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Thursday, May 15, 2008


Ongoing Nakba Until Return

Petra Roth, Frankfurts Oberbuergermeisterin; Israel's Ambassador to Germany, Yoram Ben Zeev; Bundestags President, Norbert Lammert; Charolotte Knobloch, Central Council of Jews in Germany; Johannes Gerster, German-Israel Partnership, celebrate the only democracy in the Middle East in Frankfurts Paulskirche.
And, around the corner, Palestinians think about the past and the ongoing Nakba, or Catastrophe, that Israel's democracy bequeathed to them.

To the left is a picture that I took in Frankfurt yesterday. I went there to think about the Nakba with Palestinians and friends of Palestine. We were gathered in the Roemerberg while just footsteps away in the historic Paulskirche, eight hundred invited people gathered, including Bundestag president Norbert Lammert and the Oberbuergermeisterin of Frankfurt, Petra Roth, to celebrate Israel's Sixtieth Birthday. According to several speakers at the birthday bash, Paulskirche was chosen because of its historic link with democracy, Israel being, as we all know, the only democracy in the Middle East.

Although I found several stories in the press about the gala at Paulskirche, as to be expected since several press vans were parked right outside the church, only one TV station mentioned anything about the Gedenken Ueber die Nakba (Thoughts About the Nakba) gathering, and it was not accurate information. It merited one sentence at the end of a birthday bash story:

"Unweit der Paulskirche auf dem Frankfurter Römerberg demonstrierten am Mittwochabend einige Menschen gegen die Besetzung des Gazastreifens durch Israel. Manche Demonstranten trugen palästinensische Fahnen mit sich. "

Translation: Not far from Pauls Church in Frankfurt's Roemerberg a few people demonstated against Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip. Many demonstators carried Palestinian flags.

Contrary to the reporter, the people gathered were not demonstrators, rather those who had come to reflect upon Al-Nakba, the catastrophe that befell Palestinians not really sixty years ago, more like one hundred and ten years ago when Theodor Herzl, the so-called father of Zionism, wrote in his diary, "Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly. "

Were the well-dressed notables in the Church associated with democracy celebrating Herzl's not so democratic words?

And while most of the speakers mentioned Gaza's malnourished children (were the city fathers and mothers in Pauls Church celebrating that?), the main focus throughout the afternoon was reflection upon the five hundred and thirty-one villages Israel wiped out in 1948.

I saw from a distance spiffily dressed waiters and waitresses serving wine to the honorable guests gathered in the symbol of democracy to celebrate the only democracy in the Middle East; maybe the recipients of the elegant repast were toasting the destruction of the villages and the expulsion of its inhabitants that cleared the way for the light unto the nations. A veritable phoenix, except that the so-called Jewish state did not rise upon its own ashes, but on the ashes of a once vibrant Palestinian society.

Around the corner, we remembered the villages, whose names and former population statistics appeared on the stage screen. We also released 531 black balloons with the names and numbers of the ethnically cleansed citizens attached. That was a sad moment for me, heightened by the music of the Palestinian anthem, which took on a mournful tone. I was quite moved by a stirring, impassioned German reading of Mahmud Darwish's Identity Card, was enchanted by the beautiful smile of the Palestinian dancer from the University of Freiburg, and was hopeful because parents brought their children, some products of mixed German and Palestinian marriages.

Young men, old men, veiled women and unveiled women proudly and energetically waved Palestinian flags as we sang the Palestinian National Anthem. A woman spontaneosly sang for the re-unification of the warring political factions. Parents shadowed their playful toddlers, who also waved little flags. This morning I watched a BBC World interview with a seventy-eight year old Gaza refugee. He told of Zionists who at gunpoint forced the expelled refugees to continue walking, forcing them to leave the people who died on the way unburied. But a small price to pay for the tony Paulskirche revelers celebrating and often touting the technological achievements of the democracy.

And while the refugee interviewed is not sure of his prospects for returning home to be buried in the land of his birth (another cause for celebration), he is certain of return. "We will never forget," he says. "Never. We will return. I taught this to my children and to my grandchildren."

'We will forget the bitter days," the poet Issa Chacour, refugee from Kafr Bir'im says. "We will return contented. We will forget the bitter days."

Palestinians are redefining Al-Nakba as not only the catastrophe which resulted in the destruction of Palestinian society as we'd known it, but also as the realization that the catastrophe is on-going, and fighting it by reasserting again and again that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to all people and that those world leaders who celebrate Israel's violation of it are to be condemned in the strongest terms. To that end, the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60, declared today that there is "no alternative to the right of return."

"After 60 years of expulsion, exile and refuge; after 60 years of international impotence, and the failure of international organizations to enforce their own decisions; and after 60 years of Israeli arrogance, we declare that the commemoration of the Nakba as of today will be nothing but a date to renew our commitment to struggle until we achieve our return to our original homes and lands. We declare the return to be the program of our struggle, and not just a demand, and will continue as such until the end of the Nakba, "whether they like it or not" as Yasser Arafat once said. We shall return."

Let us not loose hope. Let us be strong. Let us unite. Let us be storng to face difficulties. I hope on this year all Palestinians should VOW, to never forget.

Let us intensify the efforts for the LOVE of Palestine. Do your part and perform your responsibility toward the Palestinian human rights. Silence is complicity, no actions means approval.
Mark you calendar for May 23-25 where we assert the Palestinian National rights. We will say it loud that we will never forget. Palestinians are the Key holders of peace. Join the thousands and strengthen the network of the thousands of activists. Express your opinion and let the many panelists know of where Palestine should go. Support our efforts to empower our community and assert the Palestinians right of return. Join the many Palestinian Americans and their supporters in Chicago commemorating the 60th year of the forced exile of the Palestinian people. Be pro active, ask questions to the Panelists and discuss the current event. We must empower ourselves and make a strong network for Justice, Peace and Freedom. Be pro active. Enough talks, Register NOW
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