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Exhibit of iconic 1948 photos — ‘The Long Journey’ — opens today in NYC

 on January 23, 2015 

The UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees has opened a new digital archive including many images from the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled by or fled the Zionist army and militias when the state of Israel was established in Palestine.

And Alwan for the Arts in New York and UNRWA USA are honoring the archive with an exhibition in New York of iconic photographs from 1948 through to the present day. The exhibit opens today downtown and will run for three weeks, culminating in an auction of photos on the night of Thursday February 12.

The exhibition is called “The Long Journey,” and you can see it for free any afternoon during the week from 2-5. The press release is below. Here is a preview of some of these wrenching photos, which will some day be inscribed in American consciousness the way that photos of the Jewish experience of eastern Europe are.

This one is very famous. We often hear the words “forced into the sea” — these people had that experience.

Iconic UNRWA photo of Palestinian refugees

Or this one could be viewed with a reading from S. Yizhar’s book Khirbet Khizeh, in which he describes the noble/defiant expression on the face of a Palestinian woman being forced to leave her village and get into a transport truck:

UNRWA photograph from  1948

The children’s photo at the top of this post is reminiscent in its beauty and innocence of Annemarie Jacir’s great movie, When I Saw You, about militant refugees in Jordan. Is it any surprise that many of these young people became radicalized, and built their lives around the idea of getting their homes and country back?

Here is the press release from UNRWA USA:

UNRWA USA, in partnership with Alwan for the Arts, presents “The Long Journey,” a collection of historical photographs (1948-2014) from the Archives of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, recently exhibited at the UN Headquarters.

On view at Alwan:
Friday, January 23 -February 12, 2015
Monday through Friday
2pm-6pm daily, or by appointment

In this 1967 photo from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, archive, Palestine refugees flee across over the Jordan river on the damaged Allenby Bridge during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Closing Reception & Charity Auction:
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Photographs to be auctioned with all proceeds/reception donations benefiting UNRWA’s Gaza emergency relief fund. (Donations through UNRWA USA are tax-deductible.)

Free and open to the public

The Long Journey is an exhibition that recounts the life and history of the Palestine refugees since 1948 through a selection of iconic pictures and films from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)’s archives. The exhibition draws public attention on human stories and the works of UNRWA in the Middle East.

In this exhibit, UNRWA unveils the first part of its newly digitized archive, which consists of over half a million negatives, prints, slides, films and videocassettes covering all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees from 1948 to the present day. The first group of iconic photographs are part of the exhibition, The Long Journey, which opens on 23 January, 2015, at Alwan for the Arts in Lower Manhattan.

UNRWA’s archive has been inscribed on the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ register, which includes collections of outstanding cultural and historical significance. In tandem with the digitized archive, UNRWA is also launching a website,, where the 1,948 images will be available to media, academics, writers and others who wish to study, explore or just have a window into the world of Palestine refugees from 1948 to the present day.

The Long Journey is organized and endorsed by UNRWA USA.

The following video “The Long Journey” records Lebanese photographer and filmmaker George Nehmeh, whose iconic footage and photography from Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon working for UNRWA from the 60’s through the 90’s is displayed in this exhibit, as he retraces his steps years later.

Al-Nakba – Episode 1


‘It is beautiful… not a single Arab to be seen’

Yousef Munayyer
Yousef Munayyer
Yousef Munayyer is a writer and political analyst based in Washington, DC.
Israel is isolating its Arab citizens, despite its claims to democracy.

Palestinians under occupation and in the diaspora alike commemorate Nakba Day [AFP]

Washington, DC –
Lydda, a city home to some 20,000 Palestinians in 1948 quickly swelled to a population of 50,000 as refugees flocked from the cleansed city of Jaffa. After four days of siege, Israeli forces carried out expulsion orders during Operation Dani, leaving fewer than 1,000 residents remaining.

Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli Brigadier General at the time, described how they perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and neighbouring Ramle in July of 1948. To this day, however, the Israeli state prevents this description from being printed in Rabin’s memoirs.

I often wonder what must have been going through my grandfather’s head when he, and others among the few who managed to remain, realised the busy municipality that they had once called home had been reduced to a ghost town.

Perhaps they were in shock, an understandable reaction, given the circumstances. Perhaps they were busy attempting to care for the injured, of which there were plenty. Or maybe they were trying to secure their possessions from Israeli looters who ravaged the vacant homes and stores of businessmen-turned-refugees overnight. Israeli historians, such as Tom Segev, note that 1,800 trucks of possessions were looted from Lydda alone.

Once the dust cleared and the shock subsided, reality must have begun to set in. In a few months’ time, the Palestinian Arabs had gone from being a majority living in their ancestral homeland, albeit amid tension, to being a minority living under a state that had just made refugees out of most of their kin and would refuse them re-entry.

Legalising theft

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, like Palestinians elsewhere, the Nakba was just beginning. The looting which took place was also a preliminary glimpse into the theft of land, property and identity that would ensue in the coming years.

Ironically, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who Rabin said ordered the expulsion of Palestinians during Operation Dani, expressed shock that Israelis were simply stealing the possessions of Palestinians in Lydda and elsewhere. How he reconciled a moral defence of ethnic cleansing with moral outrage at looting is beyond my comprehension.

Yaacov Shapire, an Israeli attorney in 1946, did not mince words when criticising these laws used by the British against the Zionists at the time and likened them to Nazi Germnay. Two years later, Shapira… would adopt these very laws to rule over the Arab minority.

Nonetheless, with the establishment of the state of Israel on the ruins of Palestine, theft had to be disguised by legalisms. Prior to the war, Jewish ownership of land in Palestine was minimal. Now, after the depopulation, the vast majority of land controlled by the Jewish state was not owned by Jews and many of the owners now resided in refugee camps.

To solve this predicament, the Israeli legislature enacted various laws which allowed the state to assume control of 92 per cent of the land. The first step was using a century old Ottoman law (two-empires old at this point) to declare the land “absentee land”. This meant that the owners of the land were not present (because they were refugees not permitted to return) and that the state could assume control of it.

But refugees weren’t the only ones dispossessed by this measure. Palestinians who managed to remain inside the boundaries of the new Israeli state but were prevented from living on their land became internally displaced persons (IDPs). These IDPs falling victim to Israel’s legalised land theft are known as “present absentees”.

Martial law

With their society decimated, their family members and kin spread across the region in refugee camps from Lebanon to Jordan to Gaza, their properties looted and land confiscated, Palestinian citizens of Israel had to deal with another reality in the wake of the Nakba: living under martial law.

Israeli martial law, which governed Palestinian Arabs from the establishment of the state to 1966, was based on British Mandate-era emergency regulations. In the 1930s, the British used these regulations as the framework for the repression of the Palestinian Arab uprisings. Then in the 1940s, the British used them to crack down against Zionist dissidents. For this reason, such regulations were decried by Zionists prior to the establishment of the state. Yaacov Shapira, an Israeli attorney in 1946, did not mince words when criticising these laws used by the British against the Zionists at the time and likened them to Nazi Germany. Two years later, Shapira would be serving as the attorney general for the first Israeli government and would adopt these very laws to rule over the Arab minority.

Martial law was similar in many ways to the occupation we know today. During this period, the military government was empowered to deport people from their towns or villages, summon any person to a police station at any time or put under house arrest, use administrative detention or incarceration without charge, confiscate property, impose total or partial curfew, forbid or restrict movement and so on.

This, keep in mind, was not happening in Hebron or Nablus or Ramallah, this was taking place in what many today romanticise as the golden age of “democratic” Israel – inside the green line.

I enjoy it, especially when travelling between Haifa and Tel Aviv, and there is not a single Arab to be seen.– Israeli member of the MAPAI secretariat

Discriminatory laws

After the depopulation, an Israeli member of the MAPAI secretariat remarked in 1949: “The landscape is also more beautiful. I enjoy it, especially when travelling between Haifa and Tel Aviv, and there is not a single Arab to be seen.”

It is this kind of drive for ethnic homogeneity, present since the founding of the Israeli state, that underpins many of the laws that discriminate against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens. A Jew from anywhere in the world, for example, can move to Israel – while a Palestinian Arab refugee, born within the present-day borders of Israel is not permitted to return. Likewise, laws also prevent Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who have non-citizen Palestinian spouses from residing in Israel as a family. This is to prevent what the Israeli prime minister termed “demographic spillover”. This restricts the population of Palestinian citizens of Israel from marrying from most of their kin because doing so would mean either having to live separately or living outside of Israel.

