Observing the 63rd Nakba

15 May

The latest news reports that at least 14 were Palestinians killed and scores more than that number injured by Israeli soldiers using live ammunition against Nakba demonstrators at confrontations near the Israeli borders with Lebanon (Ras Maroun), Syria (Golan Heights), Gaza, and West Bank. An immediate reaction is to contrast sophisticated Israeli non-lethal crowd control when dealing with settler violence and the lethal responses to Palestinian resistance politics in these four distinct settings. All in all, what is exhibited by these encounters is an upsurge of Palestinian militancy, perhaps a prelude to a third intifada, and the continuity of Israeli reliance on excessive force designed to punish and intimidate, which is a characteristic severe violation of Israel’s duties as an occupying power as defined by international humanitarian law. 

One of the many signs of the growing worldwide movement in support of the Palestinian struggle for their rights under international law and elemental morality is the increased international awareness of the Nakba. On this 63rd anniversary of the catastrophic Palestinian experience since 1948 when an escaping and expelled 760,000 Palestinians (now this dispossessed population has grown to 4.7 million; the 160,000 Palestinians who managed to stay behind in what became Israel now number 1.3 million) there is an encouraging sense that the destiny of the Palestinian people has entered a more hopeful phase: the Arab Spring, combined with earlier political developments in Turkey and Lebanon, have shifted the regional balance toward a greater identification with the Palestinian people and their just claims under international law and morality; the growing BDS worldwide campaign has extended the symbolic battlefield in the Legitimacy War against Israeli occupation, and related policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, barrier wall, blockade, settlements; the decision by the recently unified Palestinian leadership to seek acknowledgement of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations this September opening possibilities for further motivating the international community to live up to its responsibilities to address Palestinian grievances that have gone unanswered for these 63 years of UN endorsement of the valid establishment of Israel,  despite it being a colonial settler state imposed on and carved out of  historic Palestine; new signs of activism among the Palestinians living under occupation and in exile; the manifest and deplorable double standards involved in supporting the violent imposition of a No Fly Zone on Libya, which is in reality an effort to achieve regime change on behalf of a rebel insurgency of unknown character, while refusing to protect the people of Gaza who have severely victimized by a total blockade that has lasted almost four years, a massive case of deliberate and criminal collective punishment outlawed by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Against such a background the ongoing mobilization of public engagement on behalf of Palestinian rights should enlist all persons of conscience throughout the world, a populist dynamic that is happening and should intensify in the coming year. From this perspective it may soon be the case that the annual observance of the Nakba will be treated as the first truly global holiday the world has known.

Despite these developments there is no indication whatsoever that the Israeli leadership or public has any interest in achieving a sustainable peace or that it is prepared to desist from its expansionist and annexationist approach to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. There are a few lonely Israeli voices calling for justice to the Palestinian people. For instance, Gideon Levy calling on Israel to teach ‘a different heritage lesson,’ that of the Nabka. Writing in Haaretz (15.5.2011) Levy writes, “Not only is it possible to permit the Israeli Palestinians to commemorate the day of their heritage and express their national and personal pain, something that should be self-evident, but also to teach us, the Jews, the other narrative..Only on the day that the pupils in Israel also learn about the Nabka, will we know that the earth is no longer burning under our feet..”

The Nakba is of course a day of grievance and resolve for all Palestinians including the several million living in refugee camps for decades in the countries surrounding Palestine and other millions in exile throughout the region and the world. A sustainable peace must realize the rights of all Palestinians, and must be broader and deeper than ending the occupation or establishing a Palestinian state. Palestinian representation to be legitimate and effective must keep faith with this wider Palestinian reality, and not confine its political program to a territorial imaginary. Just as the Palestinian solidarity movement is without boundaries so must be the campaign to achieve full realization of all of the rights of the dispossessed Palestinian people.

