PHILADELPHIA, PA — On the mornings of May 18 and 20, 2008, Philadelphia drivers found messages hanging from several bridges leading into the city. Banners read, “Jews remember the Nakba,” “Ethnic cleansing is not a Jewish value,” “U.S. Jews mourn the Palestinian lives and land lost in 1948,” and “Jews say Israeli ‘independence’ = Palestinian dispossession.”
Tag Archives: ethnic cleansing
Organizers Commemorate Palestinian Displacement at “Israel 60″ Parade and Festival
PHILADELPHIA, PA — On Sunday, May 18, 2008, anti-zionist Jews from across the Philadelphia area protested the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s “Israel 60 Parade and Festival” under the banner of “No Time to Celebrate.” Activists wore all black and held signs reading “60 years of Ethnic Cleansing – No Time to Celebrate” and “Philadelphia’s Jews Remember the Nakba.”
Activists lined the Israel 60 parade route and demonstrated their position of dissent from within the Jewish community. In addition to holding signs and chanting, the activists also held the image of Handala – the character created by Palestinian artist Naji Al-Ali who represents the struggle of Palestinian refugees. Protester Hannah Mermelstein explained, “The Nakba that began in 1948 continues today. Even thought the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia claims “one city, one celebration”, we are here to let participants and organizers of the Israel 60 Parade and Festival know that there has never been Jewish consensus around Israel. We support Palestinian people’s right to return, individually and collectively, to the homes they lost in 1948 and in the violent decades since then.”
The protestors brought attention to the history of Palestinian dispossession. While many in the world celebrate Israel 60, Palestinians around the world mourn 60 years since the Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe” – of 1948. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and made more than 800,000 Palestinian people refugees in order to create a Jewish state in a land where the majority was not Jewish.
According to Israeli Human Rights organization B’Tselem, Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem are denied access to land, water, healthcare, and other basic resources. Palestinians throughout historic Palestine experience international isolation, economic devastation aided by the erection of a 730-kilometer wall, and continued closures and invasions including the siege of Gaza.
Another protester Adam Horowitz noted, “The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia does not speak for the entire Jewish community. We imagine “independence” and “freedom” outside the bounds of a state based on ethnic exclusivity and dispossession. This is no time to celebrate.
While some celebrate 60 years of Israel’s statehood, many Seattle Jews join a broad local coalition in mourning 60 years since the Nakba – Arabic for Catastrophe – of 1948, asking, “Is our nation-state worth the displacement of another people?”
On Wednesday May 7th, 2008, a dozen members of the Seattle chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace stood with many local community members in protest outside the celebratory Israel@60 event at Benaroya Hall. The protest was organized by the Seattle Nakba Coalition, of which the Seattle chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace is a member organization. Other member groups include Seattle Palestinian, Arab-American and Palestine solidarity organizations.
Five JVP members attended the Israel@60 event as ticket-holders, in an additional effort to present an often-silenced perspective. They distributed hundreds of leaflets to other attendees, questioning the dominant narrative of Israel’s independence. “What happened to 418 Palestinian villages that existed in 1947? How is this different from the ethnic cleansing that has long been practiced upon us?” These were met with widely varying responses, including deep appreciation. “We need more students doing this,” one attendee said.
After the performance, the ticket-holders unfurled banners inside the hall, reading “Shame on Us for Making Refugees” and “Seattle Jews for a Free Palestine”. They were quickly surrounded by police and escorted off the premises, singing Lo Yisa Goy – nations shall learn war no more.
While Israel provided a home for Jewish refugees after the Holocaust, some from our own families, the terrible fact is that over 700,000 Palestinians were made into refugees to make room for the future state of Israel. Sixty years and several generations later, that number has swelled to an estimated seven million. Many live in 58 registered refugee camps dispersed throughout the Middle East, still denied their rights under international law.
That is why the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, to Palestinians. Today the Palestinian Nakba continues. Inside of the 1948 borders of Israel, Palestinian citizens are denied legal rights received by Jews. Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem are denied access to land, water, health care, and other basic resources. Palestinians throughout historic Palestine experience international isolation, economic devastation aided by the erection of a 730-kilometer wall, and continued closures and invasions including the current horrific siege of Gaza.
And that is why many of us are refusing to celebrate: as long as Palestinians are still fighting for their fundamental human rights, we cannot rejoice.
Any peaceful future depends on recognizing both the Palestinian and the Israeli narrative. And yet, just as the names of over 400 pre-1948 Palestinian towns and cities have been deliberately erased from maps, the history of the Palestinian Nakba itself has been all but erased from Jewish consciousness
As Jews, we are members of a community that has repeatedly suffered exile and ethnic cleansing. We refuse to remain silent while this oppression is perpetuated upon another people in our name. To this end, we will continue to work within Jewish community and also in solidarity with Palestinian community, as we seek a self-determination for Jews that does not depend on the displacement and oppression of another people.
JVP’s Madison Chapter held a very successful “No Time to Celebrate” demonstration in partnership with several other area groups on May 8 on the Univ. of Wisconsin’s Library Mall.
The demonstration was a counter to an Israeli Independence Day birthday celebration put on by Hillel students also being held on the Library Mall. Their event featured birthday cake, free food, and a “moon bounce.” We actually outnumbered them during a three-hour time frame. We had from 45-50 people on our side with a very visually impactful presence including black balloons, a “puppet” figure dressed as a Palestinian refugee, Palestinian flags, banners, and signs. We also passed out a lot of
leaflets. Our chapter reprinted the UK statement (with attribution) to pass out with our contact info.
A group of Palestinian students put together a dramatic display on lower Bascom Hll (a major UW landmark) with rows of yellow “flags” each with a name of a village destroyed in 1948. The most encouraging thing was that we engaged in a number of great conversations with Hillel students who had many questions for us. It was a civilized and peaceful exchange. We all felt energized by the event.
Here are some photos (more are after the jump):
Below is a short video about Thursday’s action in San Francisco, the No Time To Celebrate Campaign, and why we do this work.