Written by Robert Smith & Muna Mushahwar, Co-Moderators, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches
May 15 is Nakba Day, commemorated by Palestinians in Israel, in Palestine, among Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East and Palestinian migrants throughout the world.
"Nakba" means "catastrophe" in Arabic. While the State of Israel celebrates its founding in May 1948, the events surrounding Israel's independence resulted in catastrophe for Palestinians, especially those who were systematically forced from their homes and lands. Many Palestinian families still carry the keys to homes their grandparents were forced to flee in 1948; the keys have become a symbol of the right of refugees to return.
The "Nakba" continues today. The Palestinian plight is as unresolved as ever as the State of Israel continues its rapacious acquisition of Palestinian land and its systematic suppression and abuse of the Palestinian people. In 2014, on Nakba Day, Israeli security forces shot dead two Palestinian teenage schoolboys near Ofer Prison in the West Bank. Their murderers have been identified but have not been brought to account.
Since its founding, the State of Israel has, for a variety of strategic, historical, theological and cultural reasons, enjoyed the support of western powers. This support has had the effect of facilitating and encouraging Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights. The only thing that will change Israel's policies and behavior is international pressure and condemnation equal to or greater than the support it has received over the past decades.
It is time to act. It is time for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes to be recognized and addressed with some measure of justice. It is time for the occupation of Palestine to end.