Even though the Museum is listed in Trip Advisor, it is rarely visited by foreigners. Israeli military recruits, however, are frequently taken there as part of their indoctrination process. They know it as the “Museum of the Liberation of Jaffa”.

etzel museum map

The Etzel Museum is on the beach in Jaffa. Thousands of young Israeli military recruits go there every year to remember the Nakba, which they call “The Liberation of Jaffa”

Not forgotten

That original expulsion was 72 years ago. But not forgotten. Today, even in the midst of the global upheaval over the Corona virus threat, Palestinians around the world are bringing our attention back to the “Nakba” which upended the lives of 750,000 men women and children, and continues to inflicts pain and misery on their children and their children’s children.

nakba 72 scheduleA group of Palestinian Canadians and their friends in Ottawa have combined to organize an on-line “Nakba Commemoration Initiative – Ottawa”, which will take place as over the next eight weeks. Every week has a separate theme.

Viewers from across Canada are encouraged to “like” the Facebook page, and to comment on the stories that are posted, post their own stories and share the information with their friends.

The initiative does not only deal with those Palestinians who were made refugees in 1948. It also reminds us of:

  • the discrimination facing the Palestinians who live inside Israel
  • the expropriations, house demolitions and endless police harassment of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Jerusalem
  • the punishing blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It also has separate weeks reserved to examine the situation of Palestinian women and youth. The last week, May 17 – 22 will be dedicated to inviting Canadian voices to comment on the role Canada is playing today.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue.

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  1. Dear Peter, this is an amazing story to tell about Jaffa. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights.

    Israelis need to know and acknowledge the violence and terrorism that the Zionist movement used in an attempt to uproot the Palestinian people, and destroy their cultural identity and connection to the land as aboriginals. However, this did not work.

    Acknowledging historic facts is a precondition for truth and reconciliation path.

  2. Thank you. This is a creative solution to our present enforced solitude, and I look forward to it.

  3. I have been to Jaffa several times. Each time there was more Hebrew and less Arabic.

    1. Hey David,
      That’s what I have also observed. I think there are a couple of things going on simultaneously. One is the ongoing Judaization of Jaffa, as in the rest of Israel. But a second phenomenon is a “normal” gentrification. The Arab areas are run down and poorly maintained, fewer services, etc. and wealthy middle class folks – overwhelmingly Jews are buying aparts and moving them upscale. Lots of boutiques,, art stores, trendy restaurants, etc. all serving Jewish clientele.
      Think the gentrification of parts of Harlem – it is not dissimilar.

  4. I’ve never been to the Holy Land, but my Dad enjoyed Jaffa oranges in his childhood, during WWII, when he lived in Scotland. Thanks, Peter, for this informative article.

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