The Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West bank and the Gaza Strip commemorate the 67th anniversary of Nakba Friday. Meaning the “catastrophe,” Nakba refers to the brutal displacement of millions of Palestinians as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Several rallies in Israel and the Palestinian territories are scheduled to take place after the Friday noon prayer. Many mosques have been advised by the Palestinian authorities to devote their Friday prayer's sermons to raising awareness about the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside the Green Line.
“We don’t accept a Palestinian state based on the 1976 borders, because Palestine was not occupied in 1967, the Palestinian territories were occupied in 1948 and we the people of Palestine have the full right to fight for our land and our rights. We in the Islamic Jihad believe that what was taken by force can only be brought back by force,” Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Albatsh told teleSUR’s correspondent in Gaza, Noor Harazeen at the march in Gaza on Friday.
As the anniversary this year falls on a Friday, a religious holiday in Palestine when people do not work and schools are closed because they engage in Muslim prayers, thousands instead joined marches and protests Wednesday to mark the May 15 Nakba anniversary.
A woman carrying a placard with the name of her former village, Bet Nabala, shouted during a march in Ramallah, “We will return even if we have to wait another 67 years. If we don’t return, our children or grandchildren will return.”
Harazeen reported on Friday that Israeli forces had attacked peaceful marches, and according to Palestinian medical sources, at least 21 Palestinian youth have been injured by Israeli tear gas bombs and rubber bullets.
The Israeli Police said Friday it was ready to counter any “violence” after Friday prayers at mosques in Israel and the territories. However, during last year's Nakba Day, two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli Border Police near Ramallah, prompting an investigation and claims that Israeli soldiers used live bullets against protesters.
Inside Israel, however, the 1.7 million Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship are finding it increasingly difficult to commemorate the Nakba. The "Nakba Law," enacted in 2011 authorizes Israel's finance minister to revoke funding from institutions that reject Israel's character as a "Jewish state," or mark the country's independence day as a day of mourning.
Rights groups in Israel argue that the law is a suppression of free speech and intended to deny historical facts.
"The Nakba Law is part of an atmosphere to suppress the Nakba narrative and a discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees," Liat Rosenberg, director of Zochrot, told Al Jazeera. "These are right-wing, anti-democratic efforts [that] continue to create an atmosphere of fear and suppress this issue from the public discourse."
Zochrot is an Israeli nongovernmental organization, which aims to keep the memory of the 1948 events alive. It promotes the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
While it highlights the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis in 1948, the Nakba also serves as a reminder that for the past 67 years, Israel has continued to deny more than 7 million Palestinian refugees the right of return to their ancestral homes, in violation of international humanitarian law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and dozens of United Nations resolutions issued since 1948.