x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pain of the Nakba has not diminished

Another Nakba Day, and the Palestinians are no better off than last year. But slowly, the moral compass of world public opinion is turning against Israeli injustice.

As time has not dimmed the resistance of the Palestinians, so the importance of the Nakba has not diminished over the years. The horror of the 1948 expulsion remains fresh.

Today marks 65 years since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were systematically expelled from their homes, their possessions looted by the Israeli army and their lands stolen by settlers. Decades have passed without redress. Today, around the world, Palestinians and their many supporters will hold rallies, marches and one-minute silences, to remember the many who lost their lives in 1948, the hundreds of thousands who had to flee the invading armies, and the millions who still languish in refugee camps.

The story of the Nakba has gone across the world, carried by Palestinians who have sought new lives in the Gulf, in Europe, Africa and North America. The Day of the Nakba is no longer merely a Palestinian event - it is a global event, marked by people of conscience everywhere.

Indeed, only in Israel is the story taboo; teachers there may not raise the topic. Historians such as Ilan Pappe, an Israeli celebrated for his scholarship everywhere but in his own country, have tried to point out the horrors of what he calls the "ethnic cleansing" that birthed Israel.

Israelis are rarely reminded of the 1950 Law of Absentee Property that gave a veneer of legality to the grabbing, ransacking, and occupation of Palestinians' houses and apartments.

The Nakba affected Palestinians rich and poor - those who owned property found themselves dispossessed, their assets handed to new arrivals from Europe and Russia.

So little has changed in six decades, and so much. The latest development - and the best hope for justice - is the growing "BDS" campaign to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, a method of activism that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Over the past decade, the movement has grown. Just last week scientist Stephen Hawking became perhaps the most prominent supporter. One day, BDS may make it politically incorrect to deal with Israel. International opprobrium, while painful for ordinary Israelis, might finally force their government into genuine negotiations with Palestinians.

The horror of the 1948 mass expulsions are still with us. Palestinians still await justice.