This May will mark 70 years since the beginning of the Nakba- the mass displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. There are now more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees struggling with poverty. In the lead up to Nakba Day, we’ve listed ten things everyone should know about about their ongoing displacement.
- Nakba means “catastrophe” in Arabic
Palestinians refer to the destruction of their society and the takeover of their homeland during the Arab-Israeli War (between November 1947 and July 1949) as al-Nakba, “The Catastrophe”, “the Disaster”. But unlike a natural catastrophe, the Nakba was the result of a military plan to establish the state of Israel on what Zionists claimed was “a land without people”.
- The Nakba is marked on 15th May.
On the 14th of May 1948, Britain declared an end to the Mandate of Palestine, and withdrew from the country. That same day, Israel declared its independence. On the 15th May the neighbouring Arab countries rejected the declaration and invaded Israel.
- An estimated 500 villages and towns were destroyed.
The villages and towns were depopulated and demolished by the Israeli forces to prevent the return of the refugees. Many people locked up their homes, taking their keys with them, hopeful they would return soon. They lost their belongings, their farms, their businesses. Their whole lives were gone.
- 750,000 Palestinians were displaced
An estimated 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children fled or were driven out of their homes by the Israeli militia.
- UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) was created to respond to the needs of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees
Since its creation in December 1949, UNRWA has been responding to the humanitarian needs of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes during the Nakba. Today UNRWA still provides education, healthcare and social services to over 5 million refugees. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.
- By January 1949, the new state of Israel had annexed 78% of Palestine.
Fighting continued until armistice agreements were signed in January 1949. At this time, Israel has annexed 78% of Palestine, with Jordan taking control of the West Bank and Egypt taking control of Gaza. Historic Palestine disappeared from the world map.
- The Naksa in 1967 is also marked by Palestinians
In 1967, following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day war, more than 400,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land, marking the second expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. As a result of the war, Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were previously annexed by Jordan and controlled by Egypt, respectively.
- Today 1.3 million Palestinians live in Israel as Israeli citizens
Although citizens of the new state of Israel, the Palestinians who remained in Israel were subject to Israeli military rule until 1966. Today 1.3 million Palestinians live in Israel as Israeli citizens (they represent around 20% of Israel’s population); they are subjected to discriminatory laws on a daily basis.
- There are 7.2 million Palestinian refugees in the world today
There are about 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. Around 5 million of these refugees and their descendants are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), while over 1.7 million are not. One third of the registered refugees live in the 58 UN refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The majority of the rest live in and around cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and of neighbouring countries.
- Palestinian refugees do not have the right to return
After the Nakba, Palestinians were prevented from returning to their land by the newly formed state of Israel. This is still the case today, despite being in direct contravention of international law which has repeatedly reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to return home. Many of them still carry keys to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948.
How you can help
By making a small donation today, you can provide a vital lifeline of support to some of the most vulnerable refugee families.
To donate, please visit interpal.org or call 020 8961 9993