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We will try to present an overview of the story of the people of Palestine, a people displaced from their homes and society, suffering untold persecution and misery which began with the emergence of political Zionism in the 19th century and continues to this day. 


1. Palestine Historically

2. What is An-Nakba?

3. Origin of Zionism

4. British Involvement

5. Why do Palestinians commemorate the Nakba on May 15?

6. Horrors of the Nakba

7. Is the Nakba over?

8. Life in occupied Palestine

9. The Nakba ongoing...

10. Further Reading

11. Mapping Israeli Occupation




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Palestine Historically

Despite popular belief that the Palestine-Israel conflict is thousands of years old, it only really goes back to about the early 1900s.

In the late 1800s, Palestine was under Ottoman rule. At the time, the Jewish people accounted for around 3% of the population, Muslims to 87% and Christians 10%. People from all three Abrahamic faiths lived together in relative peace.


Palestine on the old map

palestine on map.jpg

 Click on image to enlarge 


Palestine replaced with "Israel"




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What is An-Nakba?

15 May 1948 marks the "Nakba" for the Palestinian people.

Nakba means "Catastrophe" in Arabic and refers to the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 when 78% of historic Palestinian land was seized by Zionists for the establishment of the state of Israel. During the fighting, approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or fled to escape the violence.


"Palestinians fled for reasons  that civilions do in all wars, to save their lives and protect their children and also because, in some places, Israel practiced what is now called ethnic cleansing"

Jeremy Bowen in his book "Six days"

Most were left destitute and ended up in refugee camps while some rebuilt their lives and prosperity elsewhere.


Symbol of the Key


Photo Credit: © Amnesty International/Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR

The Key is a widely used symbol of the Nakba, as many Palestinians kept the keys to their homes when they were forced into exile in 1948. 

It did not end there. Israel has been confiscating Palestinian land and bulldozing Palestinian homes with complete impunity. These lands are being used to build illegal settlements to house Israeli citizens, while Palestinians become homeless. 



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The Nakba happened in 1945 however it stemed from the emergence of the Zionist movement founded by Theodore Herlz (1860-1904) in 1896.

Zionism can be defined as a political movement. The first Zionist congress convened in Basel in 1897 with 200 delegates from all over Europe. They called for the estbalishment of an exclusive homeland for the Jewish people. This, according to Herlz, would consitute a "solution for the Jewish question" and emancipate the Jewsih people from presecution.

Zionism therefore, was not born out of Judaism but out of the European nationalism of the late 19th century.

Though some of the movement’s pioneers initially supported a Jewish state in places such as Uganda and Argentina, they eventually called for for building a state in Palestine based on the biblical concept that the Holy Land was promised to the Jews by God.

The issue however was that Palestine was already inhabited and the question of what to do about the native Palestinian Arabs took up much of the early discussions of the Zionist movement. The consensus was that the Palestinian natives  needed to be removed either by agreement or by force.

From 1882 onwards, thousands of Eastern European and Russian Jews began settling in Palestine; pushed by the anti-Semitic persecution and pogroms they were facing in the Russian Empire, and the appeal of Zionism.

In the 1880s, the community of Palestinian Jews, known as the Yishuv, amounted to three percent of the total population. In contrast to the Zionist Jews who would arrive in Palestine later, the original Yishuv did not aspire to build a modern Jewish state in Palestine.

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British Involvment

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1517-1914), the British occupied Palestine as part of the secret Sykes-Picot treaty of 1916 between Britain and France to divvy up the Middle East for imperial interests.

In 1917, before the start of the British Mandate (1920-1947), the British issued the Balfour Declaration, promising to help the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, essentially vowing to give away a country that was not theirs to give.

Read more: AlJazeera


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Why do Palestinians commemorate the Nakba on May 15?

The British occupation authorities had announced that they would be ending their mandate in Palestine on the eve of May 15, 1948. Eight hours earlier, David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel’s first prime minister, announced what the Zionist leaders called a declaration of independence in Tel Aviv.

The British Mandate ended at midnight, and on May 15, the Israeli state came into being.

While Israel celebrates May 15 as its day of independence, the Palestinian people commemorate the Nakba on that day.

