Contemporary Third World Thought Lecture Series 2-2: Anaheed Al-Hardan
Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities
by Anaheed Al-Hardan (American University of Beirut, Lebanon)
Room 106A, HA Building II, NCTU, Taiwan
In the lecture yesterday, the establishment of Israel on Palestine in 1948 is referred to as the catastrophe in Arabic, the Nakba. It not only brought to end Palestine as a political entity, but also brought to end the major part of Palestinian society as a social entity. Out of a million people and territories that were conquered by the Zionist movement in which the state of Israel was established, some 900000 were removed from the territory, they were expelled, uprooted, more than 500 villages were destroyed, eleven urban quarters were depopulated, in the matter of 6 months. This kind of monumental event is crucial in understanding the modern Palestinian experiences, and its meanings have been transformed over the years. In 1948, Constantine Zurayk was the first to describe the outcome of the war as a catastrophe in his article, because of the defeat of the combined might of the Arab armies that had entered Palestine in May 1948. This early conceptualization was made in relation to the catastrophe posed to the project of pan-Arab unity, liberation and decolonization, in which Palestine was part of the envisioned Arab world. The 1967 June War transformed this meaning of the Nakba and made it the representation of the new Nakba. In 1980s, the Nakba “re-emerged” as a Palestinian rather than as Arab catastrophe, as a result of the failure of the Palestinian national movement to deliver on both liberation and return. It’s also a result of Palestinians’ own attempt to revive memories of their villages and ways of life in the Palestine that the Nakba had destroyed. This turn was further accelerated by the Oslo Accords, which set up the Palestinian Authority that is not based in people, and completely excluded the refugees from the decision-making process regarding crucial matters of Palestine. As a result, a decision that abandoned a coherent national liberation project was made, which in fact provided a cover for the Israeli settler colonization of Palestinians. As a response, Palestinian activists began to mobilize memories as a guarantor of a future return to Palestine, which is central to Palestinian political claims and identity.
(The articles were originally published on the Inter-Asia School website)