This Week In History: On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was established, creating the largest refugee population in the world. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, “Jewish forces expelled over a million Palestinians from their homes at gunpoint, massacred civilians and deliberately destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages”.
Palestinians who escaped persecution from Jewish forces fled to Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. As a result, there are now 4.5 million Palestinian refugees without the right to return to their homes in the land now called Israel. Many refugees still retain old deeds and keys to homes now occupied by Israelis.
The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is known as al Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe, and is commemorated on Nakba Day on the 15th of May every year, the day after Israeli Independence Day on the Gregorian calendar.
Throughout its 64-year history, Israel has denied that al Nakba — which happened just years after the Holocaust — ever took place, and last year the government passed a fascist law that allows the denial of state funding to NGOs that participate in Nakba commemorations. In 2009, it banned the use of the term “Nakba” in school textbooks.
Photos: Top: Thousands of Palestinians throng the beach as they are forced out of their homeland / Bottom: An elderly Palestinian couple during the mass exodus. Palestine, 1948 (UNRWA)