To live under Israeli occupation or as refugees for a day is difficult, for a week is unendurable, but to do so for decades is intolerable beyond words of outrage and empathy. We cannot grasp the enormity of this ordeal merely by underscoring the fact that Nakba occurred 63 years ago and that the added cruelty of the occupation started in 1967. Only the existential experience of being on the ground in occupied Palestine or visiting refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, or Syria can begin in a modest way to impart an understanding of the suffering and insecurity that is a daily reality of all those so confined, and even this can give rise to a false consciousness of ‘knowing.’ Those that visit can leave, those subject to regimen cannot, and that makes all the difference!

Below is the text of a press release issued in my capacity as Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, and released under the auspices of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva.


                                                                                          16 May 2011


The UN human rights expert on the 63th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba

16 May 2011
UN human rights expert on the 63th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba

GENEVA – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Mr. Richard Falk, marks the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophic beginning of the Palestinian tragedy of dispossession and occupation, with the following statement: 

“I commemorate Nakba this year dismayed by the killing of demonstrators observing the day in the occupied Palestinian territory and elsewhere in the region.

Since the Nakba on 15 May 1948 Israel has continuously confiscated Palestinian land in order to build illegal settlements and populate them with Israeli citizens. It is astonishing that no one in the international community has stepped forward, after 63 years, to coerce Israel to comply with international law. Israel’s legacy of ethnic cleansing persists, and manifests itself in an array of challenges to the security of residency for Palestinians living under occupation.

“The construction of the Wall inside the West Bank results in an additional 12% of land confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes, in flagrant defiance of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.

“This past week seven Palestinian families in the West Bank village of al-Walaja received demolition orders. This is a reminder that the Nakba continues. Israel’s pursuit of what it calls ‘facts on the ground’ consistently forces Palestinians to abandon their homes, lands, and lives, creating a reality better understood as virtual annexation. 

“This is a particularly notable Nakba anniversary, as it coincides with the release of information confirming that Israel secretly revoked as many as 140,000 residency permits of Palestinians between 1967 and 1994. This is not only another violation of Israel’s obligations as the Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  It is also a glaring example of several sinister schemes that Israel has employed over the years to rid historic Palestine of its original inhabitants, in order to make space for Israeli citizens.

“The international community needs to take urgent action to compel Israel to end its confiscation and occupation of Palestinian land.” 


In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Nikki Siahpoush (Tel.: + 41 22 928 9430 / email:nsiahpoush@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org. 


5 Responses to “Observing the 63rd Nakba”

  1. Ray Joseph Cormier May 15, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Professor Falk,

    If they ever do a sequel to the movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ I hope it’s on yours.

    The Pen to this Day is still mightier than the Sword. If the Pen is used properly, the Sword will not come. The whole world can see it coming and it is not disarmed as yet.

    Part of the increasing sense of insecurity in this world is the increasing awareness by the People the Leaders and great notables of this world don’t know what to do about it any more than Joe the Plumber, you or I and the People in General. The perception of a change of direction is not apparent to the masses.

    I read the article by Gideon Levy but I also read this in another article in Haaretz,

    Israel’s right entertains the myth that the country can solve every problem by resorting to force, rather than diplomacy. If Israel were to establish win-win interactions with its neighbours, its decision makers would have to totally change that mentality.

    I agree with this assessment as well. Israel puts it Faith in the Forces of Armaments, and gives lip service to God.

    I made the following comment in another Blog and I feel it is an appropriate extension of dimension, adding to your excellent, focused, organized thoughts.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011 6:22 PM
    Temporal Israelis still don’t comprehend the message and prophecy of Isaiah for these Times.

    Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
    The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, my people do not consider.
    Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
    Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
    From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and purifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Isaiah 1

    Nor could they impute to themselves this message and prophecy of Ezekiel applies to temporal Israel Today.

    Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
    Now, you son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? yea, you shall show her Then say you, Thus says the Lord GOD, The city sheds blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and makes idols against herself to defile herself.
    You are become guilty in your blood that you have shed; and has defiled yourself in your idols which you have made; and you have caused your days to draw near, and are come even unto your years: therefore have I HAVE MADE YOU A REPROACH unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.
    Those that be near, and those that be far from you, shall mock you, which are infamous and much vexed.
    Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in you to their power to shed blood.
    In you have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of you have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in you have they vexed the fatherless and the widow.
    You have despised my holy things, and has profaned my sabbaths.
    In you are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in you they eat upon the mountains: in the midst of you they commit lewdness.
    In you have they discovered their fathers’ nakedness: in you have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution.
    And one has committed abomination with his neighbour’s wife; and another has lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in you has humbled his sister, his father’s daughter.
    In you have they taken gifts to shed blood; you have taken usury and increase, and you have greedily gained of your neighbours by extortion, and has forgotten me, says the Lord GOD.
    Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at your dishonest gain which you have made, and at your blood which has been in the midst of you.
    Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
    And I will scatter you among the heathen, and disperse you in the countries, and will consume your filthiness out of you.
    And you shall take your inheritance in yourself in the sight of the heathen, and you shall know that I am the LORD……………………………………………………………………………………………….. Isaiah 22

    O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
    Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
    For I say unto you, You shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23

    As it was written so long ago, so it is now playing out Today in Israel and the world.

    I just uploaded to my Blog, a letter I wrote May 7,1978 in response to the well connected Columnist at the time, Joseph Kraft, who wrote, ‘Radicals in Check – Islamic Revival No Threat to the West’ We know now those Washington power brokers and decision makers fed him the wrong information.


  2. Heidi Morrison May 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    We must resist always seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the privileged vantage point of the Israelis. We must see the conflict from the perspective of the Palestinians. To understand the Palestinians’ perspective, we must begin with 1948.

    I like your article a lot.

  3. Mark May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Of course it’s your blog and that, I suppose, explains your lack of objectivity. As Special Rapporteur, however, your views are appalling.

    In almost the same sentence you condemn Israel as being an Apartheid state, you remind all of us that Israel has 1.6 million Arab citizens. These citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges as all Israelis. They are ministers, members of the Knesset, even supreme court justices.

    Arabs and Palestinians have never accepted Israel as the nation state of the Jews. During the almost 20 years Egypt and Jordan controlled Gaza and the West Bank, there was no effort to form an independent Palestinian State. That is indicative of the fact that all efforts have been and continue to be for the destruction of Israel.

    Contrary to your views (and most people who read this blog), the way to forge a meaningful and lasting peace in the mid-east is not to pressure Israel, but in fact for the EU, USA and all other countries to pressure the Palestinians (and the Arab league) to accept, recognize and negotiate directly with Israel.

  4. pamela May 27, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Above link may be opened in new tab (same browser) to hear background music while viewing lyrics. Lyrics to music inspired by the haunting melody of both sorrow and hope, “Danny Boy”.

    “American Denial” (lyrics by P. Miller)

    Though Hitler gone, Palestinians were crying.
    ‘Tis you, ’tis I, need recall their fleeing cries.
    Shall we forget how Irgun bombs were flying?
    For sixty-years now, why deny it wasn’t so?

    Six decades gone, since Palestine was ‘taken’.
    Hol’caust was done, there can be no mistake.
    ol’ Germany’s sins were not by Palestinians;
    Yet, U.N. votes endorsed the “Zion” of ‘48.

    (interlude notes)

    A war-torn world embraced the Zionists’ calling,
    Though Zion-terror helped forge “New Israel”.
    But, suffering one can’t truly free another:
    Millennial-dreams haven’t made “The Chosen” free.

    Dissenting voices met with consternation,
    While Arab deaths were met with Jubilee.
    Can you not hear, ol’Jerusalem still crying:
    “There’s none so blind as he who chooses not to ‘See’.”?


  1. Despised and Rejected, Brother Palestinians « Connecting the Dots - May 15, 2011

    […] Observing the 63rd Nakba (richardfalk.wordpress.com) […]

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