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Palestine: the never-ending catastrophe

Israel celebrated its 67th anniversary this week, but for Palestinians it is a Nakba (catastrophe) which continues until today, writes Dr. Firoz Osman

The creation of the state of Israel in May 1948 was a settler-colonial enterprise in which Palestinians were ethnically cleansed through terror operations to allow for the “ingathering of the exiles” from Europe, North America, and the Middle East. Eleven years before the Jewish state was created, Ben-Gurion declared: “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.” The aim, then,  in creating Israel was not just the exploitation of  the indigenous people and their resources – but their complete annihilation.  In 1940, Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department stated: “Between ourselves, it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to (get rid of) all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.”

To achieve this obliteration, three Zionist terrorist groups Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang, committed 34 massacres of Palestinian villages and their inhabitants . A two-day carnage at Deir Yassin village in April 1948, was singularly illustrative of Zionist brutality. In a joint operation, the three Zionist terrorist militias entered the village, raping and killing as they went, looting valuables, and destroying property. Many infants were also butchered and killed. Women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers and parts of some of the women’s ears were severed in order to remove earrings. British historian Arnold Toynbee compared the Deir Yassin massacre to crimes committed against the Jews by the Nazis. But Menachem Begin, the leader of the attack, said: “the massacres were not only justified, but there would not have been a State of Israel without the victory at Deir Yassin.”

Ultimately, Israel conquered 774 Palestinian towns and villages, depopulating 675. It was the largest planned and foreign-supported ethnic cleaning in modern history. Whilst Zionists celebrate 14 May as the Day of Independence for Israel, for Palestinians, this is the Nakba (catastrophe). Never before in modern history has a foreign minority descended upon the national majority of a country as in Palestine, depopulated its inhabitants; confiscated its land, property and records in the largest land robbery since World War 2; destroyed its historical and religious landscape; obliterated its identity and history – and then label this a victory for civilization and a divine intervention!

Israel has continued the Nakba against the Palestinians through recurrent invasions, bombing and a complete siege on the Gaza Strip, The West Bank suffers a double occupation by Israeli occupation forces and the equally-oppressive Palestinian Authority (PA) under Mahmud Abbas.

The recent appointment of Ayelet Shaked as Justice Minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s  fourth government will ensure that the Palestinian Nakba will continue.  Known for her extreme, ultranationalist views, Shaked  declared at the height of Israel’s war on Gaza in July last year that “the entire Palestinian people [are] the enemy” and called for their destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

Until the Nakba is acknowledged, its crimes addressed and restitution provided, there can be no justice or justice-based peace. The Palestinian Right of Return under international law, affirmed by the United Nations over 130 times, remains a cherished symbol of their steadfast resistance against dispossession, occupation, and subjugation by the state of Israel.

Dr. Firoz Osman is a member of the Johannesburg-based advocacy group Media Review Network ( and the co-author of Why Israel: The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid: A South African Perspective (Porcupine Press, 2013).