“On Saturday, we mark the reality of the ongoing Nakba and our recognition that it will not end unless Palestinian ongoing resistance is supported by a strong movement of solidarity.”
By Ben Jamal, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
On May 13th thousands will gather in London to attend a march commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 when over 500 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed and depopulated, and over 750,000 Palestinians were driven into exile , including all of my Palestinian ancestors.
This annual display of solidarity organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and partners, supported by 10 National Trade Unions, is needed more urgently than ever.
The commemoration of the Nakba is in and of itself an act of resistance to the efforts of Israel to rewrite the facts of history, an ongoing process of erasing Palestinians manifested in the efforts being exercised this week by Israel to dissuade states from attending the UN’s first commemoration of the Nakba on May 15th. This process of erasure was seen at its starkest in the comments made by Bezalel Smotritch , Minister in Netanyahu’s far right collation, and self- declared proud fascist who recently reasserted that “there is no such thing as the Palestinian people.”
David Ben Gurion first Prime Minister of Israel once predicted that the passage of time would inevitably accommodate the Palestinian people to acceptance of their fate as a dispossessed and colonised people. “The old will die” he was reported to have said “and the young will forget.” Leading the march on May 13th will be a cohort of young Palestinians, the latest generation, who have not forgotten and who will be marching carrying aloft keys, the symbol of the promise of the Palestinians in exile to enact their inalienable right to return to the lands from which they and their ancestors were forced to flee.
But for Palestinians the Nakba is commemorated not just as an historical moment of collective national trauma but as an ongoing process of colonisation, dispossession, and occupation. In recent days and weeks we have seen the latest threads woven into the tapestry of this ongoing Nakba, On Monday of this week Israel launched its latest bombing assault on the already besieged and devastated Gaza Strip, killing 13 people, including 4 young children. This assault came after a campaign of renewed repression launched by Netanyahu’s far right coalition which killed more than 100 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the first three months of 2023, at the rate of nearly one a day. Alongside its brutal repression of any form of Palestinian resistance, the Netanyahu government, the most ultra nationalist in Israel’s history, has been enforcing the platform on which it was elected, to expand illegal settlement in the West Bank, with accompanying destruction and demolition of Palestinian homes and villages. The day before the renewed bombing of Gaza saw the demolition of a primary school near Bethlehem.
Those marching on Saturday will be reasserting the basic principle of solidarity that an injustice to one is an injustice to all. We will march to assert their recognition that any consistent support for International law and principles of human rights demands solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle to achieve self-determination. We will march because of a recognition that any consistent anti-racism demands full opposition to a system of oppression enacted by Israel that as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international have confirmed, meets the definition of a system of apartheid.
But we march also because we here in Britain recognise the special responsibility, we owe to the Palestinian people because of the ongoing complicity of our government which continues to provide Israel with military diplomatic and political support, of our public bodies which continue to invest in companies that provide the infrastructure for Israel system of oppression, and the complicity of those companies themselves. And we know that this British complicity extends way back before 1948 to Balfour and beyond. In May 2021 as we marched in London two hundred thousand strong in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza in that month, when I spoke from the stage at Hyde park, I told the story of a relative of mine, my great uncle Shibli who was forced to flee from his home in West Jerusalem in 1948. 27 years earlier in 1921, Shibli had come to London as part of a Palestinian delegation to negotiate with Winston Churchill then Secretary of State for the colonies to overthrow the Balfour declaration. During the fruitless year the delegation spent in London they held the very first pro-Palestine rally in Hyde Park and Shibli spoke at it. Over one hundred years of Palestinians on the streets of London calling out for justice.
On Saturday, we mark the reality of the ongoing Nakba and our recognition that it will not end unless Palestinian ongoing resistance is supported by a strong movement of solidarity here in the UK and across the globe, one committed to sustained action to end all political military diplomatic and cultural support for Israels apartheid regime.
- Ben Jamal is the Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). You can follow him on twitter here; and follow the PSC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- “NAKBA 75 – National Protest: Free Palestine – End Apartheid” takes place on Saturday, May 13th, assembling at The BBC, Portland Place W1A, London. Find out how you can take part here.