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Thursday, May 15, 2008


Original sin - al Nakba at 60

Events in the Middle East are generally framed in the shortest of short-term time frames - one side (usually framed as Israel) responded to a "provocation" or attack by the other side (typically Palestinians according to the media). It's rare indeed for any corporate media to even mention the ultimate source of the problem - the "Nakba" which, beginning with the U.N. Resolution partitioning Palestine 60 years and 6 months ago, resulted in the forced expulsion of 300,000 Palestinians by the time Israel declared its independence 60 years ago today, and 3/4 of a million Palestinians by the end of the year. Richard Becker provides an important update on an article he first wrote six months ago, laying out not only that history, but the resulting centrality of the demand of the "right of return."

Which brings us back to the corporate media. Remarkably, in the last week, I have seen three different pieces on BBC World News which gave the viewer an intimate and rarely-seen view of Palestinians who had been evicted from their homes, with Palestinians showing the reporter the deed to their home and discussing their desire (and right) to return to their home. The words "return" or "right of return" were actually mentioned on the air.

In contrast, I haven't seen any such piece, not one, on any American network or cable show. On CNN right now, for example, you not only won't find anything about the ongoing commemoration of Nakba day in Palestine on the front page, you won't find anything even if you drill down to the Middle East page. And actually it's even worse than just omission. Consider this AP piece published today which appears several places, including MSNBC online and the New York Times (online, don't know about print):

Palestinians marked the 60th anniversary of their uprooting with rallies, sirens and black balloons Thursday...Thursday's events commemorated the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who either fled or were driven out of their homes during the 1948 war over Israel's creation. Palestinians call it their "nakba," Arabic for catastrophe.
So they mentioned what's happening, and even used the word "nakba." What they didn't say is that this wasn't just a "commemoration" of being forced out of their homes, but a demand to return to those homes - the "right of return." Those words, or even the word "return," are nowhere to be found. The uninformed reader might get the idea that the Palestinians are celebrating being kicked out of their homes, and have no interest at all in returning.

Not coincidentally, a few days ago I was listening to a very interesting discussion of a book entitled "The Lemon Tree, about one of those expelled Palestinians, and his experiences getting to know the Israeli family who had come to live in his house. You can read a chapter of the very interesting story here, and listen to the author discuss the book and the man's life at great length here (mp3 file), but let me cheat and tell you part of the ending - the young woman who he originally meets ends up owning the house (her parents die), and when she is going to get married, she wants to give the house back to the Palestinian man. A rare case of the "right of return" actually welcomed by the current occupant of the house! Just one little catch - the racist laws of the State of Israel actually prevent her from doing that!

For closure to this story, listen to David Rovics "The Key" (mp3 file).

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