T. Namaya: Why I am observing the Nakba Day

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Tonight, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Nakba Committee of Brattleboro will observe Nakba Day at the River Garden in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The Nakba is the catastrophe for Palestinians; it was the day the state of Israel was founded. While the founding of the state of Israel was a dream for many Jews, it began the destruction of the Palestinian people, their cities and villages, and their homes.

During the 1948 war, more than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced. More than 1,100 Palestinian villages were destroyed. Seventy-eight percent of their land was taken. Palestinians who had lived on these lands for generations, much like the Diaspora of Jews, were forced to flee.

Now, in Lebanon, there are over 500,000 displaced Palestinians, stateless and still with their dream of returning home to the land of their grandparents. In Jordan, more than 50 percent of the population is originally from the Palestinian homeland and there are over half a million displaced Palestinians in refugee camps. It is guesstimated that there are some nine million Palestinians around the globe.

However, Palestinians are not allowed to return to the land of their birth, the land of their parents and grandparents. It is one of the profound ironies, that we, as Jews who have suffered for 2,000 years in the Diaspora, should now inflict this Diaspora on the Palestinian people.

The Nakba Day is not anti-Jewish. It is opposed to Zionism, the right-wing facism of Netanyahu and the Zionist government. United States taxpayers give approximately $3.5 billion a year to support the military occupation of Palestine and the destruction of the Palestinian people and their homelands. Senator Sanders has said, "The Zionist and Netanyahu are right wing facists."

The Knesset has legislated that only Jews can be truly considered to be Israelis. However, in Israel, 30 percent of the population is Muslim and Christian Palestinians are second class citizens. I have traveled throughout Israel and the West Bank. The system of apartheid is apparent at every turn. Palestinian homes and farms are arbitrarily destroyed and taken over by the Israeli government.There are roads that are for Israeli Jews only. Buses are segregated between Palestinian and Israeli.

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I've recently returned from several months in South Africa, where I studied the history of apartheid. It is clear: Israel has created a brutal apartheid system. Nelson Mandela was a staunch advocate of the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom. Israeli soldiers routinely shoot civilians in Gaza from the top of the separation wall. The separation wall, more than 27 feet high and hundreds of miles long, endeavors to separate Israelis and Palestinians. It is ironic, that we Jews who were forced to live in ghettos, have now built ghettos.

My personal reasons for supporting Nakba day is based on my Jewish family's journey out of Eastern Europe. When I visited the Holocaust Memorial in Budapest, I ran my fingers over the names of extended family who perished there. The same in Vienna: At one of the oldest synagogues, the names of my family were there.

I ask, "How can we Jews who have suffered so much, not be a just people?"

The are many organizations of Jews, Christians and non-faith groups who are supporting Nakba Day on May 15. Our endeavor is to shine a light on the horrific living conditions of Gaza, the complete denial of human rights for Palestinians, and the daily takeover of Palestinian land for Israeli settlers.

There can be no peace unless there is a true and just peace for the people of Palestine. This Wednesday at the River Garden, our keynote speaker is Faisal Salah, the founder of the Palestine Museum US whose family home and farm that had been in the family for generations was taken by the Israeli government. Dr. Janaki Natarajan, distinguished professor of social change, will also speak.

Please join us for Nakba Day as we commemorate the past and engage in a conversation about a just and true peace in Palestine and Israel.

T. Namaya is the founder and director of B4 Peace Arts, a Brattleboro-based organization that uses art at the community level to engage communities in their own peacebuilding process. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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