Hundreds marched in Jaffa on Saturday in the first-ever public “Nakba”
commemoration held there.
Waving signs and chanting for Palestinian and
pan-Arab solidarity, the mainly young crowd marched down Rehov Yerushalayim to a
park in the Ajami neighborhood, where a rally was held ahead of a concert by the
Lod-based Arab-Israeli hip-hop group DAM.
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The rally was organized by the
Youth of Jaffa group, with the support of other youth-based groups from Arab
areas of Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Acre and elsewhere in the country. While the chants
were loud, the march was laid-back and orderly.
There was a very small
police presence and no counter-protesters to speak of.
Organizers said the
march was largely inspired by the “Arab Spring” in the region, as well as by the
Knesset’s approval of the so-called “Nakba Law” in March, which allows the
government to fine local authorities that use state money to commemorate of the
creation of Israel in 1948 as a “catastrophe.”
Ramy Sayegh, a local
activist, said, “Jaffa is the heart of the conflict. When Jaffa fell [during the War of Independence], all the other cities fell. So it is
the symbol of the fall of the Palestinian cities and towns. It was the
unofficial capital of Palestine.”
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Sayegh said teaching the younger
generation about the “Nakba” was difficult because of the way it was downplayed
or dismissed by Israeli authorities and kept out of the
“Teaching the Nakba depends on the parents, we don’t have
schools that will allow the teaching of the Nakba. So they don’t have anywhere
to learn it. They have to learn it at home or in other informal
One of the organizers of the demonstration, 23-year-old Jaffa
resident Abed Abu Shehada, said that “in Jaffa, the Nakba never ended. In
Palestine in general it never ended, but especially in Jaffa. For the past 63
years, there’s house demolishing, illegal political arrests, police violence,
families taken out of their homes. From 1948 until today it didn’t
Like others at the march, Abu Shehada spoke largely about the
hardships he and others said were now being suffered by the Arab residents of
Jaffa. These included soaring housing prices, the increasing difficulty of
paying to get married or start a family, police violence, rising crime, and the
rapid gentrification of the area, all of which they said was, in one way or
another, a continuation of what began in 1948.
Abu Shehada termed the
situation in the Arab neighborhoods today part of the legacy of the “Nakba,”
during which “Jaffa went from being one of the most important cities in the
Middle East to being a poor neighborhood of Tel Aviv...
situation here is just going from bad to worse. There’s police violence in
everyday life, settlements inside Arab neighborhoods in Jaffa, and the right
wing holds demonstrations inside Jaffa. We are here to say Jaffa is still Arab
and is still part of Palestine, and we are still Palestinians.”
Shehada said that organizers and the marchers had drawn great inspiration from
the recent upheavals in the Middle East.
“From the youth movement point
of view, we’re very inspired by what is happening in Egypt, in Tunisia, in
Bahrain, because it’s the youth. And it’s the youth’s job because we see that
the elderly have had enough and they’re tired, so it’s up to us to lead the
demonstration, to lead the national movement.”
Jewish passersby didn’t
seem very taken aback by the demonstration.
Ariel Gutman, a middle-aged
Rishon Lezion resident who had parked his car nearby and happened to come across
the demonstration with his wife, said, “It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s
democracy, and it’s their right to say whatever they want, as long as it’s
Uri, a Jewish resident sitting at a nearby café, echoed the
sentiment, saying that while he was surprised by the number of Jews taking part
in the march, “it’s not a problem for me. At the end of the day they’re right,
there has to be a Palestinian state.
The [Palestinian] flag doesn’t
bother me either.
“Besides, this is one of our basic rights – to
demonstrate – and as long as it’s nonviolent, I don’t have any problem with it,”
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