5. Nakba in Palestine 1948

For the Jews the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 is their ‘battle for independence’, whereas Palestinians call it ‘al Nakba – the catastrophe’. The establishment of the Jewish state of Israel was associated with several massacres and the depopulation of hundreds of villages, and resulted in the expulsion of about 700,000 Palestinian citizens. Many ancient villages were destroyed and are no longer shown on maps of Israel. Others have been replaced by Israeli settlements and now have Hebrew names. Most of the ancient places are now agricultural land, nature reserves, or are being used by the Israeli army.

For decades the Palestinians had no accurate maps giving an overview of this ethnic cleansing. The achievement of Dr. Salman Abu-Sitta was to draw up a detailed map for the Palestine Land Society, after extensive geographical and demographic research.
The numbers in the tables refer to the present size of the refugee communities. According to Abu-Sitta’s inset map, the Palestinian refugee problem can be solved in the main by designating areas in Israel which are almost empty as areas for their return. The documentation for both maps is extensively given in his huge ‘Atlas of Palestine 1948’ of 2004, and his ‘The Return Journey’ of 2007.

In the first version of the al-Nakba map of 1998 Abu-Sitta gives as one of his sources ‘The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949’ by Benny Morris. For his part this Israeli historian has a great appreciation of Abu-Sitta’s cartography, but is rather critical of his ‘propagandist’ manipulation of the figures, and he completely rejects his suggestion of a re-palestinisation of Israel. Nonetheless the discussion about the Palestinian refugees can at last be held with the cards on the table.

Abu-Sitta, Salman, Palestine 1948, Commemoration of al Nakba - Sixty Years in Exile, London 1998, 2008

Abu-Sitta, Salman, Palestine 1948, Commemoration of al Nakba - Sixty Years in Exile, London 1998, 2008