Taha Muhammad Ali is an unlikely dramatic hero. His arms shake with age and infirmity, his legs occasionally buckle, and he often appears lost on stage, as if adrift in a vast expanse of sadness. But for an hour the story of this Palestinian poet has a vice-like hold on our attention and our hearts.
The one-man show Taha receives its English-language premiere on Wednesday at the Kennedy Center for the performing arts in Washington DC. It offers not only a rare chance to learn about one of Palestine’s finest poets, but provides a visceral account of what it was like to live through the Nakba – the Catastrophe that befell hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were expelled from their homeland in 1948.
A Palestinian state is anathema to Zionism – and must therefore be kept in the realms of fiction. The Palestinian state does not arrive, because Israel doesn’t intend, and never has intended, for the Palestinian dream to come true. After Palestinians accepted a partition of the land and initiated the peace process, Israel came up with a charade to convince the world it meant business– what Yitzhak Shamir called the “teaspoon” process.
Historian Avi Shlaim reveals a shift in his thinking on Israel and Palestine: Zionism was a colonial project well before 1967. And the US and Britain have traded roles as mother country.
Israa Suliman writes from Gaza to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: “Although we are of different color, religion, culture and place, I have learned, as I read about the protests at Standing Rock, that we have much more in common than differences. When I read your history, I can see myself and my people reflected in yours. I feel in my core that your fight is my fight, and that I am not alone in the battle against injustice.”
Mondoweiss intern Tamara Nassar shares a lyrical and haunting account of her family’s story during the Nakba: “The tragedy of the Nakba is that it perpetually reproduces itself with every refugee born in exile and until the last refugee returns. The Palestinian in diaspora gives birth to Nakba; her children become walking embodiments of abandonment.”
Mohammed Alhammami recalls stories he heard growing up of Jews, Muslims and Christians living alongside each other in historic Palestine as one people, not divided factions. But he wonders what about now? Can Jews and Palestinians (Christians and Muslims alike) really coexist in the Holy Land, after 68 years of Nakba?
Eitan Bronstein Aparicio discusses how the discourse on the Nakba has changed over time in Israel — When did the term appear? When did it decline and what was repressed? And what has caused these changes? Bronstein Aparicio writes, “Today the term Nakba represents the polarization in Israeli society and discourse. In the non-zionist left there is a full understanding of its centrality in the construction of the conflict and its possible solution. On the other hand, there exists a raging battle led by the Israeli regime to repress these discussions as much as possible. Paradoxically these attempts to silence the discourse leaves the Nakba as a burning question that demands answers”
The largest Palestinian city, Jaffa, was emptied of Palestinians during the Nakba 68 years ago. It went from 120,000 Palestinians, many of them landowners, to 4,000. And many left in desperation by sea. A commemoration, by three refugees’ descendants.
Haidar Eid writes, “I tried to explain to my late mother that she had to be expelled from Zarnouqa in 1948, leave her memories and house behind because a crazy bigot had committed a pogrom against Jews in Europe, but she neither wanted to understand (“what does that have to do with us?”) nor accept (why didn’t the Europeans give them a homeland?” until she passed away in a refugee camp, 90 km south of her village. This song is dedicated to all Palestinian mothers who had to endure the unendurable in 1948.”
In the Active Aging House of Burj Barajneh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, the Nakba is still a vivid memory. Some of the center-goers were in their childhood when, in 1948, the ‘catastrophe’ had befell the Palestinians and more than 750,000 were ousted from their homelands. Around 110,000 took refuge in Lebanon that. Marian, 68 years old, still remembers those keys to her house. Her parents were holding them in their hands while telling her about al Safsaf, the village in Galilee they used to live in before the Nakba.
Thousands of Palestinians, mainly citizens of Israel, participated in the annual “March of Return” for the Nakba commemoration on Thursday, May 12. For the first time the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced organized the march in the Naqab. The location on the lands of the destroyed village of Wadi Zabala was symbolic, and highlighted the on-going Nakba of the Palestinians.
Several hundred Palestinians marched through Bethlehem on Sunday in commemoration of the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, when an estimated 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes and hundreds of others are believed to have been killed. The theme of the march this year was the “Train of Return,” and a massive train was made by volunteers from the three refugee camps in Bethlehem city for the march. “The idea behind the train was to show that we will return to our original villages,” Mohammed Abu Srour, one of the volunteers who helped build the train told Mondoweiss. “It is a simulation of our dreams to come back to our land.”
