Sunday, 18 May 2008

Al-Nakba - Flip side of Israel's celebration coin

As Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary on Wednesday May 14th - Palestinians marked the day as al-Nakba, or the "catasrophe."

PressTV's Middle East Today took a look at the legacy of the al-Nakba, 60 years on.

With high profile guests from around the world participating in the glittering and well choreographed Israeli celebrations, Palestinian Caretaker Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad bitterly asked "How can they celebrate while the Palestinian people are crying out in pain?"

Israel announced its independence on 14th May 1948, three years after the end of World War II, and in line with a United Nations resolution calling for the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the creation of two independent states – one Jewish the other Palestinian Arab.

Under the terms of the partition, the Jewish state would receive 56 percent of the land, with the Palestinians just 43 percent. Jerusalem was to be placed under international supervision.

The deal was made by gentlemen in New York without consulting local Arab residents, without fully understanding their rights to land ownership in the areas to be handed over to the new Jewish state, and it was done over the objections of regional Arab powers.

War was inevitable.

The treaty to end the first round of bloodletting in 1949 left the new state of Israel with 78 percent of the former British mandate and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their traditional homeland.

Six decades after the occupation of their lands, the Palestinians are still seeking an independent state, with the fate of 1948 refugees and their descendants, living scattered in camps and settlements around the region, remaining one of the thorniest issues in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli historian, Dr. Ilan Pappe, says most Israeli Jews believe that the Palestinians left voluntarily in 1948. Pappe says the Israeli Jews are not aware, or do not want to be aware of the fact that an ethnic cleansing took place in 1948.

There is a commonly held myth about the creation of Israel, that a people without a land were going to settle in a land without people.

The suggestion that Palestine was a largely deserted, unpopulated area could not be further from the truth, but the myth persists.

Meanwhile, speaking on Wednesday at Israel's 60th anniversary, US President George W. Bush repeated his belief that Israel and the Palestinians can strike a deal to bring about a Palestinian state by the end of the year.

Despite repeated visits by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, few, in the region are optimistic that tangible progress is being made in the talks.

The US president's comments came as 14 people were injured when a rocket fired from Gaza hit the city of Ashkelon. Earlier in the day, seven people were killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza.

Joining the Middle East Today debate were Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab-British understanding in London.

In New York, we were joined by Edward Seigel, Member of the Executive Committee, Zionist Organization of America.

In the Tehran studio, Mohammad Reza Karimi, Associate Editor of Iran Daily was on hand to offer his opinions.

And speaking by phone from Jerusalem - al-Quds was Eyal Niv, from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions.

I put my first question to Chris Doyle:

"The 1947 UN resolution called for the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian. It took less than a year for the first state to be established. Sixty years later we are still waiting for the second. Why is that?"

Chris' reply and the entire, sometimes quite heated debate, can be found here on the PressTV archive.

For more on this issue, watch Gaza and Beirut - A Tale of Two Cities

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