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Tel Aviv University
[Ex-Sociology Dept. Tel Aviv University] Nadim N. Rouhana: The Nakba and the ethnic cleansing are caused by the establishment of Israel


May 2009

Editorial | Nadim N. Rouhana


It seems that the impact of what befell Palestinian society in 1948 caused by the establishment of Israel -- the Nakba, starting with the loss of their homeland, the dismantling of their society, the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestinians from historic Palestine, and the prolonged and frustrating struggle against all odds for freedom, equality, and return -- is weighing increasingly on all parts of the Palestinian people. The depth of the catastrophe is dawning on new generations of Palestinians who compare their present conditions with what could they and their homeland have become if not for the Zionist project violently implemented in their homeland.

While this is true of many Palestinians, it might be particularly true of the Palestinians in Israel, perhaps because of the return of repressed awareness that their homeland was both claimed and forcefully taken by another group who, in increasingly Kafkaesque ways seek to force them to accept the legitimacy of the takeover. This truth is evidenced by the annual increase in the number of cultural and political events to commemorating the Nakba. It is also made clear by the increasing awareness of the magnitude of the disaster and its continued manifestations in cultural and political discourses.

The use of the word Nakba to describe what happened in 1948 might be slightly misleading. Although 1948 marks its beginning, the Nakba has become a continual process, the effects of which Palestinians live every single day of their lives: the refugees deprived of return to their homeland while living just across the border – close enough to watch other people enjoy their cities and towns, and in many cases their private homes and gardens; those under a most brutal occupation and one of the longest in recent history confined to Bantustans and prison -like conditions and watching their lands being literally stolen; and those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and who suffer from the impact of inequality, discrimination, domination and control, the gradual and steady narrowing of their physical and political space, and above all the oppression of an ethnic majority having come from all corners of the world to challenge the Palestinian citizens of Israel’s very right to and relationship with their own homeland and expropriate it as their own

All these continued manifestations of the Nakba are the other side of a coin -- the Jewish State. There simply is no other way to have a coin with a Jewish state on it without having refugees, domination, and inequality for Palestinians be on its other side. Because the Jewish state was created the only way it could have been – by violence -- it has had to be maintained by force: the prevention of refugees from returning to their land, the control and subordination of Palestinians in Israel to an unequal citizenship status, and severely limiting and crippling the lives of Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967.

The acts of commemorating 1948, the starting point of this continued Nakba, should also be a time for reflection upon finding a way to finally create its endpoint, in a manner that guarantees dignity, equality, democracy, and security to all Palestinians and all Israelis. The process of asking these questions should also be reversed - instead of beginning by asking how to achieve two states or one state, the question’s starting point should be one of identifying what specific political arrangements are necessary to build and sustain a future in which all Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homeland will be able to do so, and allow all Israelis and Palestinians to live in equality, dignity, democracy, and not least of all, security. How can we change the current condition under which privileges are granted by the State to Jews living anywhere in historic Palestine (or indeed to any Jew in the world who wishes to emigrate to Israel or the West Bank) over any Palestinian in any place in historic Palestine (or any Palestinian living in exile who wishes to return to their homeland)? Our intellectual and political efforts should take these questions as the point of departure. And it is likely that once we do so, it will become clear that a two state solution in the way it is being discussed in the high echelons of power is incompatible with equality, democracy, return of refugees, and historic reconciliation, and therefore, with long-term stability.



 Nadim N. Rouhana http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/authors.php?auid=726

Nadim Rouhana, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was (in 2001) an Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs but now (2003) teaches Sociology at Tel Aviv University.

Professor Rouhana has been Director of Mada al-Carmel - Arab Center for Applied Social Research since its establishment in 2000, and Lecturer in the Sociology Department of Tel Aviv University since 2001. He has held various academic research positions in Palestinian and American Universities and has taught at Harvard University, Boston College and the University of Massachusetts. Professor Rouhana was a Research Fellow at the Harvard University Center for International Affairs between 1992-2002. He taught at Al Najah National University between 1984-1986 where he served as the Dean of Social Research. Professor Rouhana received his BA from the University of Haifa in Psychology and Statistics, his PhD from Wayne State University, and he completed two years of postdoctoral work at Harvard University. He is a member of various international academic organizations. His publications include a book titled "Palestinian citizens in an Ethnic Jewish State: Identities in Conflict" (Yale, Yale University Press, 1997) and numerous academic articles on collective identity, multiethnic states, democratic citizenship, Palestinians in Israel and other topics.

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