Apathy, resignation mark Nakba Day in Bethlehem

The heatwave was weighing on people and many shops were closed because Sunday is a Christian day off.

Palestinians mark Nakba day across West Bank and Gaza 15.5.16
Manger Square in Bethlehem was crowded with Russian tourists Sunday. A young boy begged for money and tour guides begged to be hired. A Palestinian policeman with an AK-47 slung round his side was directing traffic. “Nakba Day isn’t today,” said a Palestinian man working as a waiter. He was confused, his friend said.
“It’s today I think, but all the events are finished.”
The argument between the two men was symbolic of an apathy across the West Bank on Nakba Day, a day that is central to the Palestinian national movement’s desire for a “right of return” for millions of refugees. The commemoration is traditionally held on May 15th, the date of Israel’s founding, which Palestinians view as a national catastrophe. “I forgot all about it,” a French photojournalist told me from Ramallah.
In years past she had been near the IDF’s Ofer Prison and other locations, but she said the day had almost come and gone without incident.
It wasn’t entirely quiet. In Silwad, northeast of Ramallah; Salfit, a village north of Jerusalem; and Arroub refugee camp near Hebron, small clashes took place with Israeli forces, according to photos posted at Quds network. A small demonstration took place in central Ramallah.
In Bethlehem an official protest began near Bab al-Zqaq in the center of the city. Young men set up an army-style tent to symbolize the refugee life in the 1950s and they decorated a large cardboard train with names of villages from British Mandate Palestine. Youths posed by the train and handed out fliers describing dispossession.
“Through unity and resistance the ‘Right of Return’ is made achievable,” said the material. A large billboard with names of Palestinian villages was hosted over the main road.
But by mid-afternoon the small crowd had dispersed.
Some marched to Aida refugee camp. The heatwave was weighing on people and many shops were closed because Sunday is a Christian day off and even though Bethlehem is 17 percent Christian or less, it still has deep Christian influences. Despite the formal boycott of Israeli goods by the Palestinian Authority, Mi Eden Mineral water was on sale at all local stores. At the newly opened Al Karmeh restaurant a young man said that police had told protesters not to make trouble.
“They don’t want the Nakba Day protests, they sent them home.” At a shop that sells Banksy artwork, the older proprietor was also apathetic.
He acknowledged that it was Nakba Day but was more interested in lack of tourists.
Muhammad Farrah, a tour guide, said the protests that used to take place at Manger Square had also been moved this year. “Israel is like a person with their pants down; the country shows and does everything but no one cares, no one stands up.” He claimed European governments don’t care. “Maybe you as a European care personally, but your government doesn’t; Israel has all the power; so they may talk about expulsion or Nakba, but no one does anything.”
Although on social media many people were tweeting about the Nakba abroad and Al Jazeera released a special video, locals seemed perplexed about the lack of protests.
The fact that one man claimed he didn’t know when the day was, was indicative of a declining interest. Even posters saying “Nakba at 68” had been ripped off many bus stops they were pasted to.
A Palestinian saleswoman from Ramallah was more blunt. “It’s out of fashion. I’m kidding. Don’t say I said that.”