"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either...There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab Population."

The words of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, echo hauntingly through history, encapsulating the deliberate erasure of Palestinian villages to make way for Jewish settlements. His acknowledgment underscores the magnitude of the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell Palestinians in 1948, as hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced from their homes. In light of the struggles faced by Palestinians today, Ben-Gurion’s statement serves as a stark reminder of the unresolved injustices that continue to define the plight of the Palestinians and Israel’s ongoing genocidal campaign against Gazans.

It is essential to recognize that the Nakba predates the events of 1948. The roots of this catastrophe can be traced back to the late 18th century during Napoleon's invasion of the Arab world in 1799. At that time, Palestinian land was offered to Jews as a potential new homeland, promising protection and serving as a strategic move for France to establish its presence and control in the region. While Napoleon's plan ultimately failed, the idea persisted and gained traction in the late 19th century, particularly with British involvement. 

During this period, the Zionist movement emerged, advocating for mass Jewish migration to Palestine. With British support, this vision materialised, leading to the ongoing Nakba and its associated injustices. This historical context highlights the complex interplay of colonial ambitions, political manoeuvring, and the Zionist agenda, all of which contributed to the displacement and suffering of the Palestinian people.

The concept of the "ongoing Nakba" acknowledges the continuous experience of violence and dispossession faced by Palestinians. It transcends isolated events, portraying the Palestinian plight as a recurring loss, characterised by displacement, trauma, and injustice.

Understanding the Nakba

The term "Nakba" (النکبة المستمرة), meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic, encapsulates the horrors endured by Palestinians in 1948. In just a few months, over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes, making up three-quarters of the Palestinian population at the time. Entire villages were emptied and demolished, perpetuating a legacy of dispossession and trauma that reverberates to this day. The horrors of the Nakba, however, did not end in 1948; they persist through ongoing displacement and dispossession. In 1967, an additional 200,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their lands during the Six-Day War, their properties seized and given to Jewish immigrants. The Palestinian diaspora now exceeds seven million individuals residing across various countries. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that over 75 percent of Gaza's population currently grapples with internal displacement. This figure equates to over 1.7 million individuals who have been forcibly evicted from their homes, victims of the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by the occupying state of Israel.

Systematic Oppression and Inequality

Palestinians continue to endure systemic discrimination and inequality across multiple facets of daily life, including access to vital resources, healthcare, education, and the basic right to freedom of movement. These injustices persist due to Israeli policies such as the expansion of settlements, occupation, and imposition of blockades, drawing stark parallels to historical instances of colonialism and apartheid.

The statistics provided by OCHA further underscore the dire humanitarian situation faced by Palestinians. With over 2.3 million Palestinians living within a mere 365 square kilometres, the kill toll of the Israeli Occupying Forces sits at over 34,904 Palestinian lives, among them 7,797 children (32%) and 4,959 women (20%). Furthermore, more than 1.1 million Gazans suffer from catastrophic food insecurity. The area, among the most densely populated in the world, has seen its healthcare infrastructure crippled, with only 12 hospitals partially functional and a distressing 71% of primary health care centres non-operational.

Children bear a particularly heavy burden, with over 31% of those under the age of two in northern Gaza suffering from acute malnutrition. The situation is equally dire in Rafah, where 10% of children under the age of two face acute malnutrition. Currently, more than 50,000 children are acutely malnourished, with only a fraction receiving hospitalisation for treatment.

Education, a fundamental right, remains out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian students. Over 625,000 students lack access to education, while 6,400 students and 300 academic and educational staff have been killed. The educational infrastructure bears the scars of the war on Gaza, with 73% of school buildings either partially damaged or completely destroyed.

The average space per person in Palestinian shelters has shrunk to a mere square metre since 7 October 2023. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands face severe food insecurity, with livestock — a critical source of sustenance — falling prey to Israeli forces' indiscriminate violence, decimating 60 to 70 percent of meat and dairy-producing livestock.

GICJ Position

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) calls upon the international community to recognize and address the ongoing Nakba. We urge governments, NGOs, and civil society to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, advocating for their rights and holding Israel and its allies accountable for their inhumane acts of injustice. The ongoing Nakba is not merely a historical event, but a lived reality for Palestinians today, characterised by displacement, dispossession, and systemic oppression. It is incumbent upon all individuals and institutions to confront this genocidal campaign, work towards a just and lasting resolution to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and ensure that the rights and dignity of all people are upheld.

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