Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic. The most dramatic event for the Palestinians. The term refers to the 1948 war when Israel fought against several Arab countries. At the time, around 700 thousand Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and become war refugees (ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT, FOLLOW THE UPDATES LIVE).
The 1948 war
The “Nakba” is remembered by Palestinians every year on May 15, one day after the founding of the state of Israel. At the time, Jews persecuted in Europe fled to Palestine. With the end of the war, the UN made a partition plan: 56% of the territory was to go to the Jews and the rest to the Palestinians. Jerusalem remained neutral territory. The Jewish leadership accepted the UN proposal, and on May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, who became prime minister, declared the founding of the state of Israel. The United States and the Soviet Union recognized the new state. The Palestinians, however, rejected the resolution because Palestine had been Arab territory for centuries. In the following days, a coalition of Arab states attacked Israel. The Israeli army counterattacked, conquering huge portions of territory that the UN had attributed to the Palestinians. Following Israel’s victory, hundreds of villages were destroyed and approximately 700,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes.
The escape from Palestine
The Israelis, therefore, found themselves controlling a much larger territory than the plan proposed by the UN envisaged: they also had the Acre region near the border with Lebanon, the Negev desert in the south of the country and a band of territory between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The trouble is that these territories were inhabited by thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Many of them were forced to flee, others were expelled by the Israeli army. An example among all is Jaffa, a historic Arab city, which became a neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the Israeli city founded in 1909. In Haifa, another Arab port city, dozens of Palestinian villages were destroyed and repopulated by Israeli settlements.
The inability to return home
At the end of 1948 the UN declared a new resolution guaranteeing the Palestinians “the right of return” to their homes but Israel did not accept the decision. Even before the war, many Jews who arrived in Israel believed that it would be easier for Palestinians to move to a neighboring Arab state. Today it is impossible for Palestinians to return to their homes, given that in the meantime they have been demolished and replaced by other homes or never rebuilt.