What do the words Nakba and Naksa really mean?

Guest contribution by Omar Chaaban

Perhaps there is some utility to maintaining the way the Palestinians choose to describe their collective experience. It is true that if one were to look at the literal superficial meaning of terms like Nakba and Naksa, one can only find unfortunate generalities that can obfuscate the experience that the Palestinians have had to endure for over 65 years. But, there is more to the words Nakba and Naksa and they do not merely mean ‘catastrophe’ and ‘setback’ as it is often referred to in non-Arabic literature.

Related read: The misuse of terminology in the Palestinian narrative is a failing coping mechanism.

The word Nakba in Arabic has very deep and powerful connotations that no word in English can fully grasp. For the Palestinian that found himself forced, at gunpoint, to leave his house and land, with his wife and large family, what happened to him is not simply a ‘catastrophe.’ It is an extremely powerful psychological experience that involved vicious uprooting from the land that his father, grandfather, and great grandfather have farmed for generations. It is an experience that exacted upon the Palestinians a traumatic humiliation in the face of an aggressive invasion and Arab betrayal. [Read more…]

Why SodaStream is doomed to fail

Guest contribution by Ghassan Rafeedie

Recently, Scarlett Johansson has become a spokesperson for SodaStream, the Israeli company with a plant in an illegal settlement built on stolen Palestinian land. SodaStream makes a device that allows you to make your own carbonated drinks at home. While at first glance — and without knowledge of the terrible conditions Palestinians suffer at the hands of SodaStream — some see this as a unique and useful device, it is becoming clearer by the day that SodaStream’s days are numbered. Even Scarlett Johansson cannot save them.

Here is a picture showing their stock’s performance since hiring her.

Hiring her has come across to me as being an act of desperation that is very likely to backfire by helping Palestinians get the message out about boycotting companies like SodaStream.

The issue with SodaStream is that there are two major risks that cannot be managed properly at the same time: the device’s poor design and the moral issue that accompanies their so-called environmentalist product. Even worse news for SodaStream (and better news for supporters of equal rights for Palestinians) is that these cannot even be separated and argued independently. They go hand-in-hand, and will continue to do so in the future. [Read more…]

The misuse of terminology in the Palestinian narrative is a failing coping mechanism

Guest contribution by Deema Alsaafin

As is typical with the narratives of many indigenous oppressed peoples, the Palestinian narrative is largely orally transmitted. Throughout history, the terminology used by Palestinians in describing the downfalls that were inflicted upon them is reflective of a lack of a full grasping of the actual happenings that were inflicted. Conversely, the expressions used to describe minor victories of the Palestinian resistance, such as a prisoner swap, are usually overly-praised in the context of liberation. The utilization of undermining or glorifying words to record events is an indication that the Palestinian narrative is reported under false pretenses of reality.

I believe the most important example to tackle is the use of the word Nakba to describe the horrific events that befell Palestine in 1948. Nakba is an Arabic word that means ‘catastrophe’, mainly one that is out of human control. The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami would aptly be considered a nakba. However, considering that we decided to name the ethnic cleansing, bloodbaths, exile, and all around disorientation that befell us in 1948 a “disaster that was out of human control” suggests that we as Palestinians look for a means to assure us that this calamity was committed not necessarily by ruthless Zionist gangs, but moreso by a supernatural force. This indicates a desire for endurance as well as a general failure to accept our defeats in the name of an ideological power struggle. [Read more…]

Orphans of La’ayoune, Western Sahara

Guest contribution by Sabiha Mahmoud

My latest journey began in Morocco. Despite the hustle and bustle of the region’s strong tourism industry, within its fabric lie many layers of poverty. The orphanage I visited in Agadir, a major Moroccan city, seemed well funded. But a plane journey across to La’ayoune, also known as El-Aaiún, in the Western Sahara revealed a stark difference. The Western Sahara already faces occupation and more and more of its people are becoming displaced from it. I wanted to make certain I documented as much as I could, and orphans always remained sore point. The abandonment and neglect from a place that is already being forgotten or erased is a story that needed to be told.

An orphan from the girls quarters points me in the right direction of where I could catch a taxi back to the main city in La’ayoune. [Read more…]

Statement condemning siege of Yarmouk and all Assad brutality in Syria

Authors’ note: This is a response to the posting from Cornell SJP on the situation in Yarmouk camp in Syria. This is not meant as a comprehensive statement on the conflict in Syria. It is also not our intention to cast aspersions on or vilify Cornell SJP but to respond to the content of their statement. If you would like to add your name to this statement, either as an individual, or as an SJP chapter, please email jareea@gmail.com with the name as it should appear.

All of us have seen the horrifying pictures coming out of Yarmouk refugee camp. Each of us holds our sisters, our brothers, our nieces and nephews, our seedos a little tighter as we struggle to see what can be done for Palestinians who are literally starving to death. Many of those killed by the Assad regime in the past three years were Palestinians, some carrying cameras to document the regime’s brutality, some delivering aid to besieged Syrians, some carrying a weapon while fighting for freedom and dignity, and some sitting quietly in their homes when a TNT barrel fell through their roof. Yarmouk was home to over 100,000 Palestinians. Suffice it to say that there are those in Yarmouk who support the armed resistance, those who don’t, and those who simply want to live, all of them wish to return to their homes in Palestine. 

Yet we also know that ultimately Palestinian liberation is incomplete without the liberation of all oppressed people, whether their oppression comes from occupation and settler-colonialism or a repressive regime from within. [Read more…]

“Why Don’t You Want To Go To Jerusalem?”

