"I first heard about the Nakba in the late 1980s, while I was an undergraduate student of philosophy at Hebrew University. This, I believe, is a revealing fact, particularly since, as a teenager, I was a member of Peace Now and was raised in a liberal home.
"I grew up in the southern [Israeli] city of Be'er-Sheva, which is just a few kilometres from several unrecognised Bedouin villages that, today, are home to thousands of residents who were displaced in 1948.- Advertisement -
"How is it possible that a left-leaning Israeli teenager who was living in the Negev during the early 1980s (I graduated from high-school in 1983) had never heard the word 'Nakba'?"
It is an honest question. It is also a question that every one of us must confront if we are ever to grasp what is at the core of the so-called "debate" within American churches about the role Christians must play in ending the agony of the Israeli occupation.
For the religious establishment there can be no such thing as neutrality in dealing with how humans treat one another. It is immoral under any religious system to remain neutral in the face of evil. "Little children, love one another" is not just a bumper sticker; it is a divine command.
Al-Nakba is the Arabic word for "the catastrophe."
Hannah Ashrawi, a Palestinian activist and government leader, describes the annual May 15 day of remembering Al-Nakba:
"Every year, Palestinians mark Al-Nakba, or the Catastrophe, of 1948, to remember how our vibrant society was physically and politically crushed by violence and forced expulsion.
"It was not a natural disaster. Indeed, we have no doubt that it was a detailed plan of systematic destruction carried out with chilling efficiency. It was the biggest assault and threat Palestinian heritage has ever endured and the beginning of a deliberate effort to suppress the Palestinian narrative"
When Israel was created by the United Nations as a modern state in 1948, as later scholarship has revealed, the new state had a fully-developed plan to eradicate a culture and depopulate the land.
Hannah Ashrawi recalls the Palestine that existed before Israel was created:
"By 1948, Palestine was one of the most developed Arab societies, boasting one of the healthiest economies under the British mandate and a high school enrollment rate, second only to Lebanon. Commerce, the arts, literature, music, and other cultural aspects of life were thriving in Palestine.
"We remember that between 1911 and 1948, Palestine had no less than 161 newspapers, magazines and other regular publications, including the pioneer 'Falastin' newspaper, published in Jaffa by Issa al-Issa."
Suppressing the narrative of an occupied people is the strategy of a colonial conquerer.