The Nakba day or “the bloody Sunday”
On Sunday, 15 May 2011, tens of thousands of Palestinians and others marked the Nakba anniversary by marching to the borders with Israel in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
Palestinian, political factions and popular organizations in Palestine and throughout the Middle East and across the world, participated in various coordinated actions to commemorate the Nakba day, “the catastrophe” where an estimated 800,000 Palestinians were expelled following Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948. Protesters demonstrate on Nakba Day also for the right of return for the descendants of these refugees, who are up to some seven million Palestinian today. Today on a total population of 10.6 million Palestinians, 7.1 million, which is about 67% of the Palestinian population, are refugees.
The scale of the devastation in 1948 was actually overwhelming: four in five Palestinian villages inside the borders of the new state were ethnically cleansed, an act of mass dispossession accompanied by atrocities. Around 95 per cent of new Jewish communities built between 1948 and1953 were established on the land of expelled Palestinians.
Unfortunately this Sunday 15th March could also be described as “Bloody Sunday” following the deaths of at least 20 people, and over 200 injured by Israeli forces. This is the highest death toll during demonstrations of the Nakba.
Two Palestinians were killed and up to 80 others wounded in northern Gaza as Israeli troops opened fire on a march of few thousands protesters heading towards the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Most of those injured were children, with wounds to their legs.
Demonstrations were held in many cities and villages in the West Bank, especially in Qalandiya and Hebron where violent clashes occurred between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces. Many protesters were injured and arrested.
Protests were also organised in East Jerusalem. Israeli police arrested 20 protesters in the East Jerusalem area of Issawiyah. About 70 arrests have been made in East Jerusalem throughout the Nakba protests that began on Friday, two days ahead of the May 15 anniversary, after tensions had risen a day earlier following the death of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy on Friday in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighbourhood.
In Lebanon, organizers called for an unprecedented “Right of Return” march to the border that they were forced to cross 63 years ago. Israeli soldiers shot at the demonstrators in the town of Ras Maroun, on the southern border with Israel, killing up to 10 people and injuring a high number of them, more than a hundred.
In the occupied Syrian Golan, Palestinian refugees from Syria crossed into the occupied Golan Heights, where Israeli soldiers shot at them killing 8 people and injuring 50. Syrians of the occupied Golan also demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinians chanting notably “Palestine is Arab and the Golan is Syrian”. This is one of the most serious border incidents between the two countries since the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. Syria hosts 470,000 Palestinian refugees.
In resume, 10 people were killed in Lebanon, 8 in the occupied Golan, 2 in Gaza.
In Egypt, activists initially planned to march towards Rafah gate and challenge their government’s complicity with Israel in the siege of the territory, but the army forbidden any demonstrations in direction of Gaza. A protest was instead organised in front the Israeli embassy in Cairo, in which the Egyptian police fired tear gas and live ammunition at protesters. Thousands of demonstrators were massed outside of the embassy in the Egyptian capital. At least 120 people were injured and 20 arrested by Egyptian security forces who fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters.
This demonstration followed the visit to Egypt by a senior Israeli defense ministry official, which is beside the first trip by a top Israeli official since the Egyptian popular movement toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in February. The Israeli official, Amos Gilad, held talks with several Egyptian officials to discuss the latest developments in the region, especially in light of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called a tremendous blow to peace.
In Jordan, at least six people were injured in police action to prevent 500 protesters to reach the border with Israel. The demonstrators were stopped by the Jordanian Police a few miles away from the Allenby Bridge, the Jordan gate to Israel.
In London, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Belfast, Amman, Ankara, Istanbul, Gothenburg and many other cities worldwide, thousands have come out to show their support for the Palestinians right to return to their homes and land.
The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that the “Nakba Day” protesters were not fighting for the 1967 borders as they claim, but were denying Israel’s right to exist. He also said that he instructed Israeli forces to act with “restraint”, but to stop all attempts at infiltration and challenges to Israel’s sovereignty.
Western leaders on their side from Barak Obama to David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, including others have once more and unsurprisingly remained silent in front Israeli violent repression against peaceful demonstrators.
In conclusion, the Nakba day will not stay unforgotten despite Israeli will and violent behaviour. Palestinians and their supporters will continue their struggle against Israeli racist behaviour, the occupation, the colonisation and the apartheid system. The commemoration of the Nakba is also to remind everyone that the Israeli State is pursuing the policy of 1948. Israel had denied residency rights to 140,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, a demographic policy whose sole purpose is to thin out the Palestinian population. The Nakba continues as Bedouin Palestinian citizens watch their homes demolished to make way for Jewish settlement and forests, and as Palestinians are kept off 77.5 per cent of the Jordan Valley.
We have also observed once more the authoritarian and corrupted nature of some Arab regimes such as Egypt and Jordan complicit with Israelis repressions on the Nakba day and even welcoming Israeli officials on this day as in Egypt. This is why the Revolution must continue and be permanent to see in a near future anti imperialist and socialist government in the region. Each victory of Arab masses against their authoritarian regime is a victory for Palestine and a step forward towards liberation.