After 76 Painful Years, Palestine is Having Its Day And Israel Its Eclipse

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A Palestinian-American scholar who was displaced during the Nakba as a child says Israel’s war on Gaza is a turning point after which justice will be served.

Fawaz Tourki

“To remember is a new form of suffering,” wrote celebrated French poet Charles Baudelaire in his iconic work, Fleurs du Mal.

But when the drama implicit in that remembrance speaks of the greatest catastrophe that can befall a people – the dismemberment of their ancestral land, the outward sum of their nobility as a human community – the suffering becomes irremediable.

Today, May 15, Palestinians everywhere – all 14.6 million of them, living in exile or under occupation – are solemnly observing the 76th anniversary of Nakba Day, an event that commemorates the time in 1948 when Palestine was cut down, root and branch, as a nation.

Half its people were displaced, compelled to wander the earth in search of refuge. It was a truly catastrophic moment in Palestinian history that left the generation that experienced it broken in back and spirit, and the generations that followed imprinted with inherited trauma.

But Nakba Day is more than a time dedicated to remembrance, for the Nakba itself evokes in the mind not only that one single, catastrophic episode in our modern history, but also a great catalogue of ruin that proceeded from it — and continues.

In short, the Nakba has become the epistemic framework through which Palestinians reflect on the horrors that accompany their condition as a stateless people living in exile, or as an occupied people living their quotidian lives with an occupier’s boot over their necks. A condition, I say, they see as a continuation of the events that had precipitated the takeover of Palestine by the Zionist movement and the grafting on it of Israel.

That is the Nakba, an ongoing war Palestinians continue to fight today, 76 years after the fact, a war waged against their memory, their name, their land and their sense of selfhood as a nation.

Rebellious spirit

Every generation of Palestinians judges the Nakba anew, in accordance with their bent of mind. But one thing remains constant: each generation grows up with a rebellious spirit like they grow up with their skin, feeling, as it were, “more Palestinian” than the generation that preceded it.

This is a phenomenon that the powers that be in the Western world have calculatedly, stubbornly, willfully chosen to not understand.

This holds true all the way back in time to April 1954, when during an official visit to Lebanon, John Foster Dulles, then-US secretary of State, delivered a speech at the American University of Beirut in which he claimed (hold on to your incredulous hat), “The Palestinian problem will be solved only in time, when a new generation of Palestinians had grown up with no attachment to the land.”

It also held true in September 2020, when the US administration “trumped” up the so-called Abraham Accords, a “peace treaty” between the two Gulf states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (states that had had no beef or ever been at war with each other), sidelining the Palestinians and relegating their cause to the benign neglect Washington was convinced it deserved.

Not only were these folks wrong, they were wildly wrong.

Fool’s errand

It took Israel’s war on Gaza, a scorched-earth military campaign that has turned the enclave into a wasteland and killed 14,000 children (children!) to finally bring about a sea change in that Western world’s view of the brutal realities on the ground in occupied Palestine and force it to face the unpleasant fact that continuing to aid Israel in its efforts to hound the people of Palestine into oblivion is a fool’s errand.

REUTERSPalestinians prepare to flee Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the city May 13, 2024 (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem).

Look, you cannot hound into oblivion a people who had sharpened, as Palestinians had done, their will-to-meaning (Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s term) at the whetstone of persecution and accumulated large reserves of national consciousness over generations of struggle for independence, a people whose existence as a dynamic human community had been interpenetrated with the perception of historical presence in their lives.

Israel’s greatest victory (you might prefer “scam“) all these years has been its ability to convince the “civilised world,” and convince it as it went about pounding Palestinians to the ground and reducing their humanity to a fragment, that it was, scouts honour, the injured party in the dispute, engaged in struggle against hordes of terrorists hell-bent on its destruction.

Well, since it began to show the world its true face in Gaza over the last seven months, Israel has lost the narrative, and the Palestinian cause, now seen by young people around the world as a national struggle rich in moral demand, has entered the public discourse, front and centre, and acquired for itself permanent tenure there.

REUTERSUniversity of Barcelona students take part in a Palestinian solidarity protest, in Barcelona, Spain May 15, 2024 (REUTERS/Nacho Doce).

You might say that Palestine is having its day and Israel its eclipse.

I say this is a hinge moment in the century-plus conflict between the indigenous people of Palestine and the Zionist movement, a turning point with which the global dialogue of cultures has turned.

Students at pro-Palestinian encampments erected on the quads and lawns of dozens of campuses across the US, held to advocate for justice for Palestinians – protest encampments that have truly shaken American politics and become the most contentious news story in America – could be heard hollering the call-and-response chant, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

Yes, the time is now. So, on this day, muffled for 76 years, the anguished voice of the Nakba is resounding around every corner of the globe – and, I say, will continue henceforth to have a mastering grip on our sensibility.

TRT World

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