Guest contribution by Hasheemah Afaneh

“This is for you!” my little sister exclaimed in Arabic as she grabbed my wrist, trying to put her bracelet on it.

“Where’d you get this?” I asked her, pretending I did not know the answer, just so I could smother her with kisses when she pronounces the name of the city.

“Al-Quds!” she exclaimed with the sweet assurance of a little child.

“Yeah? Do you want to go back to Al-Quds next Ramadan?”


“Why not?” I asked, thinking her answer would be along the lines of her not liking the place.

She lowered her wide-eyed gaze and said, “The soldiers… they’re scary.”

When she uttered those words, I squeezed her tightly in my arms, wanting to protect her and all the other children from a form of cruelty in this world that presents itself as Israeli occupation soldiers. [Read more…]

Seeing home in Palestine for the very first time

Guest contribution by Rayaan R.

I will not discuss the politics for I do not believe I am yet qualified. I won’t tell you if I stand for a two-state solution or if I am a “one-stater.” I will not list death tolls nor preach about the horrors Israel imposes on my people every day. Instead, I will share the story of a Palestinian who saw home for the first time.

Born and raised in the United States to a mother who lived her childhood in Ramallah and to a father who cannot remember the last time he set foot in his country, the opportunity presented itself for me to see what I had been raised to believe was home. I had seen pictures and sat for countless hours listening to Sitti tell me stories of the Nakba and life in Palestine, both before and after. But now, after so many years of sitting and listening, I was finally going to see all of the places I had heard so much about.

The short bus ride through the Jordanian-Palestinian border seemed to last for hours but the same story replayed in my mind the entire way through. Mama was always so proud to share her thoughts whenever Palestine was brought up in casual convrsation.

Wallah ya mama, I used to pray in Masjid Al-Aqsa every Friday with my Sitti. I would hold her hand and we would walk there and pray, and after that, she always bought me a treat.” [Read more…]

Students post eviction notices at U of Michigan dorms, draw attention to Palestinian plight

Guest contribution by Students Allied for Freedom & Equality at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

On Tuesday morning, December 10, approximately 1,500 students woke up to mock eviction notices in six University of Michigan residential dormitories.

Inspired by the Rutgers-New Brunswick chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, members of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) dispersed the notices in the early morning in order to have students momentarily experience the feeling of receiving an eviction notice upon waking up — a feeling that thousands of indigenous Palestinians have had to face under Israeli occupation.

Although it is impossible to recreate the emotions Palestinians experience from forcible internal displacement and exile, the purpose of this action was to raise much-needed awareness regarding the ongoing forcible expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from their land to clear the way for the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories. [Read more…]

Stereotypes that hurt the Palestinian cause and how one student overcame them

Guest contribution by Amal Ali

Every Palestinian knows the gist. Every city has its qualities and the natives of each have their characteristics. People from the depopulated city of Lydd are like this. People from Bethlehem usually do that. People from Gaza tend to be this way.

The stereotypes get around. By the time we meet a new Palestinian and ask that the inevitable question, “Min ay balad inti/inta? What town are you from?” we maintain the entire interaction with a preconceived perception of his or her character based solely on municipality.

It’s not a new concept: stereotypes have been part of functioning society since the first caveman began to attach assumed traits to loincloth style and club size. And while several people operate on the “stereotypes save time” mentality and don’t believe in abandoning them for convenience, the long-term effects of these ideas becomes clearer and clearer with every hesitation to reveal details of one’s identity.

My father’s family traces to Surif, a town in the Khalil district in the West Bank. When I was growing up, people’s first response to me after hearing where I’m from was always a “Fi wahd Khalili” joke that feebly mocked Khalaylas as hardheaded, old-fashioned, and sometimes even dense. As a child, I was always surrounded by Palestinians from other cities and towns, so I never heard the flip side to being from Khalil — the good parts — and consequently spent the better part of my life ashamed of the fact that my paternal lineage had no other legacy but stubbornness and backwards living. [Read more…]

A visual commemoration of Palestine’s sixteen districts

Guest contribution by Jumana Al-Qawasmi

A couple weeks ago, I whipped together a quick cover photo commemorating my Palestinian hometown of Al-Khalil (I am a proud Khaliliyya and will always be). To my surprise, this quick project was really popular. So, I embellished on this idea and began a mini project, creating similar images for cities throughout the Middle East, like Cairo, Muscat, and Damascus. I liked the idea of remembering towns as they were, are, and will be (another ‘reclamation project’, really).

I was then asked to create these images for all sixteen districts of Palestine. When compiling the photographs necessary for this mini project, I quickly grew astonished at how little I knew about each district. Could I rally off some unique features of Safad, of Beersheba, of Jenin with relative ease? Unfortunately, I could not.

One could chalk this up to the egregious aftermath of the Nakba: I, as a Palestinian, am so estranged from Palestine that I do not know the culture, geography, and rich narrative of my homeland as well as I otherwise could.

But to do so would be to rid myself (and you) of all blame. It’s easy to get on the internet and research the distinguishing features of each district. You’ll learn about the White Tower of Ramleh, of Napoleon’s defeat at Akka, of the railroad systems linking various districts to the rest of the Middle East. The plethora of images — ranging from the late 1800s to present day — is alone enough to acquaint yourself with Palestine from afar. I recommend searching with the Arabic form of the district name; you come up on more Palestinian sources that way, rather than tiresome Israeli ones. [Read more…]


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