In commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, Mada al-Carmel – The Arab Center for Applied Social Research convened an academic conference entitled, "Sixty Years of Nakba – Homeland as Exile: Loss, Alienation and Forms of Resistance" at the Al Ein Hotel in Nazareth. The conference was held as part of the general Palestinian effort to preserve the memory of the Nakba, to ensure the regaining of usurped rights for the Palestinian people, and in an attempt to emphasize that the Nakba affected the Palestinian people in Israel in profound ways that have yet to be discussed.
Four sessions were held during the conference, preceded by a welcoming note by Ms. Afnan Eghbaria, a member of the Executive committee of Mada al-Carmel. Professor Nadim Rouhana, the General Director of Mada, then gave an opening speech in which he spoke of the absence of a national and cultural center for Palestinians within the Green Line. He emphasized that the Nakba is not only the catastrophe of the refugees, but that of all parts of the Palestinian people, including the Palestinians in Israel. He further discussed the ways in which the Nakba has affected the social and political makeup and the values of Palestinians in Israel.
The first session was entitled, "How the homeland was exiled from us: The spatial aspect", and was moderated by Ms. Manar Hassan, a researcher specializing in sociology at the University of Tel Aviv. In this session, Dr. Yousef Jabareen spoke about the end of the geographies of Palestine. Dr. Nedera Shalhoub-Kevorkian then discussed Israeli policies of space, Khalil Toufakji talked about maps of spatial denial, and Enaya Banna-Jiryis described Palestinian lands in the past and the present. The speakers demonstrated how Israeli policies represented by land dispossession and confiscation continue today, as Palestinian ownership of land has fallen steadily from over 90% prior to 1948 to no more than around 4% in 2008.
The second session, which was moderated by Dr. Mustafa Kabha, dealt with the social dimensions of the Nakba, and was entitled, "The usurpation of the homeland and dispersal of the people". Professor Marwan Dwairy spoke about the psycho-social dimensions of the Nakba for Palestinians, describing the feelings of resentment and anger that take possession of them as a result of the Nakba. He was followed by Professor Ismael Abu Sa'ad, who spoke about the ongoing Nakba of the Arabs in the Naqab, underlining that they have been forgotten and denied recognition for the past sixty years and still are. Next, Professor Muhammad Hajj-Yahia discussed how Palestinians in Israel live between trauma and steadfastness. He also examined the various reactions of Palestinians inside the Green Line in dealing with their reality that was produced by the Nakba, and divided them into categories, such as the steadfast, the crushed, the terrified and the overwhelmed.
The reclamation of history and how the oppressed can firmly establish the narrative of their history was the theme of the third session, which was moderated by Professor Nadim Rouhana. Dr, Shirin Seikaly from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. spoke about a historicization of the pre-Nakba period beyond what went wrong, and stressed the role played by the Palestinian middle class during the Nakba. She was followed by Dr. Ronit Lentin from Trinity College in Ireland, who discussed Israelis who commemorize the Nakba, casting light on their attempts to take possession of the historical narrative, even when they are endeavoring to highlight the Palestinian narrative. Next, Dr. Adel Manna spoke about the historicization of the meaning of the Nakba for the Arabs in Israel during the first decade of the Nakba, from 1948 to 1958, underscoring the need for an in-depth study of this critical period in the history of the Palestinians.
The final session centered on Confronting State Violence: Forms of Resistance and Submission, and was moderated by Professor Fouad Mughrabi of the University of Tennessee in the United States. Professor Mughrabi gave a lengthy talk in which he explained the overlapping effects of the Nakba on all sections of the Palestinian people. Dr. Ahmed Sa’di then reviewed aspects of coping and resistance among the Arab public in the 1950s. He was followed by Dr. Hunaida Ghanem, who discussed the intellectual and the formation of relations with the homeland and the state in the period after the Nakba and the Naksa (the “setback” of 1967). Dr. Ghanem stated that in the wake of the Nakba, the Arab intellectual placed an emphasis on nationalism and the bond with the homeland, and that this emphasis has recently begun to resurface, following a phase in which issues of citizenship were accentuated, such as equality and related issues.
The speakers at the conference unanimously agreed that the Palestinian Nakba was a pivotal and founding event in shaping the Palestinian national consciousness and in the formation and crystallization of ways of dealing with this event. The conference also shed new light on the fact that the repercussions, consequences and effects of the Nakba continue to be felt today at all levels, and among all parts of the Palestinian people, in particular that part which remained in its homeland.
The conference was held with the support of the Welfare Association.