Ramallah: black balloons commemorate NakbaIsrael is demanding that the UN strike the word “Nakba” from its lexicon after an official statement released by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made specific reference to the Arab word meaning catastrophe—especially in reference to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their lands with Israel’s inception in 1948. Israeli Radio quoted a Ban spokesperson as saying the secretary-general “phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stress his support for the Palestinian people on Nakba Day.” Danny Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told the radio that the term “Nakba is a tool of Arab propaganda used to undermine the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it must not be part of the lexicon of the UN.”
The report said that Ban himself was surprised by the controversy created by his gesture, as he was not aware that use of the term was unacceptable to Israel. According to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, the UN said the word had not been used by any of the world body’s institutions or officials before. Yediot said that Ban has been supportive of Israel since taking office in 2006, but has recently come under pressure by the Arab world. (Arab News, May 17)
On May 15, thousands gathered in Ramallah to mark the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba. Crowds marched from refugee camps around Ramallah, converging in the center of the city for speeches and traditional dancing. At Kalandia camp, thousands of black balloons were released, in coordination with similar releases in Bethlehem and Jerusalem—one for every day of the Palestinian dispossession. Attached to the balloons were notes from children around Palestine expressing their hopes for the future. (ISM, May 17) Five members of the Jerusalem Youth Network were arrested for distributing a pamphlet commemorating the Nakba. (Palestinian News Network, May 16)
George Bush didn’t use the word “Nakba” in his special address to the Israeli Knesset, but did say the US was proud to be the “closest ally and best friend in the world” of a nation that was a “homeland for the chosen people” and had “worked tirelessly for peace and…fought valiantly for freedom.” In a speech that linked Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, he likened those—including “good and decent” people—who urged negotiations with “terrorists and radicals” to supporters of appeasing the Nazis before World War II. (The Independent, May 16) (This was, of course, taken as an unsubtle swipe at Barack Obama.)
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