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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/19/18

"A place I do not recognize": Palestinians mark 70 years of Israeli injustice

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But in practice the law's effect has backfired, with greater attention on the Nakba than ever before. Recent marches have been among the largest in the event's history, and have increasingly attracted a younger generation of Israel's Palestinian citizens.

Awaisi said various factors explained the march's growing popularity. In part, it was a backlash against the Nakba Law; social media had made it easier to raise awareness of the event, and a new generation -- less traumatized by the Nakba -- were readier to confront the authorities.

And, he added, young people saw commemoration of the Nakba as a way to break through Israel's divide-and-rule policies that had fragmented Palestinians into territorial enclaves.

The Nakba, he said, was a unifying trauma that reconnected Palestinians in Israel to those in the rest of historic Palestine and to the refugees living in exile.

Pappe concurred. "The young are now the backbone of the march. It is a mass protest against the ongoing catastrophe faced by Palestinians. The event broadcasts a unity that is lacking in other areas of Palestinian life."

No return to villages

Despite their Israeli citizenship, human rights activists note, the internal refugees have been blocked by a series of legal and administrative measures from accessing their former lands.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for Palestinians in Israel, said Saffuriya and other destroyed villages had been effectively turned into no-go zones for Palestinian citizens through two early pieces of legislation: the 1950 Absentee Property Law and the Land Acquisitions Law of 1953.

The first denied Palestinians a right to their home and property if they had been absent from their village for a single night during the many months of fighting in 1948. The second authorized a mass land grab, of some 120,000 hectares, from Palestinian citizens, most of them internal refugees.

"Under the Absentee Property Law, the refugees were not allowed back to their homes or entitled to compensation, even though they were [Israeli] citizens," she told MEE.

The state's position has been upheld by the Israeli courts in test cases relating to the villages of Biram and Iqrit.

These two Palestinian communities in the Upper Galilee were razed after the Israeli army evacuated the residents in 1948, even though they were issued with written promises that they would be allowed back.

Legal appeals ended in 2003 when the Supreme Court supported the government's arguments rejecting the villagers' rights.

Pappe said the court was extremely worried about offering any legal support to internal refugees. "It fears opening a Pandora's box, worried that other villages could use such a ruling as a precedent for a right of return."

Bishara added: "What the court decided was that the refugees' nationality [as Palestinians] determined their status, not their Israeli citizenship. The court thereby agreed to suspend the refugees' constitutional rights as citizens."

Custodian sold property

Instead, the lands and property of villages like Saffuriya were transferred into the temporary guardianship of an Israeli official known as the custodian of absentee property.

The custodian's responsibility, said Bishara, "is to safeguard the property until the situation of the refugees is resolved in accordance with international law."

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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