Nakba means “Catastrophe” in Arabic. It primarily refers to the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from British Mandate Palestine during Israel’s creation (1947-49). It was a deliberate and systematic act necessary for the creation of a Jewish majority state in historic Palestine, which was overwhelmingly Arab prior to 1948, and constituted a mass campaign of ethnic cleansing. It is the nucleus of the conflict in the Middle East and the architect of the Palestinian refugee crises. It is marked annually on May 15, the day after Israel declared its independence in 1948, although many Palestinians consider the Nakba to be an ongoing process of disenfranchisement rather than an isolated historical event
Facts and Figures
- In November 1947, following the horrors of World War II and the Nazi genocide of European Jewry, the newly-created United Nations approved a plan to partition Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. It allocated approximately 55% of the land to the proposed Jewish state, although Zionist Jews owned only about 7% of the private land in Palestine and made up only about 33% of the population, a large percentage of whom were recent immigrants from Europe. The Palestinian Arab state was to be created on 42% of Mandate Palestine, with Jerusalem becoming an international city.
- Almost immediately after the partition plan was passed, violence broke out and large-scale expulsions of Palestinians began, long before the armies of neighboring Arab states became involved. When Zionist forces finished expanding, the new state of Israel comprised 78% of historic Palestine, with the remainder, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, falling under the control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively.
- Between 750 000 and one million Palestinians were expelled and made refugees by Zionist paramilitaries, and subsequently Israeli forces, during Israel’s creation in 1947-49.
- Of the above, between 250 000 and 350 000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Zionist paramilitaries between the passage of the UN partition plan in November 1947 and Israel’s declaration of independence on May 15, 1948 – prior to the start of the war with neighboring Arab states.
- More than 400 Palestinian cities and towns were systematically destroyed by Israeli forces or repopulated with Jews between 1948 and 1950. Most Palestinian population centers, including homes, businesses, houses of worship, and vibrant urban spaces, were demolished to prevent the return of their Palestinian owners, now refugees outside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders, or internally displaced inside of them.
- Approximately 4 244 776 acres of Palestinian land were expropriated by Israel during and immediately following its creation in 1948, fuelling total estimated monetary losses of between 100 and 200 billion dollars for the dispossessed Palestinians
- The Nakba was faciliated by a number of vicious massacres of Palestinians by Zionist gangs. The most notorious took place at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, when more than 100 Palestinian men, women, and children were murdered by Zionist paramilitaries belonging to the Stern Gang and Irgun (led by future Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, respectively). These atrocities spurred the mass flight of Palestinians, were instrumental in creating a climate of fear and, ultimately, facilitated the creation of a Jewish-majority state in a region in which Palestinian Arabs were the majority.
- An important role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was played by the so-called Plan Dalet adopted by the Zionist Haganah paramilitary group’s leaders in March 1948. The aim of the plan was to clear the interior of the country of ‘hostile and potentially hostile Arab elements’ and thus ‘permitted and justified the forcible expulsion of Arab civilians’
- An important part of Israel’s efforts to ‘disappear’ Palestine was changing the names of annexed Palestinian villages and cities. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, appointed a Negev Names committee, stating that Israel was ‘obliged’ for ‘reasons of state’ to remove Arabic names. Between May 1948-March 1951, the Jewish National Fund’s Naming Committee assigned 200 new place names.
- A survey released in 2010 by BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, found the Palestinian refugee and displaced population to be approximately 7.1 million, made up of 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons. This figure includes Nakba survivors and their descendants. Most of them live in refugee camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, or in neighboring countries, often only a few miles away from the homes and lands from which they were expelled. They are denied their internationally-recognized legal right to return to their homeland by Israel, simply because they are not Jewish.
- The Nakba did not end in 1948 and continues until today, in the form of Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land for settlements and for Jewish communities inside Israel, its destruction of Palestinian homes and agricultural land, revocation of residency rights , deportations, periodic brutal military assaults that result in mass civilian casualties such as those that took place in Gaza in in 2008/9 and 2014, and the denial of the internationally-recognized legal right of return of millions of stateless Palestinian refugees.