May 14 is Independence Day for Israelis. It is a joyous holiday celebrating the rebirth of Jewish community life after the Holocaust genocide. May 15 is Nakba (Catastrophe) Day for Palestinians. It is a sorrowful occasion commemorating the destruction of Palestinian community life, the expulsion of half the indigenous population of Palestine and the attempted demolition of Palestinian culture, all at the hands of Zionist military forces. The Israeli's Independence Day and the Palestinian's Nakba Day are each the flip side of the other.
From its very beginnings in the late 19th century, the Zionist movement coveted the entire land of Palestine in which Zionists hoped to build a homogeneous Jewish nation. This would require expelling the indigenous Arab population, something to which most Zionist leaders had few moral objections. For example, Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said: "I am for compulsory transfer: I do not see anything immoral in it". Although the Jewish population of Palestine increased from 10 percent to 33 percent during the British Mandate period (1920-1948), it was still a distinct minority when the Mandate ended (see Nur Masalha, "Expulsion of the Palestinians," 1992).
The Nazi Holocaust changed things drastically. It created worldwide sympathy for Jewish suffering as well as a large Jewish population eager to leave Europe. These circumstances, together with intense U.S. political pressure, induced the United Nations to adopt a partition plan that gave 55 percent of Palestine to a Jewish state even though Arabs were the overwhelming majority and Jews owned only 6 percent of the land. Palestinian Arabs rejected the plan as grossly unfair. Zionists still desired the whole of Palestine, but they accepted the partition plan recognizing that land distribution would be decided on the battle field. Moreover, military engagements would provide excellent opportunities to expel the Arab population. Ethnic cleansing became the main strategic objective of Zionist military forces in the subsequent war (see Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006).
Between March 1948 and February 1949 more than 500 Arab villages and 11 Arab urban neighborhoods were systematically destroyed. The Zionist military machine forced almost 800,000 Arab men, women and children into exile via a combination of propaganda, intimidation, property destruction, bombardment, armed coercion, rape and massacre. A ghastly inducement to exile occurred at Deir Yassin, an Arab village near Jerusalem, on April 9, 1948. There Zionist irregular militia (Irgun and Lehi) massacred virtually all inhabitants of the village.
Almost none of the 1948 Palestinian refugees were ever permitted to return to their homes. Their communities were destroyed and their property was confiscated by the Jewish state. The Nakba remains the basic source of the unending turmoil and bloodshed within Israel/Palestine. The region will never know enduring peace until this terrible crime is acknowledged and fully remediated.
The Rocky Mountain's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily