Americans regularly hear and read commentary about the state of Israel. Yet the word “Nakba” is largely unfamiliar. Nakba means “Catastrophe” in Arabic. It refers to the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were forced into exile by Zionist troops. The indigenous Palestinian population presented an obstacle to the creation of a Jewish state. The Catastrophe refers to their experience of dispossession, expulsion, massacre, and transfer from their villages on their land that in 1948 became the Jewish state of Israel.
A Philadelphia coalition, “Remember the Nakba”- consisting of individuals and groups who focus on justice in Israel-Palestine, is seeking to bring the Nakba into conversations about Israel past and present. Through a full scheduled weekend of vigils, a film screening event, talks, and actions from May 17-19, the coalition has tasked itself with strategically planning events to coincide with the Sunday, May 19 city-wide Israel 65 Parade on the Parkway and Festival at the Convention Center.
“More than 450 Palestinian villages were de-populated in order to create the state of Israel. This history cannot be erased. Land confiscation continues to this day. Remembering the Nakba is essential for all people who care about human rights and international law,” says Nathaniel Miller, longtime Palestine solidarity activist and educator with Philly BDS.
The Palestinian refugee and displaced population numbers approximately 7.1 million persons, made up of 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 persons internally displaced within Israel. Most of them live in refugee camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, or in neighboring countries, often only a few miles away from the homes and lands from which they were expelled. 
|Two Vigils will be held on Friday, May 17th outside the Israeli Consulate, corner of 19th St. and JFK Blvd. A Peace Vigil from noon to 1 PM will be sponsored by Grandparents for Peace in the Middle East. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org) Later in the day, from 4:30 to 6 PM, the International Action Center will organize a Protest with signs, noisemakers, and banners. (Contact: phillyIAC@gmail.com or 215-724-1618)Making the point that the Nakba is ongoing, Philly BDS will host a free screening of “5 Broken Cameras” on Friday evening at 7 PM at Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St. This 2012 Oscar nominated film documents non-violent protests in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Following the film there will be a tasting of hummus alternatives to the brands Sabra and Tribe in support of the Palestinian Call in 2005 that calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. Both Sabra and Tribe hummus are targets of consumer boycott because they are owned by Israeli companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine and perpetrate human rights violations against Palestinians.
The present day Nakba includes the practice of illegal administrative detention and incarceration of Palestinians by Israel. As this issue resonates in Pennsylvania, a panel discussion “Ending Mass Incarceration from Palestine to Pennsylvania” will be held on Saturday, May 18th at 7 pm, 1501 Cherry St, The Friends Center. Guest will include: Sahar Francis, the Executive Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in Palestine, Sheila Quintana from Dream Activists PA, Joshua Glenn of the Youth Arts & Self-Empowerment Project, and a member of the Human Rights Coalition – Pennsylvania. The event will address prisoners’ rights, carceral violence, and ending mass incarceration from Palestine to Pennsylvania and will be hosted by Philly BDS, Decarcerate PA, and the American Friends Service Committee.
On Sunday, May 19th the Remember the Nakba Coalition will commemorate 65 years of dispossession and ethnic cleansing in Palestine with kites and somber demonstrations along the Parkway. Yet another demonstration will take place at the Convention Center where, following the parade, the groups celebrating Israel will continue gala festivities, including an opportunity to visit an “authentic Bedouin tent“ and a proud display of Philadelphia’s Partnership 2Gether communities of Netivot and Sedot Negev in Israel.
The Bedouin tent experience might provide a teachable moment about the ongoing Nakba if only historical information were included in the exhibit, which it will not be. Striking in its absence is the fact that Sedot Negev is an area in southern Israel developed by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) that includes Jewish settlements which have displaced Bedouin Arabs. The irony of celebrating Israeli society by showcasing Bedouin culture which was cleansed to make room for Jewish-only settlements makes precisely the point that the Remember the Nakba coalition seeks to convey.
 Survey, 2010 by BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights