Palestinian Nakba of 1948
by Ibrahim Khair a Tour Guide student
Tracing back the Nakba to the year 1948 will not give us full insight into the tragedy of this event. The Nakba did not start in 1948 and that surely didn’t mark its end. Goethe, the Orientalist German poet, once said, “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.” In this article, we will delve more into the events predating 1948 which eventually led to the catastrophic turning point in Palestinian history and a dark moment of our times.
Even though the Nakba dates to April 1948, its history dates back officially to 1896 when Theodor Herzl, “The Father of Zionism,” wrote a pamphlet called “The Jewish State” in which he stated that the Jewish case is a political issue and should be addressed by the world. A year later in 1897, he gathered Jews from around the world in a meeting called “The First Zionist Congress.” They came primarily from Eastern Europe, and some from Western Europe and even America, and ten of these were Christians. Theodor Herzl became the head of this council which later facilitated the migration of Jews to Palestine. In this council, those leaders agreed to the establishment of a national Jewish home for the Jews in Palestine in what we know as Political Zionism. Political Zionism managed to gather the Jews and Zionists all around the world, but Practical Zionism is what was achieved by having Jews immigrate in mass numbers shortly after, increasing the Jewish population by more than 27%.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the American-British alliance declared their intention to purchase Palestine from their rivals, the Ottoman Turks, for the sole purpose of the establishment of the Jewish State. Three years into the war (in 1917), the Balfour Declaration announced the British government’s favorable views of the formation of a “National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine.” One statement recorded that “It should be clearly understood that no measure would be taken that harms civil and religious rights enjoyed by non-Jewish societies of Palestine.” This was a very misleading statement that seemed to regard the Jewish society as a majority with a few merely “non-Jewish” societies (who are not even referred to as Palestinians), when in fact the Palestinian Arab population at the time was estimated at 90% with the Jewish population at roughly 10%.
In December 1917, British General Allenby entered Jerusalem, formally occupying Palestine in September 1918, establishing what is known as the British Mandate of Palestine. The war between the Brits and the Turks was still underway when Lloyd George, head of the British War Cabinet, sent a Zionist Commission to Palestine on April 1918, headed by Haim Weizmann, with the intent of implementing the Balfour Declaration. Many conferences, agreements, and events followed in the 1920s and 1930s such as the San Remo Agreement, the first census in Palestine since Roman times, and the British White Book at the end of the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. During this revolt, Zionist settlers backed by the British forces destroyed more than 2000 Palestinian homes and forced 9000 Palestinians into concentration camps. The victims of the Holocaust became their own wolf and they practiced many of the same atrocities against a population that had nothing to do with their agony in Europe.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, it resulted in the weakening of the British Mandate of Palestine and Great Britain eventually gave up the Mandate on the 14th of May, 1948. However, we can clearly see how the Zionist movement was preparing ahead of time for the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of their Jewish State.
The United Kingdom requested the formation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) with representatives of 11 Nations. In September 1947, they proposed two plans, the first one to divide the country into two states with an economic union, and the second was a federal union in one state. While the Zionists accepted the first one, the Palestinians refused both.
In November 1947, Resolution 181, which adopted the first proposal, was adopted in the UN by 33 votes. Since the Zionists agreed to it, they made sure that they had the majority of the Jewish population in their part of the state. Palestinians refused because they would end up with only 43% of the land and without the coastal plain, while the Jewish population would end up with 57% of the land although they had only 7% at the time. This resulted in the outbreak of the conflict between Zionists and Palestinians, yet unlike the Palestinians, the Zionists were heavily trained and armed by the British.
In March 1948, one of the last victories of Palestinians over Zionists was in Dheisheh Refugee Camp. The Zionists were trapped and most of them killed until the British army came to their aid.
Early in April 1948, the actual Nakba started. Abdulkader Al-Husseini went to Damascus asking for arms to be able to withstand and fight back at Al-Kastal in Haifa, but he returned empty-handed. He was martyred shortly afterward and the Palestinians were left without leadership. Massacres followed and villages subsequently went down one after the other. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership was exiled and they remained in exile long afterward, operating mainly from Egypt and Tunisia.
Britain planned to return the Mandate back to the United Nations in May 1948, after reconciliation efforts failed between Palestinians and Zionists. However, the Zionists planned for that day while the Palestinians did not. Palestinians expected an easy victory and the return of land, while the Zionists prepared themselves in order to seize the opportunity. Consequently, 78% of historic Palestine was occupied by the Zionists, while more than a third of the Palestinian population (roughly 750,000 out of 1.9 million) were exiled and displaced beyond the borders of the state and prohibited to this day from returning. Five hundred thirty villages were ethnically cleansed, and 15,000 Palestinian were killed in a series of more than 70 massacres.
This story has yet to see the light, and the atrocities committed by the State of Israel continue to this day. While Israel celebrates its independence on this very day, the Palestinians continue to commemorate their sad reality, mourn their dead, and yearn for the return to their ancestral homeland.