Nakba: The Untold Story
May 29, 2008 by TMO
By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
The Nakba (catastrophe), the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homeland when the state of Israel was formed, is one of the current major injustices crying out for resolution. While it is a subject to be addressed all year round, the month of May, with its celebration of Israel’s creation, brings the issue of Palestinian ethnic cleansing – and the current suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation – to the foreground.
Discussions of Nakba have been the subject of numerous articles in The Muslim Observer as people of conscience and honor strive to bring long overdue justice to the Palestinian people.
One of the most informative and stirring presentations took place this past Sunday at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles. Held in conjunction with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), “Al Nakba: The Untold Story” presented four highly qualified people to tell the story of Al Nakba from different, albeit dovetailing, perspectives.
Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim, Chair of the History Department at California Polytechnic Institute in Pomona, was the first speaker. On November 29, 1947 – the actual birth date of Israel – when the United Nations passed the partition resolution, ethnic cleansing began. The nascent state of Israel wanted to be as Palestinian free as possible. Contrary to the belief that Israeli military forces were amateur, they had a highly trained force with volunteers from all over the world. They even possessed an Air Force – rare at that time period.
He continued: Israel was born out of colonialism and exists today through imperialism. Israel is a European nation, not a Middle Eastern one. It is a Western implant into the Middle East. Professor Ibrahim quoted Bishop Desmond Tutu in the latter’s observation that Israel copied South Africa’s apartheid system and actually went further.
Again contrary to the popular wisdom, Israel is unable to live at peace with its neighbors, and events which have been described as Arab aggression and have permitted Israel to portray itself as a victim, have simply been Arab responses – self defense – against Israeli actions.
Basil Othman, a member of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), spoke next. There is a myth that all Palestinians are Muslim. This is not true, he said. Many are Christian. The PCRF helps all children in Palestine receive medical aid either on site or, if that is not feasible, in North America or Europe. Mr. Othman spoke of the ways in which the state of Israel thwarts the attempts of the PCRF to aid children in the oPt.
Checkpoints, roadblocks, arbitrary paper work - even the confiscation of doctors’ medical equipment upon entry – equipment intended for Palestinian hospitals- these are but some of the ways in which Israel interdicts the attempts of the PCRF to help needy children.
Mr. Othman said that in the last two months, to give but one example, 135 children died in unnecessarily in Gaza.
Mr. Othman told of the Makassad Hospital Pediatric Surgery ICU unit in East Jerusalem, a unit built by the efforts of PCRF. While such units are commonplace in hospitals in the West, it is the only such unit in the oPt.
Dr. Nayyer Ali, a Pakistani, is the Chairman of MPAC and the author of “In Pursuit of Justice:The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam”. He was the third speaker, and he addressed the subject by asking the question: Why is the U. S. Allied with Israel? He gave a number of reasons. First, in the United States Zionism is seen as something that is good; second, the support of Israel by Evangelicals – a major political base for the Bush administration – is significant; third, the U. S. media whitewash what Israel does, and fourth, there has been a successful attempt to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semiticism.
Israel wants its right to exist acknowledged. Dr. Ali went on to make the distinction between the fact of Israel’s existence which is undeniable and its right to exist which gives Israel a moral justification it does not deserve.
The final speaker was a favorite activist and the MPAC Senior political Advisor, retired physician Maher Hathout. Why, he asked, would a mosque – in this case the Islamic Center of Southern California - join with MPAC on the subject of the Nakba?
We have, he continued, principles from the Koran which we as Muslims are mandated to follow. They are the principles of justice, honor, human dignity and freedom. All four of these principles are being violated with respect to the Palestinian people.
The Israelis say that Gaza is being punished. Gaza has been called a prison but, Dr. Hathout observed, in prison people are fed. In Gaza they are starving.
A lively question and answer period followed.
MPAC is available at the following address: _www.mpac.org_ (http://www.mpac.org).