May 15 was the 75th anniversary of the Nakba – aka the “catastrophe” – when Palestinians experienced the “dispossession and loss of their homeland”. Amman has a large Palestinian population, and during the day, I listened to lamented messages echoing throughout the city from minarets and elsewhere. They were especially noticeable after dusk. Although I didn’t understand the Arabic spoken, the words were clearly heart-felt.
Palestinians protest against their “displacement” in different ways. Some carry Palestinian flags or brandish keys from homes that were taken away from them. The keys “illustrate their hope of returning to Palestine, going home to the land of their ancestors, and reoccupying the villages and cities where they were born“.
“Despite being a core Palestinian grievance, the Nakba continues to be whitewashed or denied outright by pundits, lobbyists, and even policymakers.” Institute for Palestine Studies
Mini Background and History
In 1947, the United Nations “voted to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, sparking fighting between opposing militias“. A short time later in May 1948, Israel declared its independence as the new State of Israel. Soon thereafter, regional Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel “from every side,” starting The Arab-Israeli War of 1948. In 1949, Israel won the conflict, and a “vast majority of Palestinians either fled or were forcibly expelled”. Many of their homes were “destroyed or given to Jewish immigrants“.
“Zionist military forces ousted over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, capturing 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into what are now the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.”
“For Palestinians, Nakba is not a historical event, it’s a continuing process of displacement that has never stopped.” Journalist Mohammed Haddad
“In 1949, an armistice agreement was forged between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The 1949 Armistice Line, a.k.a. Green Line, is the most recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank. Known as the “pre-1967 border,” the Green Line includes Palestinian land as it existed before the June War of 1967, when Israel occupied the rest of the country, including Gaza and the West Bank“.
Israeli Independence Day 2023
Israel marked its 75th Independence Day in April 2023. Most celebrations occurred “amid street protests against Israel’s current government and deep divisions between Jews over what kind of country Israel should be“. Also known as Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the holiday memorializes Israeli independence, which was “declared eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine” issued by the League of Nations in 1923.
Balfour Declaration and British Mandate
Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, “France and Britain set out to delineate spheres of influence and control in the Middle East“. The Balfour Declaration was a public pledge by Britain in 1917 declaring its aim to establish “a national home for Jewish people” in Palestine. The British Mandate of Palestine “formalized British rule over parts of the Levant, furthering the League of Nation’s goal to manage the region’s formerly Ottoman nations, until they could stand alone”.
The Mandate gave Britain a “dual obligation” towards both Arabs and Jews. It also accorded Britain the responsibility for “creating a Jewish national homeland in the region“. The ongoing situation and tragic, never-ending conflicts involved seem impossibly complicated to me – different, but equally as entangled and perplexing as the post World War II breakup of Yugoslavia and the Balkans.
“We are at the end of the road for the two-state solution”. Riyad Mansour Palestinian UN Envoy
UN Resolution 2023
This year, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Nakba at its New York Headquarters. The High-Level Special Meeting was conducted on 15 May 2023 in the six official languages of the UN.
“For decades, Nakba has failed to garner universal or international recognition, as “countering narratives continue to downplay the plight of Palestinians“. The United States, Canada, and United Kingdom were “among 32 countries that voted against the UN resolution to adopt the commemoration”.
Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erda, urged member states to boycott the 2023 Nakba commemoration. He claimed, “attending the event meant destroying any chance of peace by adopting the Palestinian narrative calling the establishment of the State of Israel a disaster“. Countries agreeing not to attend include Ukraine, whose ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, said that Ukraine is declining in order “not to harm Israeli interests.”
On May 15 2023, the United Nations marked the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian displacement to “serve as a reminder of the historic injustice suffered by the Palestinian people and spotlight the ongoing refugee crisis”. NPR Emma Bowman and Daniel Estrin
Monday’s commemoration at UN headquarters in New York “included a morning key note address from Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Later, a livestreamed evening event featured an “immersive experience of the Nakba through live music, photos, videos, and personal testimonies”.
The Commemoration featured a performance by Palestinian artists – singer Sanaa Moussa, an Ambassador of Palestinian Heritage, and Naseem Alatrash, a Grammy Award-nominee cellist and composer. Naseem performed his musical composition entitled “Bright Colors on a Dark Canvas”. He was accompanied by the New York Arabic Orchestra.
“For Palestinians, Nakba represents the destruction of their society, loss of self and the right to self-determination, dispossession, expulsion, and the expropriation of their property.” Rashid Khalidi, Middle East Historian and Author of The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine
Travel is a humbling experience. It makes you aware of how little you know of or understand the many challenges and conflicts in our complicated world. Learning is a lifelong adventure, and the time spent in Jordan has been a valuable educational experience. In June, I leave Jordan and Amman for the city of Paphos on the alluring Mediterranean Island of Cyprus.