1948 'disaster' still resonates among Palestinians as they mark the 65th anniversary of Nakba
Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem along with children of Younus village (the E1) planted saplings to remember the residents who were forced to leave their homes.
West Bank cities witnessed major processions to mark the occasion and several streets in Hebron were given new names.
A major celebration was organised in Beir Zeit University where black flags signifying the right of refugees’ return were installed around the campus.
Families of Palestinian prisoners and hundreds of activists held a strike in front on the premises of the UN Headquarters in Ramallah. Representatives of families of prisoners handed the General Commissioner a letter signed by thousands of Palestinians urging the international community to pressure Israel to release prisoners in Israeli jails.
Many plays were staged and films shown in various Palestinian cities highlighting the sufferings of the Palestinians due to the Nakba which is considered the worst disaster in Palestinian history.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said the Nakba anniversary gives the chance for rivals - Hamas and Fatah- to end their bickerings and achieve reconciliation. The PLO warned of a permanent split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip if there is no unity and counselled that that would be the worst ever Nakba (disaster) in the Palestinian history. “It is time for the Palestinians to open a new page in their history without looking back to the dark era of the Palestinian split,” said the PLO in a statement.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in a a special bulletin said, in 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages.
More than 800,000 were driven out of their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighbouring Arab countries and other parts of the world. Thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes but stayed within the Israeli-controlled 1948 territory.
According to documentary evidence, the Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba. The atrocities of Israeli forces also included more than 70 massacres in which 15,000 Palestinians were killed.
The bureau said that the Palestinian population was 1.37 million in 1948. By the end of the 2012, the estimated population of Palestinians scattered around the world totalled 11.6 million. This indicates that the number of the Palestinians worldwide has multiplied eight-fold in 65 years.
According to statistics, the total number of Palestinians living in historic Palestine (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean) by the end of 2012 was 5.8 million and this number is expected to rise to 7.2 million by 2020, based on current growth rates.
Data also shows that the refugees constitute 44.2 per cent of the total Palestinian population.
UNRWA records showed that there were 5.3 million Palestinian refugees registered in mid-2013, constituting 45.7 per cent of the total Palestinian population worldwide. 59.0 per cent of these refugees are living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, 17 per cent in the West Bank, and 24 per cent in the Gaza Strip. About 29 per cent of Palestinian registered refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 per cent are in Jordan, nine per cent in Syria, 12 per cent in Lebanon, 19 per cent in the West Bank, and eight in Gaza Strip.
Palestinians believe that the Nakba did not end in 1948 as Israelis still destroy villages, displace Palestinians and apply ethnic cleansing in the territories. According to Dr. Mustafa Al Barghouti, the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, “Palestinian existence on Palestinian national soil is currently under serious Israeli threat and it is endangered more than at any time in Palestinian history. The Israeli plans never ended with the 1948 Nakba. Taking over the West Bank and the occupied East Jerusalem is a typical Israeli policy and gives us a clear picture of what happened in 1948.”
“The Israelis are changing the facts on the ground by force,” he said, stressing that the Palestinians maintain their links to their land and will never repeat the 1948 tragedy.
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