While being quarantined is the shocking new reality to most people around the globe, it has become a fact of life to Palestinians facing unprecedented hardship and daily nightmares. The conditions in Gaza alone should make any decent human being fume with anger: over two million people in an open air prison facing massive shortages of life saving medicines and medical supplies due to Israel’s illegal blockade and the international community’s inaction.
Before my father died, he gave me the key to our house in Jerusalem. My memory of that day is as vivid and bright as a silver coin in the sun. I will always remember it. He looked at me with his kind eyes and said: “This is the key to our house in Qatamon; the house belonged to my father and now it belongs to you, your children, and grandchildren.” Of course, my father was not naive. He knew all too well that our house in Palestine is gone—forever. But he wanted to make sure that I would tell my children so that they would tell their children about our Jerusalem home.
Seventy two years ago today, the Jewish state of Israel was established and the Palestinian state of despair and homelessness began. Palestinians refer to this day as “al-Nakba,” the catastrophe that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of nearly 750,000 natives and the destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages and towns. May 15, 1948 is a date forever etched in the collective memory of every Palestinian. No one can forget what happened in the run-up to that fateful day. During that time, the world witnessed one of the largest forced migrations in modern history. Today, Israel’s founding strategy of the forcible removal of the indigenous population continues. For decades Palestinians have been prevented from exercising their rights to freedom and self-determination; for decades they have endured horrific conditions of apartheid and brutal military occupation; and after decades, the hope of recovering even a small portion of their historic homeland has slipped away. And Palestinians know that the worst is yet to come, especially under the ultra-right, extremist government of Israeli Prime Minister Natanyahu, who is moving quickly towards the annexation of the West Bank.
The level of Palestinian despair is at an all time high. Palestinians continue to be colonized; Palestinian lands continue to be confiscated for illegal settlement building; Palestinian refugees continue to be exiled; and Palestinians living inside Israel continue to be discriminated against. Under the watchful eye—or intentional blindness—of its greatest ally, the United States, Israel has not only continued but has intensified its inhumane policies and violations of international law.
The Nakba did not end in 1948; it continues to impact Palestinians everywhere. Al-Nakba Day serves as an important reminder that until there is an end to the occupation, until Palestinians get justice and equal rights, and until Israel adheres to international law there can be no hope for peace.
Consider giving a friend a book on Palestine or by a Palestinian writer. Below are a few recommendations.