The heart of Palestine: a personal view of the current emergency from MAP’s Chief Executive

Today, 15 May, marks the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, the day that for Palestinians represents the loss of 78 percent of their historic homeland and the tearing apart of lives, families, and society.

Unlike most commemorated events, the Nakba is far from over. The current violence in occupied Palestine is a devastating episode in a perpetual ‘catastrophe’ that has its roots in systematic violence, dispossession, and discrimination against Palestinians. All of which the international community has failed to address with any real effect for decades.

My father was one of over 750,000 Palestinians forced to flee from their homes in 1948, during the establishment of the state of Israel. He was seventeen at the time. He would spend the last three weeks of his life in a hospital in Wales in May 2002. That was during the second intifada (2000-2005), which was sparked by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon when he stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem with more than 1,000 heavily armed police and soldiers. At the time, my father said he could no longer watch the news of Israel’s military operations for fear that the sight of the destruction of yet more lives and homes in occupied Palestine would finally kill him. In the end, the cardiologist told us there was so much wrong with his heart that nothing could be done to help him. Dad died having never returned to Haifa and the family home he had been forced from in his youth.

The Nakba is ongoing. But, against all odds, the heart of Palestine is still beating.

Over the last few days, seeing the news unfold from Al Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, Lydda, Acre and Haifa, my heart also beats harder, fearing for the lives and homes of friends, colleagues and all those still living under threat of violence, dispossession, and dispersal.

The situation is deeply distressing. Protesters in the West Bank have been met with excessive force, with at least seven killed and hundreds injured. In occupied East Jerusalem, the Israeli government is promoting the forcible expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for settlers. And within Israel, discrimination and violence against Palestinian citizens are a root cause of anger, frustration, and civil disturbances.

And now, Israel’s military assault across Gaza is causing mass casualties and extensive damage to homes and essential infrastructure, just as it did in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014. At the current time, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported at least 869 people injured and 119 people killed, including 31 children. Many more victims are believed to be buried beneath the rubble.

The UN estimates that some 10,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and are currently sheltering in schools, mosques and other locations, during a global pandemic, with limited access to water, food, hygiene and healthcare services.

Our team on the ground say some areas of Gaza look as if they have been hit by an earthquake. People are terrified, no one is safe, and the ongoing violence will have a long-term impact on all. Meanwhile, Israel is amassing troops to launch a possible ground invasion that would lead to greater bloodshed.

The Nakba is ongoing. Yet, after all these decades and the destruction of so many lives, and still the international community cannot bring itself to support effective action and accountability.

The Nakba is ongoing. But, against all odds, the heart of Palestine is still beating. The population is increasingly unified, despite decades of military oppression, dispossession, separation, inequality, and injustice. Palestinians simply refuse to accept that they should live at a different level of humanity and insist that effective remedy is essential.

Now the international community must take action.

- Dr Aimee Shalan, CEO of MAP


If you live in the UK you can call for urgent action from the UK government by emailing your MP today.

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