Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 9 News List

The Palestinians remember as the great 'nakba' continues

With millions still living under occupation or in exile, what Palestinians call their `nakba,' or catastrophe, remains at the heart of their national identity

By Karma Nabulsi  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON


Yet it is not simply in the build-ing of the walls and checkpoints by Israel's occupying forces, or the different roads created for Jews and Arabs on Palestinian land, or the use of specially constructed bulldozers that rip up Palestinian orchards and olive groves and demolish hundreds of homes, or the imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners, or the daily murder of Palestinian civilians, that demonstrates the continuing nature of the nakba. It is also in the dedication of Israel's military and political machinery to the destruction of Palestinian resistance to their project.

This resistance operates on two levels, just as the nakba operated -- and operates today -- on both.

The first is the Palestinians' physical effort to resist Israeli attempts to dispossess, disinherit and physically control them and their land, to get rid of its people and to militarily control and legally disenfranchise those they cannot.

The second lies in the Palestinians' existential affirmation of their identity in the face of a systematic Israeli effort to fragment and destroy it, so that Palestinians will surrender, submit, forget.

But no matter how violently the first method is used by Israel, the second has been a failure: Palestinian identity is stronger than ever.

Nevertheless, the denial of the Palestinians' right to resist what has been imposed on them has been demonstrated dramatically in recent weeks.

We have witnessed the astonishing international policy of imposing sanctions as a form of collective punishment on an occupied people -- rather than on their occupier who is maintaining that occupation through brute violence. Vital international aid for basic services has been cut off by the EU and the US -- from Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 -- because they elected Hamas, voting for representatives who had campaigned on a platform promising to hold the line against this destruction of their national identity and rights.

The most malicious aspect of this policy is the fact that the money being withheld is only needed because the occupation tactics of curfews, closures and checkpoints have destroyed the Palestinian economy. The financial catastrophe triggered by these sanctions is created entirely by the Israeli occupation itself, as World Bank and British parliamentary select committee reports have made clear. The punishment of starving the Palestinians is quite blatant: to force them to their knees and make them repudiate their elected representatives.

Even more absurdly, Israel has not accepted -- or even been asked to accept -- any of the parallel conditions being demanded of the Palestinians for a resumption of aid. These include an end to violence, the acceptance of the 1993 Oslo agreements; or the recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 -- the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Daily suffering

Instead Israel builds settlements, denounces the Oslo accords, and has used increasingly indiscriminate violence in both Gaza and the West Bank. The west's response in a conflict it helped created 58 years ago has fallen to a truly cruel, but also bizarre level.

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