In the Mercury today:
In April of this year, just ahead of Nakba day which falls on the 15th of May, a group of Jewish South Africans traveled to Israel-Palestine. Our purpose was twofold. First, we wished to gain direct knowledge of the conditions that face our comrades in their struggle to achieve a just and substantive peace so as better to support them. It is significant to note that these comrades number Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and likely other groupings who find their homes, histories, and heartlands, whether ancient or more contemporary, in the region. The fact of this solidarity testifies to an important reality: the struggle for justice and peace is still a hospitable one. But we must not take this
for granted, for daily the violence of the Israeli state and the counter violences it produces imperil the very hospitality without which the social, material, and spiritual future of Israel-Palestine is bleak.
Our second purpose was to participate in a ceremony in South Africa forest in the Galilee.The ceremony constituted an acknowledgement of the Nakba. This is the name given to the tragic events of 1947–48 in which the pre-state armed forces, the Haganah, expelled approximately 800,000 Palestinians in an act of ethnic ‘cleansing’ intended to secure the maximum amount of land with the minimum presence of Palestinians for the Jewish state.
Though the focal point of the ethnic ‘cleansing’ is 1948, it continues by other means to the present day. One of these means is the Jewish National Fund. The JNF, to which Jews in the diaspora, such as ourselves, gave or give money, is implicated
in the ongoing displacement and erasure of Palestinians through evictions and the greening of landscapes that would otherwise bear open witness to the historical reality of established human communities that predate the formation of the state of Israel. One of the concrete ways in which Jews can participate in fostering the hospitality of the struggle, is to stop supporting the JNF whether ideologically or financially.
We also apologized for our implication, witting or unwitting, in the erasure of a Palestinian village depopulated in the catastrophe of 1948 and subsequently destroyed. This erasure was carried out in our name and with our money under the auspices of the JNF who, in the 1960s, planted South Africa Forest over the ruins of the village of Lubya. Such forests, of which ours is but one, compound the injury of the Nakba by attempting to obscure the evidence that it took place. But the presence of a cemetery, wells, the rubble of what were once homes, a school, and mosque, and cacti cannot be so easily silenced. They continue to speak to the existence of Lubya and its people.
In considering what is important about our action, it would be a mistake to privilege our apology. That Lubya’s decedents, made refugees by the Nakba, permitted us to make an apology in the first place is further evidence of the hospitality of Palestinians even in struggle.
Under conditions of ongoing displacement for Palestinians inside the boundaries of the Israeli state, the West bank, and Gaza, this gesture is small and almost insignificant and yet it plants the seed for a politics of solidarity based on restitution, reparation, and return.
This lays bare the extent to which the acknowledgment of the Nakba is also a recognition of the centrality of displaced Palestinian refugees without whom a just and hospitable peace cannot be practically possible.