What is “Nakba”, the “day of the catastrophe” of the Palestinians and why it can be particularly violent this year on the border between Israel and Gaza

What is “Nakba”, the “day of the catastrophe” of the Palestinians and why it can be particularly violent this year on the border between Israel and Gaza


The keys, like the one that a child raises in this manifestation, is one of the symbols of the Nabka.

For some it is a day of joy, for others it is the “day of the catastrophe”: everything depends on the point of the Gaza border from which you look.

In Israel, May 14 is the “country holiday”, the date of the founding of your state in 1948, the culminating moment of your forge as a nation.

For the Palestinians, on the other hand, it is the moment when their tragedy began.

They celebrate it a day later and consider it the saddest date on their calendar: May 15 is Nakba , the “catastrophe”, the moment they remember when they were displaced from their lands.

For two decades, it has been a traditional day of demonstrations and cries in the Gaza Strip and this year will not be different.

In fact, many experts believe that it will be worse.

And this Tuesday, the Palestinians also celebrate the last day of the Great Return March, the protest they make to demand the return of their territories and that has raised tensions since the end of March.

It will also be the day they will bury the more than fifty people who died on Monday in the clashes with the Israeli army that left, in addition, more than 2,700 wounded, according to figures from the Palestinian authorities.

It is the highest number of casualties in a day in Gaza since the 2014 war .

Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption At least 55 people died during the protests on Monday, May 14.

The new escalation of violence that marks the celebration of the Nakba this year had its origin in a controversial political decision: since Monday, part of the US consulate in Jerusalem is its new embassy in Israel.

Breaking the consensus of the international community, President Donald Trump decided last December to recognize the “holy city” as the capital of Israel and move the diplomatic headquarters there, which caused the rejection of most of the member nations of the UN .

The status of Jerusalem is a matter of confrontation and controversy, as the Israelis claim it as their “indivisible capital”, while the Palestinians seek to establish the headquarters of their future state in the eastern part of the city.


A large demonstration is expected on Tuesday, because it is a day known to Palestinians as the “catastrophe,” the day that followed the creation of the State of Israel.

The Palestinians will go to bury the dozens of people who died on Monday and then return to demonstrate.

You can imagine the situation that will result from that anger: thousands of them will come here and try to cross the fence to return to what they consider their land, what they do not see as Israel, but as Palestine.

The protests are expected to be larger than Monday’s and bloodier.


But where does the celebration of the Nakba come from and what is its meaning?

The memory of the keys

The concept of the Nakba or “day of the catastrophe” was introduced in 1998 by the then president Yasser Arafat, to commemorate the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the conflict that led to the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948.

In his book “The birth of the revised Palestinian refugee problem,” the historian Benny Morris explains that a day later, more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their lands in the face of the advance of Israeli troops.

Many left everything and fled with the keys of their houses, which over the years became a symbol of the celebrations for this day.

Israel, for its part, claims that the Palestinians fled to escape the invasion of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq , which were trying to contain the Jewish victory, and as a result of the repeated demands of Arab leaders that the Palestinians leave those territories to not suffer the consequences of war.

key and properties
Copyright of the HULTON ARCHIVE image
Image caption The Palestinians left their property after fleeing their land in May 1948.

At the conclusion of the conflict, Israel denied the Palestinians who had fled the possibility of returning to their homes and considered that they had the right to confiscate the properties they had left, since their owners were “absent”.

The UN then created dozens of refugee camps in the bordering countries and even in East Jerusalem, but tensions and clashes between the two sides have been growing since then.

For the Palestinians, the Nakba thus began , although the term itself is a matter of confrontation between the two countries.

Israel denies the existence of such a “catastrophe” and considers the term “undermines the legitimacy” of its State.

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGE image
Image caption Israel considers that the “Nakba” did not exist.

However, every year, on May 15, Palestinians protest the various incidentsthat have marked their tense relationship with Israel.

And, in his opinion, the Nakba did not end that day and consider that it is reflected in the many subsequent conflicts.

Other clashes

After the creation of the State of Israel and the displacement of thousands of people who lost their homes, the Palestinian nationalist movement began to regroup in the West Bank and Gaza, controlled respectively by Jordan and Egypt, and in the refugee camps created in other Arab countries.

In 1956, a crisis by the Suez Canal confronted Israel with Egypt, although the conflict was not defined in the battlefield but by international pressure on Israel, France and England.

The clashes between Jews and Arabs returned in 1967 during the Six Day War and what happened between June 5 and 10 of that year had profound and lasting consequences at different levels.

The overwhelming victory of Israel allowed him to wrest the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to Jordan and the Golan Heights to Syria. Half a million Palestinians fled .

That conflict would be followed by the Yom Kippur War in 1973, which pitted Egypt and Syria against Israel, and allowed Cairo to recover the Sinai – delivered entirely by Israel in 1982 – but not Gaza.

Six years later, Egypt would become the first Arab country to sign peace with Israel, an example only followed by Jordan.

A group of Jews pray beside the Wailing Wall.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption The triumph in the Six Day War allowed the Jews to pray again at the Wailing Wall.

Shortly before the 1967 war, Palestinian organizations such as Fatah – led by Yasser Arafat – formed the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO) and launched operations against Israel, first from Jordan and then from Lebanon.

The Gaza Strip, gradually returned to the Palestinians after 1994, would be the scene of new armed confrontations between 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014.

However, the number of victims of the last months after the Great Return March is close to that reached in the last conflict.

And the concern grows for what may happen in the Palestinian commemoration of this year.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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