Head off new Nakbas

A Palestinian boy holds up a sign that reads in Arabic, "The 66th anniversary of the Nakba" during a rally at Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2014, to mark the 66th anniversary of the "Nakba" (catastrophe) on May 15. (AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB)

In mid-May Palestinians around the world will mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe” that led to the establishment of the state of Israel by staging folklore events such as parades, marches and speeches.

Most of these events are no more than exercises in bombast, whether of the verbal or visual kind, and in some cases, they involve provocation – directed at either rival Palestinian organizations or the authorities in countries hosting refugees.

But this year’s anniversary comes at a particularly depressing time for the Palestinian cause. As Israel continues, undeterred, its policy of settlements, imprisonment and stalling any meaningful peace negotiations, Palestinians in the vicinity are reeling. In Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, security conditions have deteriorated alarmingly in the wake of attempted and successful assassinations of officials.

In the Burj al-Barajneh camp, longtime residents are complaining about the massive influx of fellow Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk camp in Damascus – the “locals” claim that the “outsiders” are ruining things.

And in the Yarmouk camp itself, a humanitarian catastrophe of monumental proportions has unfolded over the last few years.

Palestinians should take a break from the exercise of commemorating the Nakba of 1947, because in 2014, a bit of reflection and seriousness is in order. The old public events could be sacrificed in favor of something constructive, such as coming up with a way to cement current reconciliation efforts among leading Palestinian factions, reduce tension in the camps and give full attention to Syria.

While it is important to commemorate the seminal event in modern Palestinian history, no efforts should be spared to confront the new Nakbas that are on the horizon, or already here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2014, on page 7.




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