Nakba Day: yawm al-nakba يوم النكبة

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 15, 2008 09:27am | Post a Comment
This Nakba Day (which means "Day of the Catastrophe") marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian people's expulsion and dispossession of their homelands. According to the UN, an estimated 711,000 Palestinians fled their homes and 160,000 stayed behind to become internal refugees in the newly formed state of Israel.

Palestinians fleeing their homes in 1948

Situated at one of those great crossroads of civilizations, the Palestinian populace reflects the diverse cultural imprint in their ancient ancestors. Genetic evidence shows the Palestinians are descended from Amorites, Anatolians, Arabs, Arameans, Canaanites, Edomites, European crusaders, Hebrews, Jebusites, Lydian Greeks, Philistines and Romans. They practice various faiths like Christianity, Druze, and Islam.

Western media, however, tends to have a hard time accepting that not all Palestianians are Muslim. For example, when Ahmad Sa'adat, the leader of the PFLP (Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine) was arrested, the news I was watching described his organization as "Islamic Fundamentalists" even though it is secular, Marxist-Leninist and was created by George Habbash, a Palestinian Christian. No correction followed.

A Ghassanid Palestinian family in 1905

In 1919, the First Palestinian Congress issued a statement opposing Zionist immigration but, when speaking of the 10,000 Jews already in Palestine, they stated "they are as we are, and their loyalties are our own."

Desmond Tutu at a protest of the Israeli Occupation

Even though the Palestinian majority was displaced 60 years ago, the issue remains unresolved. Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela have referred to Israel as an apartheid state.

Although Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that "Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country," 4.25 million Palestinians live in refugee camps. In what is ostensibly a first world democracy, Palestinians within Israel suffer from extremely high rates of unemployment and malnourishment. The United Nations has to feed over 1 and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip where malnourishment rates are comparable to those in Congo and Zimbabwe.

Despite extreme hardship and many obstacles, there is a small, growing, internationally-lauded Palestinian Cinema. All of the following films (and many excellent documentaries) are available at Amoeba.


Michel Kleifi
is a pioneer of Palestinian cinema, creating Fertile Memory (1981), Wedding In Galilee (1987) and Tale of the Three Jewels (1995). I've seen Wedding in Galilee. It involves a Palestinian wedding and surprised me with its sensuality. It's quite good.

Elia Suleiman
- Divine Intervention (2002) and Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996).

Divine Intervention was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2002. However, when it was submitted for the Academy Awards, the Academy stated that, "The academy does not accept films from countries that are not recognized by the United Nations." In the past the Academy accepted submissions from Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Wales and Taiwan- none of which are recognized by the UN as independent. The Academy's published rules for consideration make no mention of UN recognition. Some protested this double standard.

Hany Abu-Assad
's Paradise Now (2005) and Rana's Wedding (2002).

Reversing their previous position, the Academy nominated Paradise Now for Best Foreign Language Film and it won a Golden Globe in that category. But don't let the Oscar stain scare you, it's actually an amazingly moving and sad film which doesn't sermonize in the black and white manner that the Academy tends to reward.

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Palestinian Cinema (1), Holidays (95), Nakba (1), Israel (5), Apartheid (1), Palestinian Rap (1), Palestine (3)