Budgetary spending is also discriminatory. Despite making up over 20 per cent of the population, Palestinian citizens of Israel have watched the state build hundreds of new towns for Israeli Jews, while a handful were built for the Palestinians. Even these towns, such as Rahat, were built in part to concentrate Palestinian Bedouin from unrecognised villages. Many Palestinian Bedouin villages remain unrecognised by the Israeli state, are not provided with civil resources and are left off the electric grid. Al-Arakib, a village in the Negev, has, as of this writing, been demolished by Israeli officials, and rebuilt by its residents, some 38 times.

Lingering in the psyche

Indeed, the Nakba is the central and uniting experience of Palestinians everywhere. It comes as no surprise then that Palestinian citizens of Israel alive today, who did not experience the Nakba first hand,still have political views shaped by the events of 1948.

Polls of Palestinian citizens of Israel, performed as recently as 2010, uncovered interesting trends in the views of respondents based on whether they have relatives who were refugees. Those who have refugee relatives were almost three times as likely to identify as Palestinian first (instead of Arab, Muslim or Israeli) than those who did not. They are twice as likely to support Iran’s right to a nuclear program, twice as likely to reject Israel’s defining itself as a “Jewish State” and twice as likely to oppose a loyalty oath to the state of Israel.

For Palestinians in Israel, it is clear that the Nakba still lingers as a major factor, determining their views toward the state that governs them.

In sum, the Nakba and its implications has, since the transformative events of 1948, continued to directly impact the Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. While Palestinians exist across various borders as refugees, residents or citizens of different states, the Nakba continues to be the tie that binds them. This is not only because of a shared memory from the lives of their grandparents, but also because varying, often harsh, present realities rooted in events of the Nakba can only be relegated to distant memory if a peace, based on justice for the Nakba, can be achieved.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Centre in Washington, DC.

El Nekba film

Second part no subtitles :

There should be two more parts but I could not find them. If you do, please share !

First Step to Peace: Conquering Nakba Denial

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Palestine Center Brief No. 231 (3 May 2012)

By Yousef Munayyer

Last week in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Nakba activists group Zochrot (“Remembering” in Hebrew) attempted to recite the names of depopulated Palestinian towns at Israel’s Independence Day celebration.  They were repressed.

On the same day, The New York Times published an article recycling Israeli President Shimon Peres’s narrative of the period:

Israel, mathematically or tangibly, should not have been established…prior to the War of Independence, there was no chance. We were 650,000, they were 40 million. They had seven armies, we had barely 5,000 soldiers… So tangibly we were on the brink of collapse, but we won anyway, thanks to hidden powers. Ever since, for all of my life, I have tried to understand those immeasurable powers.

The founding Zionist myth, reflected here by Peres’s words, echoes the American mantra of “manifest destiny” and fits perfectly into the Evangelical Christian narrative: Israel’s creation was a miracle brought about by divine intervention.

But this narrative doesn’t fit the facts. Had editors of The New York Times read their own reporting from the time, they too may have thought twice before uncritically reprinting Peres’s chimerical story.

In an article entitled “Palestine Jews Minimize Arabs: Sure of Superiority Settlers Feel They Can Win Natives By Reason or Force,” the Times reported in 1947, “whatever their degree of superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms—by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary.”

Then, in a 1948 feature story about the Zionist militias entitled, “The Army Called ‘Haganah,’” the Times reported about the Haganah:

[It] has a nucleus of 30,000 men who served in the British forces. Three thousand of them served in the RAF, including more than forty pilots. More than 300 served in the Commandos and 4,000 in the Jewish Brigade in action in Italy. The British estimate Haganah’s active membership at anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000.

In fact, throughout the war, the Zionist forces outnumbered the combined forces of the Arab armies who were under-armed, undertrained and decentralized in comparison. Prior to the start of the war, the Zionists had mapped out the Arab villages throughout Palestine and amassed a data collection effort that was far ahead of the military intelligence capabilities of any Arab state at the time.

If anything, given the realities of history and the disparity of power, it would have been something of a miracle if the Zionists had not been victorious.

This was not the outcome of a divine intervention or mysterious “hidden powers,” as Peres puts it. Rather, this was the expected triumph of an economically and militarily superior state-like Zionist force over a far weaker, disorganized native population with little means of defending themselves.

Peres, of course, should know better. He was one of the tens of thousands of Haganah members The New York Times wrote about 64 years ago. In fact, among other things, he was responsible for arms procurement! Whatever “hidden powers” Peres is talking about were not so hidden to the journalists of the day.

So why perpetuate this myth? Why tell a fairytale about the foundation of the state of Israel?

