Palestinians—in Palestine and throughout the world—and allies commemorate the Nakba this week. Because of the pandemic, many people must stay sheltered, but as usual they find their ways to mark the 1948 catastrophe.
In fact, the Nakba has never ended. The Zionists have never abandoned their plan to get rid of Palestinian completely and to confiscate all Palestinian land. This is the essence of settler colonialism. Wherever Palestinians live, Israel continues to threaten their future, and now this is exacerbated by the current situation. Palestinians in East Jerusalem face ethnic cleansing every day; only a few weeks ago, the Israeli’s destroyed a testing site in Silwan and arrested the people working there. Palestinians living inside 1948 are struggling to survive the pandemic despite the apartheid system under which they live. People in Gaza are wrestling with the lack of clean water and 13 years of the siege. Refugees in the diaspora are never settled because of the discrimination that follows them. Some of them are refugees two or three times over forced out of refugee camps in Syria and now living even more unstable lives in Lebanon or Jordan.
The moment we introduce ourselves as Palestinian, Zionists—in Israel and around the world—see us as a threat. Our very existence is a threat to them, no matter what we are doing or saying. They even see organizations working with refugees, including the UN, as threatening because they help make our survival possible.
At the same time, in the midst of the pandemic, there is something we can learn from these refugee communities—Palestinian refugee communities and all refugee communities. Working at MECA, I have the privilege to be in touch with some of these communities. I have learned from them that the 72 years that have passed since the Nakba hasn’t killed their hope. They are still resisting, still struggling to return back to their homes in Palestine. Year by year and generation after generation, they are surer and more committed to their right to return to their homes and lands in Palestine.
Their strength comes from the culture of resistance and from the spirit in the refugee camps. Despite the terrible conditions, these camps have a spirit. You can feel it in the streets, almost in every house—the commitment to endure and keep struggling. The spirit goes down and comes up: We are going back, soon we will go back, soon this injustice will end. This is the spirit that sustains people living under oppression everywhere. No matter what “politics” or “deals” swirl around them, this spirit keeps their cause alive.