Every year on May 15th, Palestinians around the world, numbering about 12.4 million, mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the near-total destruction of Palestinian society in 1948. The Palestinian experience of dispossession and loss of a homeland is 70 years old this year.
On that day, the State of Israel came into being. The creation of Israel was a violent process that entailed the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland to establish a Jewish-majority state, as per the aspirations of the Zionist movement. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.
To commemorate the Nakba the group has a stand in Westbury Gardens. Previously we worked on the theme of ‘What does home mean to me?’ where people wrote what home meant to them on coloured cardboard keys which were then hung up for people to read. This year we decided to try something different and chose the ‘Restriction of Freedom of Movement as our theme.’ We set out the scene and enacted a typical experience at the Check Point (CP). The whole point of the exercise was to show the difference in treatment between the Israelis and the Palestinians (who regularly encounter uncertainty and hours of wasted time when they have to cross checkpoints (necessary for social, economic or health reasons)
Participants first turned over one, from a tray of cards, to identify their nationality: Israeli or Palestinian, and instructed to take it to the soldier at the entrance of the Check Point (CP)corridor. Israelis were joked with, waived aside and directed to their ‘settlement’, represented by a large gazebo where they could relax with delicious fruit drinks. The Palestinians were treated curtly, asked for their permit and sent to an ‘office’ to obtain one, where they had a grilling by the issuing officer before going back to the CP entrance. Allowed into the queue, they were interrogated by another soldier and checked with a metal detector. They were then either sent to a ‘holding area’ for further questioning, or allowed through the CP to their ‘village’ consisting of a small tent where they could drink half a glass of water. Finally, participants were invited to browse the display boards and given a handout clearly showing the inequalities experienced by Palestinians on a daily basis.
We were pleased to chat to the public and to recruit some new people to our mailing list. We will repeat the ‘stunt’ in a more restricted area, at the Holy Trinity Fayre in Westbury Gardens 10-4pm on Sat 7th July, so make a date for what will