The answer is simple: challenging the foundational myths of Zionism shakes it at its core. For this reason there are two main Zionist interpretations of this history. There is that of Peres and others who might call themselves “liberal Zionists,” who bask in the mythology because acknowledging the truth is too troubling. Then there is that of Benny Morris, who knows the history all too well, and is happy to justify it.

Peter Beinart writes, “Acting ethically in an age of Jewish power means confronting not only the suffering that gentiles endure but the suffering that Jews cause.”

This tenet, a central part of the “liberal Zionist” awakening exemplified by Beinart and others, is meaningless unless it can also be applied to the events of 1948, breaking through the Zionist mythology which advances a dogmatic and false Israeli “David and Arab Goliath” dichotomy.

Only at that point can we begin moving forward.

The repressive actions of the State of Israel today toward some of its own citizens who bravely challenge this mythology only highlights its unwillingness to come out of the proverbial cave.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This policy brief may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center. 


Mourning the Jewish New Year

by Marc H. Ellis on September 28, 2011

How sad the end is. I rend my garments. I mourn.

Last week, I listened to Barack Obama, an African American and my President, speak at the United Nations. I became sad beyond words. I wonder where his sense of history went.

I am a Jew. President Obama spoke of Jewish history – the years of exile and persecution, the Holocaust, the return to our ancient homeland. We deserve the respect of our Arab neighbors and the world.

I wonder if he speaks of American history in the same way.

Peoples and nations have their travails. History is bleak. We search for the good.

Is it possible to remain silent about slavery? Slavery is the defining moment of American history.

Can Jews be silent about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine? The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is among the defining moments of contemporary Jewish history.

Yes, persecution, exile, Holocaust and return. Now the violence of the Israeli state. The occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel will not stop itself. Palestinians cannot stop Israel. Many Jews and Palestinians want a way beyond this endless violence. When the powerful deny the history we Jews are creating we become stuck in a quagmire. We sink deeper.

Some Jews worry about those who deny that the Holocaust occurred. Denying that 6 million Jews were murdered in Europe during the Nazi period is horrendous. Beyond words.

Yet in the President Obama’s address there is no mention of what happened to the Palestinians in 1948. What is still happening to the Palestinians. Don’t Palestinians have a history that needs acknowledgement?

Palestinians refer to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine as the Nakba, in Arabic, the Catastrophe.

Mr. President, are you a Nakba denier?

1948 may be inconsequential to you and indeed for many Jews. But just as the Holocaust needs to be remembered, the Nakba needs to be remembered.

Without remembering, how will we get to the root of the Catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people?

Or to the root of the catastrophe that has also befallen the Jewish people?

There are catastrophes that happen to you. There are catastrophes you create for others.

That Jews brought catastrophe to another people is a stain on Jewish history.

Our history of exile, persecution, Holocaust and the return to our ancient homeland now includes the Nakba.

No presentation of Jewish history makes sense without including what Jews have done and are doing to the Palestinians. Not in books on Jewish history. Not in presentations by Jewish academics. Not in policy statements from Jewish organizations. Not in press releases from Israel’s Prime Minister. Not from the peace process Quartet. Not from the President of the United States.

I won’t attempt a rendition of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address at the United Nations. It was worse than President Obama’s. Much worse. Shameful.

The Jewish High Holidays are upon us. Time to celebrate the New Year. Time to hone our repentance.

Time to mourn.

The Jewish High Holidays come and go. We recite our history of exile and persecution, Holocaust and the return to our ancient homeland. We are silent about the Nakba.

Endless the end. That has no ending.

Only mourning can save us now, Jews and Palestinians together. For what has been lost. For could have been. For what could be.

Denying the Nakba only delays the reckoning.

And the mourning.

Marc H. Ellis is University Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University. He is the author of many books, most recently Encountering the Jewish Future: with Wiesel, Buber, Heschel, Arendt, Levinas.

Nakba Day in pictures

Click on image

Al-Nakba (Al-Jazeera Documentary, 2008, subtitled) Segment 1/24 (Part 1, segment 1)

Nakba Commemoration May 15th, 2010 Washington DC

Taytaba2 — 16 mai 2010 — Nakba, Palestinians catastrophe of 1948, commemorated in Washington DC May 15th, 2010. Nakba survivors honored with a boat ride in solidarity with the Free Gaza Movement “Freedome Flotilla” that will be sailing on May 24th along with the MV Rachel Corrie to break the siege of Gaza.

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