On the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, it seems appropriate to reflect on how the events of 1948 shaped not only the history of the Palestinian people, but also their present colonial reality.
For Palestinians, the Nakba is a “ghostly matter” – to use a phrase first introduced by sociology professor Avery Gordon. It becomes a psychic force that is constantly haunting the present.
Haunting, as Gordon explains, is one of the ways in which oppressive forms of power continue to insinuate themselves into everyday life.
The Nakba – the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancestral lands in Palestine and the destruction of 500 villages and towns – was not just an event that happened some 75 years ago.
As many Palestinians insist, it is also an ongoing process characterized by long-term forms of state-sanctioned violence. This is something that the Zionist forces continue to practice. In fact, every time a Palestinian is killed by Israeli soldiers or a house that has been built for a long time is destroyed, this specific act of violence is not only shocking, but also summons the memory of the Nakba.
The permanence of the Nakba became very apparent when in February, Jewish vigilantes carried out a pogrom in the Palestinian town of Huwara, and instead of condemning the crime, Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich complained that the forces of the state rather than private citizens should erase the Palestinian. villages.
But the strategy of the Israeli state to create new memories of violence against Palestinians and thus ensure that the Nakba remains a constant presence seems to be at odds with its official policy of denying that it happened.
Israeli officials and pro-Israel activists have repeatedly rejected the term, calling it an “Arab lie” and a “justification for terrorism”. The Israeli authorities also sought to eliminate any public references to the Nakba.
In 2009, the Israeli Education Ministry banned the use of this word in textbooks for Palestinian children.
In 2011, the Knesset adopted a law prohibiting institutions from holding any Nakba commemoration activities. This law is actually an amendment to the Budget Foundation Law, and combines any ceremony marking the Nakba – thus, a public high school in Nazareth – with the encouragement of racism, violence and terrorism and the rejection of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
In other words, the Israeli state considers the Palestinian effort to consciously mark and preserve the Nakba in living memory extremely dangerous and is therefore determined to punish anyone who conducts such ceremonies in public.
Israel, however, is not really interested in imposing social amnesia about the events of 1948, but aims to shape and control Palestinian memory.
The strategy is clear: ensure through daily acts of violence that the Palestinians remain haunted by the Nakba, so that they never forget what Israel can do. At the same time, however, the state makes every effort to prevent the Palestinians from determining how they remember this public history so that they do not use forms of commemoration to incite people against colonial rule. .
This paradoxical policy – ambivalence between memory and commemoration, where the first is continuously performed and the second is prohibited – is an important part of the settler-colonial logic that aims to violently eliminate the history and geography of indigenous peoples in order to provide there is a reason for their displacement and replacement of the settlers.
Relegating the Nakba as a historical event worth commemorating is part of Israel’s effort to reverse the history of colonial dispossession. Israel’s fear is that the Nakba ceremonies will undermine the Zionist narrative that presents Jewish settlers as the eternal victims of Palestinian violence and reveal, in turn, the horrific forms of violence that are being deployed. of the Zionist forces in 1948 and continued to deploy to achieve their goal.
In other words, Israel also aims to control the narrative of history to promote the Zionist moral framework.
This goal, however, was destined to fail. Israel may ban its Palestinian residents from commemorating the 1948 events in public ceremonies, but for them and their diasporic brothers and sisters around the world, the Nakba is never dead; it hasn’t even passed yet.
As long as Israel’s intention to eliminate the idea of a Palestinian nation – through genocide, ethnic cleansing, or the creation of enclaves and ghettos – has not been fully realized or, in other words, completely rejected by the Palestinians having achieved self-determination, the Nakba will continue to serve as a ghostly presence and as a concrete, integral part of Israel’s colonial structure. The Nakba can only be overcome when the settler colonial project ends.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.