The “nakba” uprooted the lives of 750,000 people – we talk to ten of them

For many Palestinians, the key is the only tangible remnant they have of the homes they were driven out of in 1947/48 by Zionists making a new “Jewish” state. Expelling the non-Jews from Palestine was the key to creating a Jewish majority. Many of those Palestinians are now dead. But the ones who still live, and their children and grandchildren have not forgotten… Read more…

For the last 74 years, the Palestinian “Nakba” (or the “disaster”) has been commemorated on May 15th. But the Nakba was not a one day event back in 1948. Expelling three quarters of a million people took several months. Mass expulsions began months before Israel declared independence and continued long after. And the Nakba continues today, as those Palestinians and their families are stll prevented from returning, despite repeated UN votes affirming their right to do so.

Over the last several years, I have interviewed Palestinians who remember the Nakba and what it did to their families.

Here are 10 short interviews with Palestinians (including some Palestinian Canadians) who remember the Nakba.

  1. Laura Khouri – was a young Christian girl living in Talbieh, a rather posh area of Jerusalem. She remembers the Zionist armoured car patrolling her neighbourhood in the winter of 1948 threatening Palestinians, demanding that they go away.

2. George Baramke, another Jerusalemite, remembers Zionist soldiers shouting “out out, everyone out” as they roamed the streets of West Jerusalem. He left with only a suitcase. He never was never able to recover either the house nor any of his possessions, despite having a deed to prove his ownership. He now lives in East Jerusalem. His imposing family house, festooned with Israeli flags, now houses a Jewish immigrant (or perhaps immigrants).

3. Nedal Sawalmah lives today in the Fara’a refugee camp in the West Bank. With the help of a map he explained to me how his parents fled their farm near Jaffa in 1948, first getting to Qalquilia (about 35 km away) and then eventually ending up in a refugee camp near Nablus.

4. Heidar Abu Gosh. The “Nakba” is mainly associated with the expulsions which took place in 1947/48. But Israel took still more land and expelled more people in 1967. Heidar Abu Gosh remembers being a 14 year old boy when his family was forced to flee in the middle of the night. He was in his pyjamas. His town, Imwas” was later demolished and an Israeli park disgracefully named “Canada Park” was built over it. His family never regained their possessions.

5. Fuad Abbboud is now a Canadian lawyer living in Calgary. He was born to a Christian Palestinian family in Haifa, Palestine. But in 1948, when Zionist militias made Haifa too dangerous, he and his family fled to Lebanon. All their possessions were confiscated, including land. Even though he has the legal deed to his property in Haifa Israeli courts won’t allow him to recover it.

6. Abou Arab. The Zionist militias were not able to expell all of the Palestinians. In many areas, including the mountainous areas of the Galilee, some were able to hide out. They were eventually given Israeli citizenship, but kept under military law for nearly 20 years, forbidden to return to their homes. Israel calls them “present absentees”. Abou Arab took me and a group of Canadians to the site of his village, now destroyed and replaced by a new town for Israeli Jews.

7. Mohammed Barakat was born in the old City of Jerusalem. In April 1948, the Zionists murdered over a hundred Palestinians at a little village called Deir Yassin very near to his grandparents village. In fright, they fled to the Old City of Jerusalem.

8. Abdul-Jabbar Asiri has lived in Canada for more than 50 years. But he remembers where he lived in Palestine and the hard years his family spent in various refugee camps. Despite the years of bitter hardship, Abdul-Jabbar considers himself lucky. With the support of his family, he got an education which eventually allowed him to get admitted to Canada.

9. Malek Khaled was born in Lebanon to Palestinians who fled to there in 1948. In this short interview she explains that, like a lot of refugees in Lebanon, she feels both Lebanese and Palestinian. But her heart is in Palestine. Thanks to the magic of the internet she can even see her parent’s house. “I visit Haifa every day”, she says.

10. Dr. Mosheer Amer is a third generation Palestinian refugee. His grandparents escaped from Zionist troops by fleeing to Gaza in 1948. Their children and grandchildren have been there ever since. He has degrees from the USA and Australia but returned to Gaza. “Palestine is my home”, he says. “This is where I want to live.”

“One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is just a statistic”.

This remark is apocryphally attributed to Joseph Stalin. Whether he actually did say it, there is no doubt it contains more than a kernel of truth, and applies just as well to the tragedy of the Palestinian refugee situation.

When we hear of the huge number of (5 million or more) Palestinian refugees, it’s too easy to overlook the individual impact. Many well-intentioned Canadians throw up their hands saying “it can’t be solved”. But by drilling down to listen to some of the individual stories, the intensity of the tragedy becomes clearer and impells us to push for a solution.

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 Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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  1. As usual, Peter, you provide such important information. These testimonies remind me of Holocaust survivors (the few who are left) who recall thew horror of the experience and get a huge amount of attention. Yet we pay no attention to the Palestinians, such as these people you interview, who experienced expulsion, violence, death for some, etc. And the discrimination continues to this day!

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