Nakba Continued

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75 years after their enforced displacement, Palestinians continue to suffer from its repercussions. For a vast majority of them, it never ended. 

 

This article was written before the eruption of violence in Palestine and Israel that began on October 7. The author has added a short preface. – Editor.

Seventy-five years ago, Palestinians experienced the Nakba, “catastrophe” in Arabic. The Nakba was the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israel war. The Nakba never ended for Palestinians, many of whom were displaced and lost their homes and family members.

Today we are experiencing the trauma of Nakba again. 

We are witnessing a struggle for freedom amidst a long practice of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the framework of 75 years of military occupation. Extrajudicial killings, detentions, confiscations, settler terrorism, and apartheid were all part of this prolonged military occupation.

2.2 million Palestinian civilians live in an open-air prison of 365 km2. 50% of children have been deprived of basic human rights with no clean water, electricity, mobility rights, or internet. These dire conditions have left them with no hope.

The Palestinian people have the right to self-defense in Article 51 of the UN charter and 31 of the Rome statute. But now, to forcibly ask one million residents of Gaza to evacuate to the south means a repeat of Nakba, a documented war crime. It is a blatant attempt to relocate civilians in order to annex their land under the Israeli settler colonial project. Diplomacy had failed the people. The only way to address the root cause is to end Israeli occupation. 

 

The Nakba: A Persistent Trauma

For 75 years, Palestinians endured injustice under the Israeli occupation. This is not a matter of periodic flare-ups; this is about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine under a prolonged military occupation.

Putting things in context means Nakba is for those who didn’t witness what happened in 1948 but can relate to recent Israeli military orders of forced evictions that are taking place in Massafer Yatta and in Sheikh Jarrah, to Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral, to the withholding bodies of Palestinians in Israeli refrigerators. These are practical manifestations of 75 years of Israeli apartheid and military occupation since Nakba.

When violence is rewarded, things can only get worse. Since Nakba, the world has tolerated Zionist colonialism on Palestinian land and people through annexation, forced displacement, destruction of villages, colonial settler projects, confiscation plans, isolation of Jerusalem, and military abuse of its citizens. For 75 years, the world has witnessed Israel’s De Facto annexation of East Jerusalem to expand the settlements blocs in the hopes of completely isolating East Jerusalem from the West Bank, thus making Palestinian rights in Jerusalem impossible. This is cultivated in the E1 and E2 plans in Khan Ahmar, Jaffa Gate, the old city, and Sheikh Jarrah. After 75 years of state-organized violence, it is prime time for accountability instead of messages of congratulations on the independence of the state of Israel. After 75 years of the creation of this state, of recognizing a state without defined borders.

The question of the prolonged occupation will come before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in response to the recent vote in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Framing the Nakba in legal terms will shift focus to the right of self-determination and to the urgency of ending the military occupation. A legal opinion by the ICJ shall rid the Palestinians of responsibility for dealing with the Israeli occupation via negotiations alone; arbitration and other legal mechanisms will soon be a real possibility.

 

‘Abraham Accords’ and the Ongoing Occupation

 The ‘Abraham Accords’ signed with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab regimes were achieved on the pretext that normalization with Israel would halt his imminent plans to annex the West Bank. However, an intensified return to “economic peace” efforts meant heralding business and military deals rather than diplomatic negotiations to ‘solve,’ or bypass the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All those deals prioritize the interests of the state elites involved, not their people, and certainly not the Palestinians. This narrow understanding of national interests may be profitable, but it will not bring peace to the region as long as the question of the occupation is avoided.

With so much chatter now about Netanyahu’s overwhelming desire to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize ties, perhaps Riyadh and the international community should recall the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted by the Arab League in 2002 and often called the “Saudi initiative.” It promised full normalization with Israel with the establishment of a Palestinian state, a position Saudi Arabia confirmed in the wake of the UAE’s unilateral deal with Israel.

The two-state solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state cannot see the light as long as the Israeli military occupation continues. If Netanyahu wants a regional settlement via a grand normalization process so badly in order to deter Iran, this would be a much bigger victory because it could be a genuine contribution to regional peace and security, leading to normalization with over 22 Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia.

