66th Nakba anniversary: Palestinians in agony while Israelis celebrate

Ahram Online, AFP, Thursday 15 May 2014

While Israelis commemorate the founding of Israel, Palestinians mark 15 May as the anniversary of a colonial settler project and war — now in its 66th year — to expel them from their own land

In this 1968 photo from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, archive, Palestinian refugees have just arrived in east Jordan in a continuing exodus of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Photo:AP)

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe) — the day they were displaced from their homeland by the creation of the State of Israel.

The same day — 15 May — Palestinians remember as a catastrophe, Israelis celebrate the founding of their state.

These celebrations reflect the joy of many Jews who view Israel as the guarantor of more than 60 years of freedom after periods of persecution culminating in the Holocaust.

Palestinians, however, mourn their land lost, and the right of return remains a strong demand among a large majority of Palestinians.

More than 780,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homeland in 1948, during what Israelis see as a war of independence and Palestinians see as a colonial settler project. The tragedy continues today, with millions of Palestinians remaining refugees and ongoing military raids and the siege of Gaza.

As AFP reported, this year's remembrance comes after a new blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.

US-brokered negotiations fell apart in April, the latest in more than two decades of unsuccessful efforts to establish a Palestinian state neighbouring Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, two weeks after US-backed negotiations collapsed, the deadlock in peace talks with the Palestinians was likely to carry on.

Lieberman accused Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of having "no interest to reach a deal with Israel, no matter what Israel offers him," noting past proposals of Israeli land concessions Abbas had "turned down," AFP reports.

Amid the collapse of negotiations, Abbas's Fatah movement has come to terms with adversaries Hamas in a political reconciliation accord that has alarmed Washington and infuriated Tel Aviv.

"President Abbas outlined his plans for a new technocratic Palestinian government, committed to the Quartet principles, including non-violence and the recognition of Israel," a Downing Street spokesman said.

Last year on the 65th anniversary of Nakba, Palestinians carried 65 torches through the streets of Ramallah to mark the event, "while hundreds of others gathered around a stage to hear the Palestinian National Forces band play their instruments" Al-Jazeera reported.

This year, the Palestinian Authority plans on holding a festival in Ramallah.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett spoke on Thursday against expressions of Palestinian nationalism within Israel, saying, "We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day."

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