Seventy-one years since the Nakba, an epic event so fundamental in the anatomy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one thing stands out: It remains as vivid in the Palestinian collective psyche as it was seven decades ago. We see this in the million-man marches by Gazans along the borders with Israel, in the protests and general strikes that pervade the West Bank and in the rallies staged by Israel’s Arabs deep inside the Green Line. Beyond Palestine, in the refugee camps scattered in Jordan and Lebanon, Palestinians show a unique sense of unity as they too mark that somber event. In the rest of the world, sympathisers join Palestinians in honouring the anniversary that underlines the usurpation of ancestral lands, and the futile attempt to blur out a national identity.
And no matter what Israel tries to do to detach its Independence Day celebrations from the fact that it was achieved over the destruction of tens of Palestinian villages, the displacement of thousands of refugees and the continuous attempt to rewrite historical accounts, Palestinians have been able to keep the narrative on the right side of history.
No nation in modern times has had to endure what generations of Palestinians had gone through since 1948 and before. Theirs remain the only open case since colonial era, despite dozens of UN resolutions and a handful of international conventions that recognise their right to self-determination as a people under occupation. But despite all of this, they continue to be victims, not only of direct Israeli suppression, but of a multi-national conspiracy to deny them their rights. Over the past decades, the Palestinians had managed to defy their oppressor, and were able to preserve their national identity. They stood up following the carnage of Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon in 1982. They caught the attention of the world when they staged the first intifada in the late 1980s. They did it again earlier this century through their second intifada, and when Israel reoccupied the West Bank in 2000. The Palestinians never relented.
Even as Israel continues to kill hundreds, incarcerates and deports thousands on almost a daily basis, the Palestinians are still able to defy, resist and make sacrifices. Even as the mainstream Western media continues to bend the facts and tries to change the narrative, the Palestinians, like the mythical phoenix, manage, through their daily sacrifices, to rise and continue their struggle. Their tenacity and belief in their just cause are truly inspiring.
But the conspirators are wasting no time. In a few weeks, the US administration will unveil a plan that seeks to close the file on the Palestinian chronicle. For the last two years, President Donald Trump’s White House has been trying to dismantle the main components of the Palestinian cause: First, by removing East Jerusalem from the final-status negotiations, and second, by attempting to shut down the refugee issue and the right of return. In the process, the US, again in a unilateral move, no longer considers the huge settlement blocs, now occupying over 40 per cent of the West Bank, as illegal or built on occupied territory. And finally, the US is aligning itself with Israel’s far right governing coalition, by distancing itself from the two-state solution and the possibility of recognising an independent Palestinian state.
This final solution ignores all international parameters and benchmarks, and seeks to implement a second Nakba on the Palestinians by turning them into a stateless people with no right to the land on which they live. Their fate will remain in the hands of an Israel that is quickly turning into a racist and a fascist state.
But the fate of both people is now entangled forever, especially following that dark day of May 15, 1948. Israel can never escape the reality that its birth had come at the expense of the perennial suffering of the Palestinians. That narrative can never be hijacked or expropriated as long as the Palestinian people continue to defy their occupiers.
And no matter what the conspirators say or do, no Palestinian will ever bow down and sign a piece of paper that effectively erases their people’s existence. Once more, the Palestinians, despite a weak and divided leadership, will count on their astounding ability to make sacrifices, and on the fact that just as Israel is occupying them, they too are overburdening Israel through their perseverance as a nation.
Time is not on Israel’s side. There are over 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and they are not going anywhere. Over 21 per cent of Israel’s population is Arab, and growing. Israel’s fate is tethered to that of the Palestinians and nothing can change that.
And if Israel has learned anything from recent history, it should be this: The more it pressures the Palestinians, the more defiant they become, and the more it tries to obliterate their national identity, the more they celebrate and revive it. Seven decades on, the legacy of the Nakba has been passed from one generation to the other, and by the end of the day, the Palestinians will never allow a second Nakba to pass.
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman