In a tradition that goes back to 2002, on Israeli Independence Day activists mark the Nakba on major Israeli city streets, usually in Tel Aviv and sometimes also in Haifa and Jerusalem. In a clip documenting De-Colonizer’s action this year in Tel Aviv, there are frequent references to the deliberateness – if not spitefulness – of our choice to mark the disaster of the Palestinian uprooting on the anniversary of Jewish Statehood. Despite their differences of opinion, both the activists arguing in favor of marking the Nakba and their detractors agree that the linkage of these two events is a marriage of opposites. This suggests that for those seeking to make the Nakba visually present on the Israeli street, the Day of Independence is not an easy pill to swallow – and definitely not a day of celebration. Those celebrating, on the other hand – or at least the great majority of merrymakers – feel that the Nakba should not be commemorated on that day of all days.
In previous years, we went out on the streets to do something active, to leave a mark. We drew graffiti, we posted street signs, we displayed the names of Palestinian towns and villages depopulated and destroyed by Israel and presented the first-ever Nakba Map in Hebrew. On two occasions, the police intervened and once – in 2012 – it even prevented us from “spreading incitement”. They did it to spite us.
To the people around us who witnessed the outcomes of these direct actions, we offered passive “consumption” of our goods. This time, for the first time, we offered the partygoers we met on the street to take part in marking the Nakba on Independence Day by carrying a small sticker stuck on their body, bearing the question “Can you bear the NAKBA on Independence Day”? The word Nakba was big enough to be seen from a distance of several yards (as you can see in the clip, when one of the passers-by stops in front of it).
We deliberately phrased the sentence as a question in order to highlight its suggestive rather than prescriptive nature (as in “Remember the Nakba!”). The word “bear” has a double meaning: carrying (the Nakba sticker) on one’s body, and being able to endure its meaning although it may not be easy.
This double entendre made this direct action particularly interesting. We offered to passersby – all celebrating Independence Day – to bear, to mark on their body what is perhaps the most scandalous term an Israeli could use on that day. Our suggestion to them was a surprising invitation to take part in marking the Nakba on that very day, of all days.
Many activists invited to join us were afraid of hostile and even violent reactions in the increasingly nationalistic public sphere. This risky physical action became a political performance documented on camera. As seen in the clip, the reaction to the cameras adds a theatrical aspect to the action. We can see several encounters, diverse responses, and even some expression of hope.
Translation: Ami Asher