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Horrors of the Nakba

In less than six months, from December 1947 to mid-May 1948, Zionist armed groups expelled about 440,000 Palestinians from 220 villages.

Before May 15, some of the most infamous massacres had already been committed; the Baldat al-Sheikh massacre on December 31, 1947, killing up to 70 Palestinians; the Sa’sa’ massacre on February 14, 1948, when 16 houses were blown up and 60 people lost their lives; and the Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948, when about 110 Palestinian men, women and children were slaughtered.

By the first half of 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians in total were forcibly expelled or fled outside of their homeland. Zionist forces had committed about 223 atrocities by 1949, including massacres, attacks such as bombings of homes, looting, the destruction of property and entire villages.

Some 150,000 Palestinians remained in the areas of Palestine that became part of the Israeli state. Of the 150,000, some 30,000 to 40,000 were internally displaced.

Like the 750,000 who were displaced beyond the borders of the new state, Israel prohibited internally displaced Palestinians from returning to their homes.

In the years that followed the establishment of Israel, the state extended its systematic ethnic cleansing. Though armistice agreements had been signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in 1949, the newly founded Israeli army committed a number of additional massacres and campaigns of forced displacement.

For example, in 1950, the remaining 2,500 Palestinian residents of the city of Majdal were forced into the Gaza Strip, about 2,000 inhabitants of Beer el-Sabe were expelled to the West Bank, and some 2,000 residents of two northern villages were driven into Syria.

By the mid-1950s, the Palestinian population inside Israel had become about 195,000. Between 1948 and the mid-1950s, some 30,000, or 15 percent of the population, were expelled outside the borders of the new state, according to the BADIL refugee rights group. 


The Nakba

Deir Yassin

Naser Al-Din 

Lest we forget

My Beit Daras, my Nakba: Two Palestinian intellectuals reminiscing about their destroyed village


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  • ummtaalib changed the title to The Story of the people of Palestine

Is the Nakba over?



While the Zionist project fulfilled its dream of creating “a Jewish homeland” in Palestine in 1948, the process of ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians never stopped.

The more than three million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem face home demolitionsarbitrary arrests, and displacement as Israel expands the 100-plus Jewish-only colonies and steals Palestinian land to do so. Palestinian movement is restricted by military checkpoints and the Separation Wall that has obstructed their ability to travel freely.




The Nakba is not just one historical event. It’s a process that began with the formation of Zionism in the late 19th century and still continues today

American Muslims for Palestine




"I am the result of this story. I carry that Nakba on me all the time, 24 hours a day, wherever I am"

Amer Hlehel


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Life in occupied Palestine


Confisicating Palestinian land to build Jewish  Settlements


Gilo, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, separated by a wall from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

                                                                                                         © Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com




There are hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and flying checkpoints in the West Bank, and between Israel and the West Bank where Palestinians must show proof of identification and be searched [Reuters]


The Wall

israeli wall.jpg

In 2002, Israel started constructing the wall, slicing through Palestinian communities, agricultural fields, and farmland. The people of Palestine cannot move freely from one city to another due to the barrier

The wall has been described by Israeli officials as a necessary security precaution against “terrorism.” Palestinians, however, have decried it as an Israeli mechanism to annex Palestinian territory as it is built deep within the West Bank and not along the 1967 Green Line, the generally recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank.

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The Nakba Ongoing....

Save Silwan

Save Sheikh Jarrah

Stories from Gaza

Arresting & Detaining Palestinians called "Operation law and order"

Storming Al-Aqsa

Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday and fired rubber-coated rounds, tear gas, and sound bombs at Palestinian worshippers


The Village of Lifta


Lifta was a Palestinian Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The village was depopulated during the early part of the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. In July 2017 Israel declared Lifta (called Mei Neftoach) as a national nature reserve. Now to house new Israeli neighborhood


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  • ummtaalib changed the title to The Story of the People of Palestine

Mapping Israeli occupation


In the following series of graphics Al Jazeera describes why Israel’s military occupation of Palestine remains at the core of this decades-long conflict and how Israeli colonialism shapes every part of Palestinians’ lives












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