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What is the Nakba?

The Nakba is the Palestinian term for the events of 1948 that established the state of Israel. It means “the catastrophe” in Arabic, underscoring the fact that some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for the new state and over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed.

The official history of Israel has often falsified the actual story or told it in a manner to legitimize the occupation of Palestinian land and the displacement of Palestinians. Since the last decades of the twentieth century, however, Israeli revisionist historians have brought the facts to light. Their works include Simha Flappan's The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities; Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949; Avi Shlaim’s Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine, and The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World; Ilan PappĂ©’s Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948–51 and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine; and Tom Segev’s One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate.

These histories confirm the reality of Palestine's historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing. The purpose of these histories is not to demonize Israel or to “delegitimize” it but rather to recognize the injustice done to Palestinians in the creation and maintenance of the State of Israel. Ultimately, as this historical context comes to light in the West, it should lead to a more accurate perspective on the situation.  

In June 1967 Israel defeated Egypt and occupied the West Bank, the Syrian Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip. Palestinians call this the “Naksa,” the “setback,” because some 400,000 were displaced, half of them refugees from 1948. Many say that the Nakba has never ended, that it was repeated in dramatic fashion in 1967, but continues inside Israel and within the occupied territories today, with land confiscation and ethnic cleansing of entire villages. Immediately after the Naksa, Israel began to colonize the West Bank and East Jerusalem.