The "Nakba": A Driving Force Behind U.S. Anti-Israel Activity in 2008
Posted: June 3, 2008
"Nakba" commemorations in 2008 have been organized by some of the more vocal and active anti-Israel groups, as well as by smaller local groups throughout the country. At these events, speakers have revitalized classic anti-Israel rhetoric by presenting it under the guise of commemorating the "Nakba."
Al-Awda's Sixth Annual International Convention, which was labeled a "Nakba" commemoration and held from May 16-18, in Anaheim, California, featured speakers who vocalized particularly virulent anti-Israel rhetoric. Al-Awda co-founder Salman Abu Sitta referred to the "Nakba" as the "largest, longest operation of planned ethnic cleansing in history" and compared Gaza and the Nazi Holocaust by referring to Gaza as "the new Auschwitz." A Jerusalem-based bishop, Atallah Hanna, spoke about the need for Palestinian Muslims and Christians to unite against the "one enemy [Zionism]."
Several professors also spoke at the convention, including Ilan Pappe, author of the The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine; Ghada Karmi, a British-Palestinian professor; UCLA professor Saree Makdisi; and As'ad Abu Khalil, a Political Science professor at California State University at Stanislaus who has a political blog called "Angry Arab News Service."
Karmi and Makdisi advocated a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During his speech, Makdisi said, "Zionism represents exclusionist claims and separations. We must keep repeating to people that Israel is not a secular state and does not treat its citizens equally." Abu Khalil recommended that commemorating the "Nakba" should be an "opportunity for the assertion of Palestinian and Arab struggle against Zionism." He also blamed Palestinian internal fractiousness on those who are sympathetic to Israel: "now we have in Palestine a collaborationist regime set up by the Israelis."
The convention was endorsed by a wide array of groups, including ANSWER, International Action Center (IAC), and the Southern California-based Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (CEIA). Arguing that all of Israel should be returned to the Palestinians, IAC representative, John Parker, said, "From the river to the sea, we will not stop until all of us are free."
Earlier this year, a two-week-long tour entitled "Acknowledging the past; imagining the future: Palestinians and Israelis on 1948 and the Right of Return," was held under the banner of a "Nakba" commemoration. Organizers used the tour to allege that Palestinians have been in a state of "dispossession" and "exile" for 60 years in an attempt to illustrate the severity of the Palestinians' situation and the need for immediate return.
The tour, which visited seven major US cities in March and April, was organized by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a non-profit Quaker organization that is often involved in anti-Israel activity, and Badil, a Bethlehem-based organization that supports the Palestinian intifada and the abolishment of Israel as a Jewish state. At the Philadelphia stop, Muhammad Jaradat, a coordinator for Badil, referred to the State of Israel as a "racist entity" and argued that Palestinians must disarm this racism in order to live like human beings.
The US Palestine Conference Network (USPCN) is planning to host a "Nakba" conference in August in Rosemont, Illinois. The conference has had preparatory meetings since June 2006 that included the following individuals: Mazin Qumsiyeh; Hatem Bazian, a professor at UC Berkeley's department of Near Eastern Studies, director of Berkeley's Al-Qalam Institute of Islamic Sciences and president of the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP); Noura Erakat, a former grassroots organizer/legal advocate for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; and Will Youmans, a co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and frequent contributor to Counterpunch, an anti-Zionist radical left newsletter. Keynote speakers at the conference are scheduled to include Azmi Bishara (by videoconference), Bishop Atallah Hanna and Salman Abu-Sitta.
At the initial meeting, held in Detroit, organizers drafted and endorsed the Detroit Declaration, which called on the Palestinian community to "rise up once again as it did in the heyday of the Palestinian American activism and organizing of the late 70s and 80s" and "empower the Palestinian community across the US by…focusing on three campaigns in the US-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and sanctions), breaking the siege, and media advocacy." This conference is being heavily promoted, including YouTube promotional videos, an article in Left Turn magazine and frequent announcements to pro-Palestinian list serves.