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The Nakba Day denial


Denial is an important and often underemphasized dimension of Israel’s violence toward Palestinians. Israel equally denies historical crimes and daily incidents. Denial has become, in fact, a constant and almost instinctual official reaction to any accusation of wrongdoing. This is not only an offence against truth, but also enables the ongoing perpetration of crimes. If one has done no wrong, one may, of course, continue doing it.

Israel’s denial of the Nakba—the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948—has been legally sanctioned since 2011. The “Nakba law” now imposes harsh fines on public organizations that refer to Israel’s official Independence Day on the 15th of May as a day of mourning. The Nakba is, however, not just a historical fact: it is a daily reality for many Palestinians living under Israeli domination. Despite Israel’s attempt to expunge the Palestinian disaster from memory, every May 15th in the West Bank Nakba denial is countered by protests that often lead to clashes with Israeli security forces.

On Nakba day 2014, 17-year-old Nadeem Nawara and 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Daher were fatally shot while security and TV film cameras rolled, in the town of Beitunia, near Ramallah. The videos showed that the two Palestinian teens were shot while walking unarmed and posing no threat. Despite this footage, the Nakba day massacre was denied, just like the Nakba of 1948 it was commemorating.

Two official forms of denial followed the boys’ deaths. The military and border police declared that they could not be responsible, claiming that they did not fire live ammunition at all on that day. Israel’s Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, pursued a different argument. He suggested that the killing happened in the context of an armed encounter in which Molotov cocktails were thrown by the protesters. He also claimed, without evidence, that the video footage had been doctored.

In the last decade, videos from conflict zones have proliferated, many shot by citizen activists. Yet more visual material does not automatically produce greater clarity. Often, the evidence for an event does not exist within a single photographic frame or filmed sequence. Rather, it has to be extracted and composed from multiple sources. These processes reveal what is inherent to all evidence: that it is not naturally evident. States often use this fact to obfuscate their involvement in crimes. It was to foreclose any possibility of doubt in this case that Forensic Architecture was commissioned by Defense for Children International-Palestine.

On that day, security cameras installed outside a nearby shop captured the shooting of Nawara and Abu Daher. In addition, a CNN television crew was on site, recording a group of border policemen and a soldier shooting at the time Nawara fell. When the two sources of video are synchronized, we can see that a split second before Nawara falls, a border policeman fires his rifle.

Visible in the video is an extension attached to his rifle for the purpose of firing rubber-coated steel bullets. Israeli firearms ‘experts’ had said that this was proof he could not have fired the fatal shot, as it was impossible to fire live ammunition through this attachment. However, a brochure produced by the manufacturer contradicts this false assertion: it boasts of “lethal firing capacity without removing adapter.”

The rare simultaneous views of killer and victim would be enough to indict in most contexts. So concerted were Israeli efforts at casting doubt on the contents of these videos, however, that it was not only necessary to analyze their visual component, but also to investigate their sound. Audio analysis of several other shots captured on video that day—both of live and rubber coated bullets—reveals that each have characteristic sound signatures. These sound signatures connect the two stories. The shot heard at the time of Abu Daher’s killing had a similar sound signature to the shot that killed Nawara—that is, a live bullet fired through a rubber bullet attachment, possibly from the same rifle used to shoot Nawara.

As the available evidence grew and accumulated in the public domain—including the live bullet found in Nawara’s backpack—Israeli authorities could no longer deny involvement in the Nakba day shootings and a border policeman was arrested. Ben Deri was, however, charged only with the manslaughter of Nawara, not murder. The lesser charge was determined on the basis of still undisclosed extenuating circumstances, despite the fact that he is plainly seen in the video conducting a denial of his own. Deri manually cocks his rifle, an action necessary only when firing rubber-coated bullets, and despite the fact that an empty cartridge had already been automatically expelled from the chamber of his gun after firing in a manner consistent with the use of live ammunition. This would strongly suggest premeditation.

It is extremely rare for Israel’s security personnel to face charges. The fact that there was a charge at all in this case is likely due to the existence of the videos. According to Defence for Children International Palestine, 16 Palestinian children were killed in the West Bank in 2014, none of whom were involved in hostilities. No charges have been brought against the Israeli security forces in these killings. Similarly, no culpability has been admitted in the killing of Abu Daher on that day. Recently, Deri was released from jail to house arrest while awaiting trial.

The timing of the investigation into the deaths of the two teenagers overlapped with this summer’s Gaza war, when hundreds of Palestinian children were killed under the rubble of their homes. Israel began investigating some isolated incidents, largely in order to claim that an international investigation is redundant, as the International Criminal Court will only pursue charges if local investigations have not been undertaken. Convictions are unlikely to be more than sporadic, and Israel denies responsibility for the killing of most of the 2,143 Palestinian dead.

