by Ken Sehested
15 May is the anniversary of what Palestinians call al-Nakba, translated as “the Catastrophe” in reference to the day following Israel’s formation as a state in 1948. Some three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forced from their homes. Four hundred Palestinian villages cease to exist. The heirs of the expelled now number five million, most living in refugee camps on the West Bank, Gaza, and surrounding countries.
I was in my 30s when I first heard the word Nakba, and the historical moment it represents, well into a career requiring broad knowledge of global affairs. In my experience, few here in North America know the word.
A more evocative translation of al-Nakba could be “the Humiliation,” since in English “catastrophe” is often associated with “natural” disasters. As such, no human agency is implied—only the brute hand of climatic turbulence well beyond our control or even prediction. Read more ›