Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Gulf News carried a series of spreads today marking 'Al Nakba', which is Arabic for 'the catastrophe', the Palestinian day of mourning for the loss of the land in which they lived. Al Nakba is generally marked on the 15th May, so it's slightly unusual for Gulf News to have gone so heavy on the 14th. They were alone: everyone else has been waiting for the day itself.
Nakba is marked on the 15th because it was the day that the British Mandate in Palestine expired. The declaration of the State of Israel was made on the 14th.
The tales of dispossession and loss contained in the paper are heart-rending - and I have been reading and hearing similar tales for something like 20 years now. They never lose their ability to make me profoundly sad. I am sure we will see a great deal more tomorrow as other newspapers publish pieces marking the day.
Al Nakba is particularly poignant this year, because this is the 60th year since the Palestinians were forced off their land. They left carrying their house keys because they thought they'd be back soon once the fuss died down: Robert Fisk's brilliant Pity the Nation starts with his attempts to understand and come to terms with the people in the Lebanese camps who still kept their keys. And people still keep them today, a symbol of the right to return to their land.
It's a strangely beautiful land, too. All around the Dead Sea, the stony soil is home to olive trees and the land is green in winter, dry and arid in the summer. Farming it manually must have been back-breaking work. But it gave birth to a people and culture that is vibrant and deep: today some 70% of Jordanians are originally Palestinian and their art, poetry and design are a huge part of Jordan's richness as a nation.
I think there will be a lot of grief around the Middle East tomorrow. I only hope that people can share their sorrow and are allowed at least to grieve in peace just for one day.
From The Dungeons
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