As continuous violations of Palestinian rights by the Israeli government are supported by the same persistent logic of denial, investigating small violations is as important as investigating the large and the historic. Each individual case encapsulates the larger Palestinian tragedy, with suffering compounded by the injury of disbelief. In each, the uphill struggle for justice and accountability is explicit.

Click here for a link to the full report prepared by Forensic Architecture.

Click here for a link to Defense for Children International Palestine’s No More Forgotten Lives campaign.

Eyal Weizman

Eyal Weizman (Principle Investigator) is an architect (AA dipl.), PhD from the London Consortium, Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture.

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Nick Axel

Nick Axel (Research and Coordination) is an architect, graduate from the Centre for Research Architecture, and recent resident and environmental consultant at DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency).

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Steffen Kraemer

Steffen Kraemer is a filmmaker and a film editor based in Berlin. He is a recent graduate from the Centre for Research Architecture.

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Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Lawrence Abu Hamdan (audio forensics) is an audiovisual artist and PhD candidate at the Centre For Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College. His works have been submitted as evidence at the UK asylum tribunal. Abu Hamdan is the Armory Show commissioned artist for 2015.

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Jacob Burns

Jacob Burns is a researcher and writer. He worked with Forensic Architecture on the UN Inquiry into Drone Strikes and other projects, and was a 2015 winter resident at DAAR in Beit Sahour.

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23 Responses

  1. eljay on March 10, 2015, 10:08 am

    In Germany, the Holocaust must not be denied.

    In Israel, the Nakba must be denied.

    Zio-supremacists are a hateful and immoral bunch.

  2. ckg on March 10, 2015, 10:23 am

    Avigdor Lieberman recently said that those who honor the Nakba do not belong in Israel and should be “donated” (i.e. expelled) to the PA.

    At the same event, the Orwellian-named “Voting Democracy 2015”, Lieberman also said disloyal Arabs should have their heads chopped off with an axe. Newsweek’s Ishaan Tharoor wrote that Israel’s Foreign Minister “possibly crossed a line”. Ya think? Jack Moore of Newsweek characterized Lieberman’s statement as “controversial remarks”. Jeesh. When Kerry said last year that Israel could become an apartheid state, Moore called his statement “controversial remarks”. One of these remarks is abhorent and the other is merely noting an obvious fact, but neither is “controversial”.

  3. a blah chick on March 10, 2015, 10:32 am

    “.Newsweek’s Ishaan Tharoor wrote that Israel’s Foreign Minister “possibly crossed a line”. Ya think?”

    Has Ms. Psaki chimed in with her standard “that’s not helpful” line yet?

  4. just on March 10, 2015, 10:37 am

    Heartfelt thanks for your important documentation of these murders. The grotesque impunity with which violence is perpetrated upon Palestinians makes a mockery of any kind of “justice” that Israel claims, of course. The IOF’s protection of, and complicity with, violent settlers who attack and terrorize Palestinians with impunity is another gross violation. Yesterday, I was shocked to read this:

    “Israeli soldier fires warning shots in clash with settlers

    “Dozens of Jewish rioters violently clashed with IDF soldiers and threw stones at them, so one of the soldiers fired into the air. The IDF views such incidents as grave. Apart from being illegal, they also distract the army from its main mission, ensuring safety in the area.”” – See more at:

    Shots fired into the air for the violent mob of settlers that were confronting the IOF for daring to arrest a couple of violent settlers! Wow. Not the usual deadly force used on Palestinians daily, eh?

    One day, justice will be done.

  5. ckg on March 10, 2015, 11:43 am

    Thanks for the excellent report.

    As the available evidence grew and accumulated in the public domain—including the live bullet found in Nawara’s backpack—Israeli authorities could no longer deny involvement in the Nakba day shootings and a border policeman was arrested.

    Even after the bullet from Nawara’s backpack was shown on CNN, Michael Oren suggested to Wolf Blitzer that the events were “staged” and the boys, may in fact, be alive.

  6. smithgp on March 10, 2015, 12:38 pm

    Deri is a Mitzrahi name. It’s likely that Ben Deri comes from an Arab Jewish family from Morocco (I don’t know this for sure of course). That young Mitzrahim have been drawn so thoroughly into the culture of hatred against their fellow Arabs is emblematic of Zionism’s betrayal of the Middle East’s rich Jewish culture .

  7. justicewillprevail on March 10, 2015, 2:20 pm

    Ah yes, the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ which practices censorship and the penalising of free speech and expression. An example to all tinpot despotic states who rule by fear, violence and imprisonment without trial. This is what a lot of American senators are pledging their allegiance to, over and above their own voters. How admirable of them to put their principles up for sale to such a cheap, brutish little gerrymandered kangaroo ‘democracy’.

  8. JWalters on March 10, 2015, 7:21 pm

    A Jewish psychotherapist, Avigail Abarbanel, with a background in political studies, who grew up in Israel, has analyzed some of the psychological factors making it hard for many Jews to escape from this mindset.

  9. Boomer on March 11, 2015, 7:02 am

    As an American, I’m more concerned with the denial that has been typical of discourse in this country since the ’50’s. Not a government-imposed denial, but one observed by nearly all elected officials and influential voices in the media. Recently,, there may be hints that the denial may someday become less than universal. Perhaps. This morning, on NPR, I heard what was perhaps the most candid (albeit carefully worded) discussion of Israeli settlements that I recall ever hearing on NPR. There was no reference to events prior to ’67; there was an emphasis on the Israeli perspective and experience; but still there was a recognition (though brief and edited) of Palestinian reality. Forty years ago, I would have welcomed it. Coming now, after so many years of American complicity (which continues) it is nothing to celebrate.

    • JWalters on March 11, 2015, 7:47 pm

      I completely concur with your concern about the blanket denial in the MSM for decades. There has been, for all practical purposes, a complete blackout of information that contradicts the Israeli story for all this time. It’s not plausible to me that ALL the professional reporters and commentators in the main media of the western democracies are ignorant of so many relevant facts about such a highly important issue. The only rational alternative is that they are all being constrained by some force, pushing them all in the same direction. Like the invisible “dark energy” of the cosmos, inferred only indirectly by its huge effects, this force is becoming readily apparent from its huge effects.

      It’s a good bet it’s the same force that’s pushing all those members of congress to clamor for war with Iran, a decision that requires ignoring all the same information.

      • Boomer on March 13, 2015, 6:50 am

        “Like the invisible “dark energy” of the cosmos, inferred only indirectly by its huge effects, this force is becoming readily apparent” — nice analogy. It is thanks is part to this site that those effects have become more apparent to more people.

        This morning NPR continued its pre-election reporting from Israel. There was an interview with an Israeli who objects to the expense of expanding the settlements. Her objections are not about stealing land from Palestinians. She and the reporter met for the interview in Tel Aviv. There was considerable discussion of what a beautiful new city it is, with nice neighborhoods, great for families. Though she did complain about some problems with her house because of its age . . . “older than Israel.” No discussion of who may have lived there previously, or what happened to them. Typical of NPR, typical of U.S. media.

  10. seafoid on March 11, 2015, 7:53 am

    Mexico has a better world than Nakba to describe what has happened to Palestine. It’s a word that can get Latinos onside for the fight for justice for Palestinians in the US.


    Colonialism is eternal rape and humiliation.
    Chingar according to the Royal Spanish Academy

    According to the Royal Academy of Spanish Language the transitive verb chingar comes from the Caló language čingarár that means to fight. The first three meanings given by the Academy are:
    1. to importune, disturb
    2. to have sex (offensive)
    3. to frequently have wine or drinks (colloquial)

    The Mexican definition of chingar

    The definition given by the Royal Academy of Spanish Language seems pretty lame compared to what Mexicans experienced in the formation of their country.
    The most complete Mexican definition of chingar is given by the renowned writer Octavio Paz in the essay Hijos de la Malinche (Sons of the Malinche) where he wrote an in-depth study about La Chingada. These fragments that I have translated give the best explanation.
    But the quantity of meanings doesn’t stop the idea of aggression in all its degrees, from a simple inconvenience, sting, hurt, to rape, rip up and kill… The verb denotes violence, removed from yourself and penetrate inside another by force. And also hurt, rip, rape bodies, souls, objects, destroy.

    It is a cruel active masculine verb: itches, wound, rip, stains. And provokes a bitter, resentful satisfaction for the one who acts.

    The “chingado” is the passive, inert, and open, opposed to the one who does the act of “chinga” that is active, aggressive and closed. The “chingón” is the male, the one who opens. The “chingada” is the female, the pure passive, unarmed…
    For the Mexican, life is the possibility of “chingar” of being “chingado.” Meaning, to humiliate, punish, offend or the other way around.
    – by Octavio Paz
    From El laberinto de la soledad
    Hijos de la Malinche is part of the book El laberinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude ) that is Paz’s most famous work.
    Summarizing, the degree of the intensity of the meaning that the word chingar has, comes from the moment when Spanish conquerors raped the native women that became the first chingadas (or raped). That is why the Mexican people are considered to be los hijos de la chingada (the sons of the raped Indians) due to the mix of both cultures.

    Israel is el chingon.
    Palestine is la chingada

    • CigarGod on March 11, 2015, 9:02 am

      Very good addition…and point…that it is a good tool to help create a solidarity.

  11. talknic on March 11, 2015, 9:57 am

    “The Nakba day massacre was denied, just like the Nakba of 1948 it was commemorating”

    The IDF commemorated the Nakba in their own unique way I guess

  12. talknic on March 11, 2015, 9:51 pm

    More analysis\

    (same link) In answer to the claim that the victim should have been thrown backwards. NB : The rabbit being shot by a 22 round

    In answer to the claim that a rubber bullet captured in a photo frame was a mark on the door

  13. ritzl on March 12, 2015, 6:43 pm

    Great work. Great article.


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