“Nakba”: Disaster, Diaspora, and Disappearance

The word “Nakba” translates in Arabic to disaster or catastrophe in the informal and in a formal political setting gives the name of the event of the 1948 diaspora of Palestinian people from their homeland. Israeli’s call this the War of Independence and Palestinians and most Arab countries deem it the “Nakba”.  Palestinian Authority defines “Nakba as “Nakba in literary terms means a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake, volcano, or hurricane. However, the Nakba in Palestine describes a process of ethnic cleansing in which an unarmed nation has been destroyed and its population displaced to be systematically replaced by another nation. Unlike a natural catastrophe, the Palestinian Nakba was the result of a man-made military plan with the agreement of other states, leading to a major tragedy for the Palestinian people. The subsequent occupation of the remaining land of Palestine in 1967 resulted in additional tragedy.” The “Nakba” has many long lasting effects on the people of Palestine, and other countries where many Palestinian refugees have relocated.


Statistically speaking, the “Nakba” was a great tragedy for the Palestinian people. Palestinian Statistics Bureau determined that “the Palestinian population was 1.4 million and lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages. More than 800,000 were driven out of their homeland into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab countries and other countries of the world.” Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are notorious for their Palestinian refugee camps and have integrated many into their civil society. Another statistic found that “29 per cent of registered Palestinian refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 are in Jordan, nine in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip.”  It was estimated that in 2013 only 44% of the total population live in Palestinian territory. Of those, Palestinians have branched out into a mass of countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain, Egypt, and many others.

Protesting Palestinian diaspora in NYC
Protesting Palestinian diaspora in NYC

While many people feel a certain way about the Arab-Israeli conflict, one thing is not debatable: that Palestinians were pushed from their homes and lost much more than just property in this “Nakba”, much of their identity as well. When I speak to Arab colleagues about the “Nakba” many talk with great sadness and passion about this. The “Nakba” is the reason like graffiti artists paint political murals, and Shadia Mansour raps about freedom in a home she never had the opportunity to grow up in, and the protest poet Mahmoud Darwish unleash arts as a form of protest and rallying. The people who were forced abroad often share the sentiments of those in refugee camps who were also forced to leave their homes. Even today, Palestinians see the Israeli settlements, set up illegally in Palestinian territory, as another attack to make the Palestinian state and peoples “disappear” from the Jewish state. However, I believe, and hope, that there is a chance for peace someday and that perhaps a Jewish and Palestinian homeland can coexist in this land.

Protest in New York


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