What is the Nakba?

Palestinians have been marking the anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war

Palestinians have this week been marking the 76th anniversary of the Nakba – which means catastrophe in Arabic. The term refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The latest war in Gaza is the bloodiest ruction of this conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The origins of the conflict pit Israeli demands for a secure homeland in the Middle East against Palestinians’ unmet aspirations for a state of their own.

In 1947, while Palestine was under British mandate rule, the United Nations General Assembly agreed a plan to partition it into Arab and Jewish states and for international rule over Jerusalem. Jewish leaders accepted the plan, giving them 56 per cent of the land. The Arab League rejected the proposal.


Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed the modern state of Israel on May 14th, 1948, a day before the scheduled end of British rule, establishing a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution and seeking a national home on land to which they cite ties dating to antiquity.

Violence had been intensifying between Arabs, who made up about two thirds of the population in the late 1940s, and Jews. A day after Israel was created, troops from five Arab states attacked.

In the war that followed, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes, ending up in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinians lament this as the Nakba, which is commemorated on May 15th every year.

Armistice agreements halted the fighting in 1949 but there was no formal peace. Descendants of Palestinians who stayed put in the war make up about 20 per cent of Israel’s population now. – Reuters

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