This Nakba day, we march to end British complicity in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians
The largest single expulsion of Palestinians since 1967 may now be underway. On May 4th 2022 an Israeli court ruled that over 1000 Palestinians of Masafr Yatta could be displaced, uprooting generations of families – all of whom have already endured tremendous violence and suffering at the hands of Israel’s relentless project of colonisation.
As one resident said: “We have been fighting with Israel in the courts for the last 22 years and it took this judge five minutes to destroy the lives of 12 villages...In the end history repeats itself: Nakba after Nakba."
When Palestinians talk of an ongoing Nakba, this is what they mean.
The Nakba, our Catastrophe, did not begin and end when Israel drove 750,000 Palestinians, including my grandparents from their homes in 1948 to clear the land for the Jewish majority state to be founded. The Nakba has been an ongoing reality ever since then.
''At a moment when political leaders are making clear that egregious breaches of international law demand robust boycott and sanctions-led responses, we assert that this principle applies to the dispossessed of Masafer Yatta as it does to the besieged of Mariupol, Ukraine.''
The Nakba is Palestinians’ daily experience of Israel: every new settlement expansion, every blow of police violence, every incursion by fanatics into sites held sacred, every municipal budget that ghettoises, every drone and every patrol-boat encircling Gaza, every humiliation at an apartheid checkpoint – these are all moments within the ongoing, unbroken catastrophe that Israel has been for Palestinians.
The catastrophe is ongoing because it serves a purpose for Israel: to colonise all of historic Palestine between the river and the sea, and control all the Palestinians within it. The aim is to drive out as many Palestinians as possible, and ensure that those who remain are thoroughly subjugated whether living under direct military occupation or siege or annexation or as second-class citizens within the state.
As the Israeli Human rights organisation B’Tselem framed it in its report when it concluded that Israel is practising the crime of apartheid, ‘one organising principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.’
In the case of Masafer Yatta, the residents are being driven out with the pretext of the Israeli military requiring ‘firing zones’. Since 1970 Israel has declared up to 18% of the illegally Occupied West Bank to be a ‘firing zone’ required for military exercises, where Palestinians are not permitted. This is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention, under which it’s illegal to expropriate land under military occupation.
The decision by Israel’s high court to green light the forced expulsion of the Palestinians within this “firing zone” is yet another example of the Israeli state demonstrating its willingness to ignore international law and commit war crimes.
And, yet, despite these generations of violence, Palestinians resist and endure. And not only do they endure, they create, they thrive, they educate their children, they cultivate their land, they celebrate their past and they imagine a better future.
Even after 74 years of ongoing Nakba, millions of Palestinians still exist, resist and work towards their moment of return.
This is why we, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), will be on the streets of London this Saturday, marching in protest, marching to end an injustice and marching to re-imagine the world anew. We will be led by a cohort of British Palestinians, carrying keys - the symbol of the enduring Palestinian promise to return to the homes and lands from which they have been expelled, the promise to fulfil their inalienable rights, grounded in international law.
The march will conclude a week of action in which we make manifest the reality that solidarity begins with the act of empathy that recognises that an injustice to anyone anywhere is an injustice to everyone, everywhere.
We will also be calling on people across the UK to take a series of actions targeting the complicity of the British state, British public bodies and British and global companies and corporations that provide the infrastructure of economic support necessary to sustain apartheid.
At a moment when political leaders are making clear that egregious breaches of international law demand robust boycott and sanctions-led responses, we assert that this principle applies to the dispossessed of Masafer Yatta as it does to the besieged of Mariupol, Ukraine.
The responsibility to break financial ties with companies complicit in war crimes and violations of international law is not only a governmental duty – but applies to all public bodies.
Throughout history, popular economic and cultural campaigns of boycott and divestment have been used to pressure regimes, institutions and companies engaged in discrimination, illegality and war-profiteering. But today the Government has laid out its plans, once again, to limit the power to boycott and divest in the UK, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill.
One of the most potent tools Palestinians have developed to enable global support for their resistance to the ongoing Nakba is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. So when we march on Saturday, we march against this government’s assaults on democracy, and we march against its active participation in the ongoing Nakba. We are also not alone, PSC have been joined by 45 civil society bodies in publicly rejecting the anti-boycott law.
Last year, 200,000 people took to the streets of London in solidarity with Palestinians resisting Israel’s assaults on Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza. Join us again this year to march against the ongoing Nakba in all its manifestations: from the Houses of Parliament, to Masafer Yatta.
Ben Jamal is Director of UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
Follow him on Twitter: @BenJamalpsc
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.