Anticlimactic Yom Nakba

Well, I attended the first event in the week long series of cultural events commemorating al nakba day, which is officially today. Al Nakba means catastrophe and barely begins to describe what has befallen the Palestinian people world wide, but especially those in refugee camps in the West Bank, Ghaza, Lebanon, Syria, and of course, Jordan. This event, like all events I’ve attended here relating to Palestinians, is disturbing. Yes, of course, such events exist, but they always have to draw the line and appear to be promoting culture and art rather than politics. As someone whose research focuses on the effect that art can have in shaping politics I am acutely aware of the power of film, dance, song, theater, literature, art. However, when these representations exist in a space where political activism in the streets is not allowed I find that the other half of the message gets watered down. This is a day where people should be protesting in front of the Israeli embassy for the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in the Occupied Territories, not sitting quietly in a room filled with middle- to upper-middle class Jordanians, Palestinians, and internationals. There should be speeches about the reality of now–not just that there are refugees in the past, but how their lives are now. I find it especially interesting that there are no actual refugees from the camps in Jordan at any of these events. There is a distinct separation and disconnnect between those who work on behalf of Palestinian refugees and those who are actually living in deplorable conditions in the camps in Jordan. So we have nice little stands set up in the lobby of the Balad Theater selling Palestinian books, films, and knick knaks and the entire event becomes all about commodity consumption. People eat fake kanife (sorry, folks, but kanife in Nablus is not made with mozarella cheese–this only belongs on pizza) and purchase objects but no one actually does anything about the current situation.

Case in point: not one word was mentioned today during the speaker’s talk about the Palestinian refugees living in a camp in Al Ruweished resembling the camps of 1948. The 148 Palestinians there have been there for 3 years, including 3 children who have grown up without their mother because she’s a Jordanian citizen and lives in Amman; their father is dead. While there has been some support for their case from the Royal family, for some reason the mukhabarat (Jordan’s version of the FBI/CIA) has been holding their case up and so they have grown up in a refugee camp as orphans even when their mother is alive. The situation of refugees is not something just from the past. I’m not saying that Jordan is entirely responsible for the plight of these refugees. I think that the onus, of course, is on the occupying powers, the U.S. primarily, but also England, to take care of these refugees and resettle them as per the Geneva Convention. But to really deal with these issues–especially on a day like today–would make the cultural and commerical aspects of al nakba a tad less offensive.

The good news is this: Syria has officially stepped up to the plate and brought in those Palestinians waiting in the UNHCR refugee camp at the Iraqi border who initially tried to get into Jordan, but who were pushed away from it by the Jordanians and Iraqis.


7 thoughts on “Anticlimactic Yom Nakba

  1. Al Nakba will never be acknowledge by those claiming to be displaced Palestinians (i.e the “well off” middle class you speak of) confronts the real situation of statehood for all! This reminds me of the African American community that wore dashikis and danced barefoot during the 60s and 70s but did virtually nothing to help their supposed African brothers and sisters in the land of apartheid. It doesn’t take much to wear a shirt or adorn your body with certain trinkets, it takes a lot more to say that those who have no voice, should finally be heard. For the sake of the refugees and others who have nothing as I write this, I pray that those with the means to do so, will act.

  2. On another note, I must respond to your Rabbi Lerner quote. I have no objection to the use of ‘Holocaust’ when it is appropriate. Rwanda was a holocaust. Armenia was a holocaust. Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and most likely Darfur; all of these deserve the term. But what is happening in Palestine, with a 2 or 3 thousand killed over many years of conflict, is a low-scale war, not a genocide (with fatalities on both sides). I have been in the West Bank, and to compare what I have seen in Jericho & Bethlehem with what happened in Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz really is hateful.

  3. Perhaps “sociocide” is a better term. What Israel really wants is for the Palestinians to leave, and everything Israel is doing is designed to encourage that.

    However, that was one of the Nazi’s original ideas for the Jews too.

  4. But while Israel is making things more difficult than it should, there are no mass deportations. I’m not saying that the behavior of the Jewish state in Palestine has been exemplary (although I think they are cleaning up their act); but Olmert is not Hitler. Can we all agree on that?

  5. Where were the Palestinians prior to the 1967 war?

    Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt had Gaza. Did anyone talk about a Palestinian return then? Why did the cry for return begin in 1967?

    Do any of you have an answer?

  6. It depends which Palestinians you are talking about. Prior to the 1967 war Palestinians lived in 1948 Palestine as well as the West Bank and Gaza and there were also some Palestinians in Europe and the Americas who had immigrated for economic reasons either temporarily or permanently.

    The cry for a right of return did not begin in 1967. Palestinian refugees began this cry as soon as they were uprooted after the 1948 al nakba.


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