‘Nakba’ means disaster, but not surrender

May 15 marks the 65th anniversary of the beginning of what Palestinians and their supporters call the Nakba, “the disaster,” which followed the illegal founding in 1948 of the state of Israel, with the full cooperation of international imperialism.

The founding of the Israeli state was accompanied by massacres and the forced removal through terror and intimidation of three-quarters of the population of Palestine at that time. Some 750 towns and villages were literally wiped from the face of the earth, their remains bulldozed away. In violation of international law, not to mention the human rights of the Palestinians, the Israeli military occupied Arab homes and land, vowing never to allow the people they had cruelly uprooted and driven out to return to their former homeland.

In 1967, in another war of aggression, Israelis seized the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, where they remain as occupiers.

Although the founding of Israel is lauded in countries like the U.S., which continues to pump billions of dollars in military aid to the apartheid-like regime, millions of people both inside and outside of Palestine will mark the Nakba with solemn commemoration as well as militant demonstrations and solidarity.

In May, the academic world was stunned when the noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking announced that he was joining the academic boycott of Israel, and would not attend an international conference there in June. Hawking, who takes part in many intellectual gatherings despite being completely paralyzed by a debilitating form of the neurodegenerative disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), added: ”Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.” (Time.com, May 13)

Hawking has a record of supporting progressive causes. He called the U.S. Invasion of Iraq a “war crime.” Nevertheless, the world imperialist media howled in outrage. Alan Dershowitz, who postures as a “human rights” advocate, called Hawking an “ignoramus” and suggested he is anti-Semitic for objecting to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Dershowitz called Hawking a “lemming,” being pressured by the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement, which he admitted was gaining ground around the world. (mondoweiss.net, May 10)

A protest in April against a celebration of Israeli independence in Johannesburg’s Gold Reef City organized by the South African Zionist Federation received a more direct, brutal response.

During the protest by about 250 supporters of Palestine, including a large number from the Coalition of South African Trade Unionists, two young women protesters were violently assaulted by the Zionist group called the Community Security Organization. Their hands were tied with cables, their faces covered and their heads smashed into the parking lot’s concrete paving.

Other protesters were forcibly thrown down escalators. One was locked into a passageway, where he was repeatedly kicked in the stomach by more than five CSO personnel. He later suffered a concussion. Members of the Zionist community attending the event also punched a woman protester in the face several times, resulting in a serious swelling injury.

The CSO, which is directed by a former Israeli Defense Force officer, had insisted on total control of all security arrangements for the SAZF event.

Of course, the repression of international solidarity cannot compare with that meted out daily by Israeli forces against the Palestinians in the occupied territories and in Israel itself. In 2011, for example, over a dozen Palestinians were simply gunned down and killed as they peacefully and bravely walked toward the Israeli border from Syria, asserting their right to return to the homes from which they were driven so many decades ago.

The BDS movement is an important development in support of the Palestinian struggle. Movements such as this, along with the just resistance of the oppressed masses of Palestine, will hasten the day when the disaster of 1948 will be turned into victory.