Palestinians around the world are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, that led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. The anniversary comes amid renewed violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, as well as protests and clashes in the West Bank and Israel.
The Nakba is a pivotal event in Palestinian history and identity, as it marks the loss of their land, homes and rights following the creation of Israel. According to the United Nations, there are more than 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, living in camps and communities across the Middle East.
Many Palestinians still hold on to the keys of their ancestral homes and demand their right of return, which is enshrined in UN resolutions but rejected by Israel. Some Palestinians also hold Israeli citizenship, but face discrimination and marginalization within the Jewish state.
On Monday, the UN will officially commemorate the Nakba anniversary for the first time, following a request by the Palestinian Authority and its allies. The commemoration will include a special session of the General Assembly, a photo exhibition and a film screening.
However, for many Palestinians, the Nakba is not a historical event, but a continuing reality. In Gaza, where more than 70% of the population are refugees, residents face a dire humanitarian situation due to the Israeli blockade and repeated wars. The latest round of fighting, which erupted last week after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem in response to Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque and evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, has killed more than 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis so far.
In the West Bank, which is occupied by Israel and divided by checkpoints and settlements, Palestinians face daily violations of their human rights and freedoms. On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians marched to their destroyed villages and towns to mark the Nakba anniversary and demand their right of return. They also expressed solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.
In Israel, where about 20% of the population are Palestinians, tensions have flared up between Jewish and Arab communities, leading to riots, attacks and arrests. Some Palestinian citizens of Israel say they feel like exiles in their own land, as they face institutional racism and exclusion.
The Nakba anniversary is a reminder of the unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and the need for a just and lasting solution that respects the rights and aspirations of both peoples. As one Palestinian student from Gaza put it: “The Nakba is a long Palestinian tragedy, and it is the only event that lives with us every day.”