The international community bears significant responsibility for what has been happening for 75 years, providing impunity to Israel’s occupation. It is also impossible to ignore the billions in military aid that Israel receives annually.

UNRWA and Refugees: A Coercive Diplomacy

The International community needs to realize that the Palestinian public is dismayed by the damage the previous US administration had caused us, such as witnessing former Donald Trump signing over Jerusalem to the Israelis and taking Refugees off the negotiations-agenda.

A déjà vu Marshall Plan is not sufficient. The ATM-machine approach for sustaining the UNRWA and the PA instead of resolving the issue of refugees following international legitimacy (Res 194) while tolerating settlement expansion, settler terror, annexation, application of discriminatory laws, and fruitless years of negotiations is a guaranteed return to coercive diplomacy that was sugarcoated under the umbrella of the peace process.

Discourse about a political settlement will only take us back to procrastination and Machiavellian negotiations that buy more time for Zionist land confiscations at the expense of Palestinian political rights. The international community bears significant responsibility for what has been happening for 75 years, providing impunity to Israel’s occupation. It is also impossible to ignore the billions in military aid that Israel receives annually. At the UN, successive states have given Israel cover to violate human rights with impunity — most recently, vetoing or abstaining vote for a UN resolution to resort to the International Court of Justice for a legal opinion on the prolonged occupation.

 

State of Israel: Nakba Establishment

Since its establishment after the Nakba, Israel has violated UN resolutions, international humanitarian law, and the basic terms of the Peace Process and the 1995 Declaration of Principles (DOP). Jerusalem, for example, is a final status issue and should be negotiated and agreed upon by the two parties alone, in accordance with the DOP. Unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital of Israel is illegal. In 1980, a Knesset law was passed on a united Jerusalem, which annexed the eastern part of the city occupied in 1967. This was considered null and void by the international community; however, the Biden administration did not reverse Trump’s act in 2016 declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The decision violates international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Articles 49 and 146, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction. Annexation violates the UN Charter, specifically Article 2, which prohibits land acquisition by force. It contradicts the 1973 UN Convention on Apartheid and peace agreements, especially Paragraph 7 of Article 31 of the 1995 Oslo Accords.

Trump’s decision violates multiple UNSC resolutions that guarantee the Palestinian rights in the 1967 lands and East Jerusalem: 242, 253, 267, 298, 476, 478, and 2334. Security Council member states are expected to uphold Article 25 of the UN Charter, which obliges them to comply with all Security Council decisions. Notably, the Palestinians have more than 800 UN General Assembly resolutions and more than 100 UNSC resolutions, the last of which is 2334. Another example is how the international community provides cover for the violations of the Israeli military occupation against the Palestinians.

This doesn’t contradict the fact that Palestinians enjoy an embedded right in East Jerusalem and that settlements are illegal. This position is anchored in UNSC Resolution 2334 of December 2016. It is time for UNSC member states to abide by their ethical and legal obligations. UNSC Resolutions clearly say that settlements impede the possibility of a two-state solution. Since the peace process started, the number of settlers has tripled to 750,000 in more than 432 settlements and colonial outposts established on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. In May 2018, Military Decree 1797 was issued, allowing the demolition of any Palestinian structure in Area C within 96 hours. Israel is violating international law and has been manipulating the laws since Nakba 1948 as part of its ongoing colonial settler project. It introduced the Absentees’ Property Law 1950, which defined any forced refugee as absent and gave ownership of property of the absentee to the state of Israel. This law and the Israeli Tenants Protection Law 1972 were the first legal tools to transfer property of Palestinian refugees without legal repercussions.

Sheikh Jarrah’s family properties are guarded by Jordanian civil law Article 395 and Jordan’s agreement with UNRWA in 1954. The Palestinians are suffering a second Nakba through forced displacement orders in Khan al-Ahmar, Sheikh Jarrah; Beita, Massafer Yatta; through the confiscation of lands for colonial expansion purposes; and extrajudicial killings targeting every Palestinian. Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder is a solid legal case that shows Israeli crimes against humanity. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) and B’tselem reports published in 2021 documented these crimes. Needless to say, the Jewish nation-state law of 2018 clearly defined rights in the State of Israel that are for the Jews only, ignoring the Arab population of two million Muslims and Christians. Israel holds around 5,000 prisoners, including 723 under administrative detention without trial.

