MAY 15, 2018 : 70 Years of the Nakba, the “Catastrophe”

Pray for and Express Solidarity with Palestinians

This year marks the 70th year of Nakba:  Nakba Day , Yawm an-Nakba, meaning “Day of the Catastrophe” is generally commemorated on 15 May. The day was inaugurated by Yasser Arafat in 1998. For the Palestinians it is an annual day of commemoration of the displacement that preceded and followed the Israeli Declaration of independence in 1948. During the 1948 Palestine War, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled , and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated  and destroyed. These refugees and their descendants number several million people, divided between Jordan (2 million), Lebanon (427,057), Syria (477,700), the West Bank (788,108) and the Gaza Strip (1.1 million), with at least another quarter of a million internally displaced Palestinians in Israel. The displacement, dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people is known to them as an-Nakba, meaning “catastrophe” or “disaster”.

US Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem: President Trump announced late last year that the U.S. will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – and it looks like the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem  will open in May 2018 in order to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring its independence, the Trump administration said on Feb. 23.The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital was heralded by many pro-Israel activists but decried by Palestinians and America’s Arab allies. Religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Christians living in Israel, have expressed dire concerns that the move would incite unrest in the volatile region.”We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division,” 13 Patriarchs and leaders of Christian Orthodox communities have written in an open letter to Trump. American Muslims have expressed nearly universal dismay at the move. “In an already volatile region, Mr. Trump’s action will be akin to dousing gasoline on a burning fire,” said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame. “The US will also sign itself into irrelevance in Mideast matters…”

Israeli occupation of Palestine: At the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict today lies the question of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since the war of 1967, which include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Key issues that have plagued the stalled “peace process” include: Israel’s occupation, Israeli settlements and settlement-building, the Israeli wall, security for Israelis and Palestinians, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the right of return of 3.7 million stateless Palestinian refugees.

Not only has the Occupation shrink the dwelling places of Palestinians, but also the occupation affects almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem (cf. https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/things-palestinians-cant-do_us_586554d4e4b0eb58648895bc):

  1. Palestinians can’t live free of Israeli military presence. The occupied areas are constantly patrolled and controlled by the Israeli military. These armed soldiers have been accused of beating, detaining, and torturing Palestinians.
  2. Palestinians in Gaza can’t control the flow of goods and supplies. Israeli officials say the blockade aims to prevent Hamas, a militant political group that took over the territory in 2007, from acquiring weapons ― but the crackdown on imports and exports alsoextends to food and medicine.
  3. Palestinians can’t control their access to water in the occupied territories. The majority of the water from the area’s two main sources goes to Israeli areas. There are frequent water shortages in the West Bank and poor water quality in Gaza, Bethlehem residents say they have experienced 40 days without running water ― affecting bathing, drinking, cooking and agriculture.
  4. Palestinians can’t access certain life-saving health care. Due to the blockade, many hospitals in the Gaza Strip lack critical equipment and resources. For cancer treatment, which is hard to come by in Gaza, Palestinians have to request permission from Israel to travel elsewhere ― usually to Israel, where the treatment is available.
  5. Palestinians can’t live in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel are barred from living in or even visiting the settlements, The Israeli settler population has grown 21 percent between 2009 and 2015, reaching almost 600,000 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Additionally, many of the roads between and around settlements are restricted to Israelis, making efficient transit difficult for Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians’ homes have been demolished in order for these settlements to exist.
  6. Most Palestinians can’t enjoy the rights of citizenship. Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are effectively a stateless people, who, for the most part, lack rights to citizenship in any sovereign nation. For Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank, gaining Israeli citizenship is all but impossible. It’s even difficult for Palestinians with an Israeli parent to gain citizenship. Being married to an Israeli does not grant Palestinians the right to live in Israel Under the Law of Return, anyone who is a non-Israeli Jew or is related to a non-Israeli Jew can be almost  automatically granted citizenship. Palestinian refugees who fled Israel during the 1948 war are denied that opportunity, and can’t reclaim the land and possessions they were forced to leave behind. 
  7. Palestinians don’t have the same due process and civil rights as Israelis. At every stage of the criminal justice process, occupied Palestinians have fewer rights. Their trials can be longer, the threshold for their convictions is lower and they receive longer sentences than Israelis for similar crimes. While Israelis are required to be brought before a judge within 48 hours of being arrested, Palestinians can wait up to eight days. Palestinians are tried in military courts, while Israeli settlers living in the same territories are tried in civil Israeli courts. Palestinians can be imprisoned without charge for a period of up to six months under the Israeli policy of “administrative detention.” After the end of the six months, Israeli officials are allowed to renew the detention indefinitely.
  8. Palestinians can’t travel in, out and through occupied territories without restriction. Israel has implemented strict travel restrictions in and outside the occupied Palestinian territories for decades, making it difficult for Palestinians to leave, return and travel through the areas. Military checkpoints and roadblocks are scattered throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, some of which have lines that can add up to five hours  to Palestinians’ daily commutes.
  9. Palestinians aren’t equally protected by labor laws. Palestinians working for Israeli businesses in the settlements have experienced violations of Israeli employer standards. Human Rights Watch has documented incidents of child labor in settlement businesses as well as other abuses, like denying socila benefits and paying below the minimum wage.
  10. Palestinians can’t stay out late. Curfews are also imposed from time to time.

As we pray for and express solidarity with the Palestinians, let us also be sensitive about different expressions of injustices happening all around us, which call for our commitment to justice.

 

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,
General Secretary, NCCI

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