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Nakba Day (Arabic: يوم النكبة yawm in-nakbah), meaning "day of the catastrophe,[1] is an annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the anniversary of the creation of Israel.[2] It is held every May 15, the day after the anniversary of Israel's Independence according to the Gregorian calendar. For Palestinians, the day marks the expulsions and flight of Palestinians from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish and later Israeli troop advances, their defeat in the 1948 Palestine War and 1948 Arab-Israeli War,[3] their displacement from Palestine, and the loss of their property.[4]


In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly proposed partitioning The British Mandate of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. The Jewish community accepted the UN partition plan, while the Arab community in Palestine, supported by the Arab League, rejected the UN proposal and vowed to oppose it by armed struggle. In the ensuing war, in which the Palestinian Arabs failed to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state according to the partition plan, an estimated 700,000 Palestinian refugees,[5] and the destruction and abandonment of up to 418 Palestinian villages[6] are called al-Nakba ("The Catastrophe") by Palestinians. Prior to its adoption by the Palestinian nationalist movement, the term more commonly referred to the 1920 Battle of Maysalun, in which the French army invaded Syria and deposed Arab Revolt leader King Faisal I.[7]

In accordance with the UN partition plan, Israel declared its independence from the United Kingdom on the evening of May 14, 1948. That same night five of the seven countries of the Arab League launched a military operation against Israel, this marks the start of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Israel Defence Forces defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq and seized just over fifty per cent of the territory allocated for an Arab state in the partition. After the end of the war, the vast majority of Palestinian Arab refugees outside the 1949 armistice lines were barred by the Israelis from returning to their homes, many of which had been destroyed and seized, or from reclaiming their property.[5][6] Furthermore, Palestinians were on the whole were denied citizenship in the countries to which they fled. In the words of Khaled al Azm, the former prime minister of Syria,

It is we who demanded the return of the refugees while it is we who made them leave. We brought disaster upon them. [We] exploited them in executing crimes of murder and throwing bombs. All this in the service of political purposes.[8]
Every year, on the 5th of Iyyar of the Hebrew calendar (which can fall between 15 April and 15 May) Israelis celebrate Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzma'ut).[9]


While Nakba Day is commemorated on May 15 in keeping with the Gregorian calendar instead of the Islamic calendar, Palestinian Arabs and their supporters around the world coordinate some Nakba Day events to coincide with the Israeli Independence Day celebrations.[10][11][12] Because of the differences between the Jewish and the Gregorian calendars, Independence Day and the official May 15 date for Nakba Day usually only coincides every 19 years.[13] In Israel, there are Nakba day protests which take place according to the Hebrew date, on the same day when Israelis celebrate Israel's independence day.

The event is often marked by speeches and rallies in the West Bank, Gaza and in Arab states.[14] In 2006, Israeli Arab member of the Knesset Dr. Azmi Bishara told the Israeli newspaper Maariv: "Independence Day is your holiday, not ours. We mark this as the day of our Nakba, the tragedy that befell the Palestinian nation in 1948".[15][16]

The day was inaugurated in 1998 by Yasser Arafat,[17] when over one million people participated in marches and other events.[18] Nakba Day has been marked each year by protests which at times develop to clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,[19][20][21] and in 2003 and 2004, by demonstrations in London[22] and New York City.[23]


The main criticism of the observance from Israelis involves accusations that the Palestinians mark Nakba Day as a celebration of alleged wishes for the dismantling of the Israeli state and the Jewish majority population, and that the greater tragedy resides in the inability to solidify a stronger national movement for Palestinian citizens[24][25]; furthermore, criticism from pro-Zionist writers admonish the Arab citizens of Israel against celebrating Nakba Day in light of the higher standards of living for them in comparison to the overall poverty of Palestinian residents that live under the Israeli military occupation[26] and other neighbouring Arab states.

In May 2009, the Yisrael Beitenu party announced planned legislation to ban commemorations of Nakba Day, with a jail term of up to three years for violators. According to party spokesman Tal Nahum, "The draft law is intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel and to ban marking Independence Day as a day of mourning."[27] Israeli Cabinet ministers changed the draft of the bill to bar spending government money to acknowledge Nakba Day.[28]


  2. [ BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | In pictures: 'Catastrophe Day' protests; [ Arafat defiant as wave of bloodshed stains disaster day | Independent, The (London)
  3. 58th anniversary of the Palestinian Catastrophe, Al Bawaba, 3 May 2006.
  4. "In pictures: 'Catastrophe Day' protests". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2006-05-08. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Morris, Benny (2003). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7, p. 604.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Khalidi, Walid (Ed.). (1992), which Israel erased from the maps. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
  7. Sheleg, Yair 'Day of the citizen instead of day of the catastrophe', Haaretz, 11 May 2005.
  8. Zuckerman, Mortimer B. [1],"Jewish World Review", 28 April 2009.
  9. Jewish Festivals in Israel, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accessed 3 May 2006.
  10. Palestinians to mourn Israel's founding by Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily, May 12, 2005.
  11. Palestinians mourn Israel's founding y by Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily, May 16, 2005.
  12. Weekly Review of the Arab Press in Israel, Arab Association for Human Rights, April 30, 2001.
  13. Hertz-Larowitz, Rachel (2003). Arab and Jewish Youth in Israel: Voicing National Injustice on Campus. Journal of Social Issues, 59(1), 51-66.
  14. Bowker, Robert (2003). Palestinian Refugees: Mythology, Identity, and the Search for Peace. Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 1-58826-202-2, p. 96.
  15. Maariv article (in Hebrew).
  16. 'The Palestinian nakba at 58', Bahrain News Agency, 1 May 2006.
  17. Rubin, Barry and Rubin, Judith Colp (2003). Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516689-2, p. 187.
  18. Palestinians protest, National Public Radio, 14 May 1998.
  19. Analysis: Why Palestinians are angry, BBC News Online, 15 May 2000.
  20. Violence erupts in West Bank, BBC News Online, 15 May 2000.
  21. Israel - Palestinian Violence, National Public Radio, 15 May 2000.
  22. Pro-Palestine rally in London, BBC News Online, 15 May 2003.
  23. Al-Nakba Day Rally in Times Square, 2004.
  24. The Palestine Nakba Controversy
  25. The real Nakba, By Shlomo Avineri, 09/05/2008
  26. Time to stop mourning, By Meron Benvenisti
  27. "Lieberman's party proposes ban on Arab Nakba". Haaretz, 14 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  28. Ethan Bronner, 6 Die as Palestinian Authority Forces Clash With Hamas, New York Times, June 1, 2009.

See also

External links

ar:يوم النكبةno:Nakba

uk:Накба ru:День «Накба»

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