1948, the Nakbah: The Palestinian Perspective

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

This article is to present the Palestinian point of view mainly for reference purposes. Americans deserve to know all perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian matter.

For Israel supporters, May 14th is a day to celebrate because on that day in 1948, the state of Israel was established. However, for the many millions of Palestinians and Arabs worldwide, the feeling is far from celebratory. In Arabic speaking countries, it’s called the day of Nakbah, which means calamity, tragedy, or travesty.

Imagine how you’d feel if one day someone forcefully removed you from your house and farm and turned you and your family into penniless refugees because that person’s ancestors, 3000 years ago, used to live on your land. To Palestinians, that’s the whole crux of the matter: An entire population was removed from their home country and their homes and farms were simply confiscated. To them, it is particularly outrageous that in the modern world one population can simply replace another. This is at the heart of several global issues including terrorism committed by Muslims.

And contrary to what many in the West believe, the root of the Palestinian struggle is not a religious one. Palestinians would be just as unhappy whether their occupiers were Russian Jews or Moroccan Muslims. The conflict, to Palestinians, is about land and justice first and foremost.

Some would feel comfortable believing that Palestinians were like bedouins or wandering tribes with no attachment to their land, but the truth is far from that. The land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean sea was robust with cities, factories, and farm land owned and registered to Palestinian Arab owners. I know this first hand, because both of my parents’ families still hold on to their land ownership certificates. My father’s family grew crops in a village called Um Khalid, now part of the Israeli city of Natanya. My mother’s family grew fruit trees in the village of Salamah. Hundreds of oil presses, brick factories, soap factories, jewelry workshops, printing presses, flour mills, and fabric factories, to name a few, burgeoned in Palestine, mostly owned and operated by Palestinian Arabs.

If you talk to an elderly Palestinian in the refugee camps of Jordan or Lebanon, you’re sure to hear stories about where they grew up in Palestine, where they went to school, the cinema in the city, the farms and groves, and how it’s all gone now.

That land was beacon of knowledge. Palestinian refugees, well educated in Palestinian schools before exile, were instrumental in the building of young countries like Kuwait and Jordan after their independence. As far back as the tenth century, Palestine gave birth to many prominent Arab scholars, intellectuals, poets, and politicians.

You might say that Jews were there before anyone else, and so they deserve to reclaim their historical homeland. Palestinians, however, have a broader historical perspective. They know that even before prophet Abraham, Palestine was ruled at various times by the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, all of whom left their cultural and genetic marks on Palestine. To Palestinians, Palestine never belonged to a single race, as Palestinians themselves are a genetic hodgepodge collectively called “Arabs” for simplicity and because they speak Arabic. The argument that Jews own Palestine because their ancestors ruled it for a period of time is like saying that England belongs only to the Viking.

Unfortunately, like many political issues in the US, the Palestinian problem was incorporated into the liberal/conservative chasm – historical facts have become irrelevant. Liberals view the issue as an oppressed people living under racial and religious discrimination, while conservatives go as far as dismissing the existence of Palestinians altogether, an argument not even worth considering. To Palestinians, however, the issue is much simpler: a grave, brazen injustice that is yet to be corrected.

As the opening note says, this article is not meant to influence your political views as it is meant to provide you with the Palestinian point of view, in order for you to be able to see where Palestinians come from in their actions and words. The American people are deeply invested in the Israeli Palestinian conflict with tax money and diplomatic/military power. Therefore they deserve to be fully informed of all perspectives on the matter in order to formulate a complete understanding.

One thought on “1948, the Nakbah: The Palestinian Perspective”

  1. I recently returned from the West Bank. Before going, I had ideas about what I thought concerning the situation between Palestine/Israel. Things became so much more concrete after spending time there, passing through check points, being surrounded buy the wall, learning about the imbalance of rights to infrastructure like water, walking through Aida Camp, spending time in so many peoples homes and hearing their stories. Mostly fell in love with the place and the people. I travel a lot, but this place has gotten under my skin in a way like not other. I can’t wait to go back!

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