A new infographic from Visualizing Palestine using data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics shows how European Zionists began establishing population centers in Palestine in the 1870s, with British imperial support and how from 1967 to present, Israel has continuously engaged with impunity in the construction and expansion of settlements defined as illegal under International Law.
Nada Elia writes, “This year, as we commemorate al Nakba yet one more time, as we remind the world that our catastrophe is ongoing, let us also act upon the belief that merely speaking out against injustice is not enough. ‘Demonstrations’ are not enough. BDS is a means to an end: liberation, the abolition of apartheid, the return of the refugees. We are approaching this end, and must look beyond it.”
This week Palestinians will memorialize the starting point of their plight as a stateless people, observing the Nakba, literally “the catastrophe” in Arabic. This year the athletic retailer Reebok was planning a special commemorative sneaker for Israel and its 68th independence in blue and white with “Israel 68” on the sole. But now Reebok is now distancing itself from the Israel shoe. It said in a statement today the footwear was “prepared by an independent designer and should not be presented as a product by the company’s international brand.”
Vacy Vlazna writes, “The spirit of Dr Abu Sitta’s ‘Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir’ mirrors precisely the dynamic quintessence and will of it’s creator – in a word- sumoud – a compelling steadfastness to his homeland Palestine and to the right of return of every Palestinian.”
Palestinians on Saturday marked the 68th anniversary of the massacre of more than 100 Palestinian civilians carried out by Zionist paramilitary groups in the village of Deir Yassin in 1948 prior to the establishment of Israel. Deir Yassin has long been a symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians because of the particularly gruesome nature of the slaughter, which targeted men, women, children, and the elderly in the small village west of Jerusalem.
Maurice Ebileeni reflects on his family’s history of becoming Palestinian citizens of Israel during the Nakba instead of refugees in Lebanon or Syria. Aylan el-Kurdi tragic death has made him realize how easily he could be a refugee attempting to flee Syria now if his family had only made a different choice decades ago.
Tantura was a beautiful Palestinian fishing village 15 miles south of Haifa. In the early hours of May 23, 1948 it was attacked and occupied by the Haganah. Over 200 villagers, mostly unarmed young men, were massacred; others were taken prisoner and put to forced labor. The site of the village is now a beach resort. The mass grave in which the victims of the massacre are buried is covered by a parking lot. Stephen Sheinfeld interviews Hala Gabriel, a Palestinian-American filmmaker, about her new film Road to Tantura. Gabriel was born as a refugee to parents who had fled from Tantura (the house left partly standing had belonged to her family). In 2010, Hala managed to enter Israel and visit the site of her ancestral village. She also met relatives who had taken refuge in the nearby village of Fureidis, which had escaped destruction, and interviewed three of the men who had participated in the attack on Tantura.
Author Naomi Wolf asks whether the system that Germany, Austria and other countries used to compensate Jews and their descendants for the Holocaust could be used as a model for reparations for the Nakba.
Due to years of activist support for the threatened village of Susiya in the occupied Hebron Hills, the New York Times, the State Department, and the European Union have told Israel to leave the Palestinians alone. Will demolition plans move forward?
Amer Hussein’s grandmother passed away three days ago, just days before the 67th commemoration of the Nakba, when she was forced from her home in Palestine. He writes, “I was not left with a key to a house like many other Palestinians; my only inheritance is their memories. Memories handpicked like sweet grapes from their vineyard to compose a memory book; our passport for return, and a burden to never forget the 6 olive trees, the jasmines and the water well.”
On Nakba Day, Mariam Barghouti writes about her grandfather. She says even when his memory fails, sometimes mixing up his grandchildren, he can still tell you the stories of Palestine in perfect detail. She says such recollection acts as the burden and savior of Palestinians. She writes, “It is within that memory we find pain, and within that memory we implement our existence.”
A new Israeli organization called De-Colonizer produced a video asking Israelis on the street in Tel Aviv about the meaning of the word “Nakba.” The answers range from the nonsensical to the profound. Yara Dowani served as an Arabic translator on the project and responds to what she saw: “Reading the answers gave me a very unpleasant feeling about the ignorance that most of the Israelis are living. Should I blame the Israeli education system for example? Or blame those who don’t know what the meaning is because they don’t look for the truth and search for it?”
Sarah Aziza shares her family’s story during the Nakba and the importance of Nakba Day as way to remember: “Nakba Day, like all ‘days of remembrance,’ is thus important not simply as an end in itself, but for the difficult and ground-breaking work that faithful reckoning with the past might inspire. May honesty, humility, and imagination lead us forward.”