More than 140 bodies are kept hostage in Israeli refrigerators, while their families are deprived of the basic human right to arrange a dignified burial. Extrajudicial killings occur daily, and every Palestinian is a target of the Israeli occupation, including human rights and civil society organizations.[1] The Palestinians are subject to greater restrictions on their movements. Israeli settler colonies are growing. According to OCHA, the West Bank is increasingly fragmented by the construction of bypass roads and the proliferation of Israeli checkpoints, which recently reached over 645 barriers, and the Gaza Strip continues to be under siege. Constructing a separation wall, sealing off Palestinian communities, building settler colonies, destroying the Palestinians’ quality of life, and even killing Palestinians are all clearly meant to hinder the possibility of creating a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state. Israel continues to deal with the Palestinians via military orders in a blunt signal of its continued military occupation.

For 75 years, Israeli crimes under the occupation have continued. Israel violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Israel infringes the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination 1973; Israel disregards the Hague Charter, 1907, article 46; Israel defies the Fourth Geneva Conventions1949; Israel flouts international legitimacy and Security Council Resolution 198 of 1971 which stipulates that seizing of the lands by force and through military conquest is illegal. An HRW report confirmed that the Israeli authorities are committing crimes of apartheid and persecution. A response limited to expressions of condemnation is too easily dismissed. This is impunity on steroids; it encourages more of the same or worse.

The right to self-defense is preserved in international laws, especially Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, which guarantees the right of people to defend themselves, and it is not limited to Israel. It also applies to the Palestinians, who are legally entitled to resistance and self-defense rights.

 

Conclusion

Multilateralism can still be applied effectively in the Palestinian case. 75 years since Nakba and 30 years since Oslo, it would be wise for the international community, which advocates for the two-state solution, to define the borders of the already recognized State of Israel and to recognize the Palestinian state. This would translate into ending the Israeli occupation and would unfold prosperous regional solutions. Advocates for the two-state solution can’t deny that the Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1988 and again in 1993 with the beginning of the peace process in line with UN legitimacy on the post-1967 Nakba war borders. The Israelis never reciprocated.[2]

Annexation is ongoing de facto, as the State of Israel’s doctrine is anchored in settlements that constitute the colonial project’s base. The discourse of human rights, justice and prosperity is essential. However, any solution’s starting line lies in ending the Israeli occupation that began with the Nakba. The Marshall Plan approach is doomed to fail if not wrapped in a political context. So far, efforts to deal with the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian perspective have only provided cover for the continued sustaining of a cost-free occupation with Jewish supremacy over the entire land.

75 years since Nakba is 75 years of independence for an Israeli state without borders. More precisely, however, one must call this the “Israeli occupation.” Referring to the relationship between Palestine and Israel as a “conflict” is a gross understatement.

 

 

Footnotes

[1] Six Civil society organizations were labelled as terrorist: Alhaq, Addameer, Bisan, Union of Palestinian women’s committees, Union for agriculture workers committee. Oct. 19, 2021 apartheid state of Israel issued “military orders” declaring key Palestinian human rights and civil society groups “terrorist organizations”

  1. الحركة العالمية للدفاع عن الأطفال/فلسطين #DCI
  2. Al-Haq Organization مؤسسة الحق
  3. Addameer Prisoner Support & Human Rights Association
  4. Bisan Center for Research & Development مركز بيسان للبحوث والانماء
  5. اتحاد لجان العمل الزراعي (UAWC)
  6. Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees اتحاد لجان المرأة الفلسطينية

[2] Article I in the DoP outlined the aim of negotiations: within the Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self- Government Authority

  • Elected Council for five years.
  • Leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

There was NO mention of State for the Palestinians; and above all one should consider that negotiations are one tool toward a final agreement and not an end in themselves.

 

References

 

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