Remembering al Nakba يوم النكبة

The last time I protested was also over Palestine. It was the only time I've participated in a protest in a foreign country. This week - on the 15th - commemorates the 60th anniversary of al Nakba, The Catastrophe, when 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from Western Palestine. It also commemorates the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel.

I and a mixture of Arabs, Jews, and European-Americans gathered around Benaroya Hall in Seattle, where a number of people were attending a celebration of the creation of the State of Israel. There were numerous police about, both inside and outside Benaroya Hall. I saw some of them on very friendly terms with the Israeli supporters, exchanging hugs as they waited for the celebration to begin.

We set up mock coffins, signs, and representations of houses to show the crumbling state of homes in the West Bank, as the Israeli government destroys houses and takes lands.

Someone had the brilliant idea of writing the names of some of the hundreds of towns destroyed during al Nakba. They were chalked all over the streets around Benaroya Hall. I began writing the names of some of the towns in Arabic, and others with better writing than I followed suit. Anyone walking by, getting off the bus, or walking into the celebration for Israel now had to see the names of the towns obliterated by ethnic cleansing.

In masks with painted tears and Palestinian scarves (keffiyas) around the shoulders we showed our solidarity. For most of the time I stood alone at one of the entrances to the hall, symbolizing the standing of the Palestinians in the international community. It began to be cold so I wrapped the keffiya in the traditional manner around my head, and stood there in black trenchcoat with the crying mask over the keffiya. Occasionally the Israel supporters inside would look over.

And this was largely our goal. In a completely nonviolent manner, we hoped that those celebrating Israel's birth would realize the violence that was part of that birth. We stood aside to make sure they could freely get in to the celebration, and some greeted them in a jovial manner. Others like myself stood it silent witness. Most Zionists ignored us until they got inside. Some made insulting remarks as they walked in; a very few pushed some of the women wearing hijab. It can't have been easy for them. They have a great love for their country, and a strong commitment to the morality of their cause. It is difficult to be confronted with anything that would suggest that there is some ambiguity to that morality.


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