Thousands of Palestinians joined rallies on May 15 throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories to mark the 59th anniversary of al Nakba ("The Catastrophe") — the establishment of the State of Israel and the consequent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes — as renewed fighting took place between Fatah and Hamas.
Between April and May 1948, as a result of terrorist attacks by Zionist militias and the first Arab-Israeli war, more than 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their ancestral homes and forces to flee to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Today, Israel continues to deny the right of return to these refugees.
More than a thousand people attended the largest commemoration rally, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Demonstrators marched from the "Camp of the Nakba", near the Palestinian National Headquarters, to Manara Square in the city's centre. Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) addressed the rally, warning against the renewed factional fighting and saying that Palestinians didn't need a new Nakba.
A number of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship made the journey to Ramallah to participate in the rally. One young woman, Siwar, who travelled with her family from Jerusalem, told Green Left Weekly that she was marching "to remind the Israeli people that their 'independence day' was our al Nakba and we can never forget that".
She told GLW that even though she and her family "are forced to have Israeli ID, we are still Palestinian and we will never forget al Nakba". "We are still all Palestinians", she said, "whether we are in '48 [the name given to Israel by many Palestinians], in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Jordan or Syria, and we are united in the memory of al Nakba".
In Gaza, the planned rally failed to go ahead after a new Fatah-Hamas ceasefire on the eve of the commemorations failed to quell fighting. Between May 12 and 16, 37 people died and 100 were wounded in Gaza. Four Fatah members of the PLC suspended their membership of the body in protest at the fighting. Palestinians throughout out the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets on May 16 calling for an end to the factional fighting.
[Kim Bullimore works in the West Bank with the International Women's Peace Service. Visit her blog at <http://livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com>.]