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2011 Book Gives Voice to Palestinian Women Who Survived 1948 Nakba

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 4:27am in

In her book, “Palestinian Women, Narrative Histories and Gendered Memory,” published in 2011 by Zed Books, Dr. Fatma Kassem writes, “Palestinian women living in Israel have been entirely left out of the formation of Palestinian national identity.” 

In an effort to bring them in, even if for a moment, she conducted interviews with 20 Palestinian women who had lived through the horrors of 1948. These were women who currently – or at the time of the interviews – lived in Lyd and Ramleh, two Palestinian cities that were occupied in 1948 and subjected to atrocities by the Zionist militias and later to horrifying abuse and discrimination by the government of Israel.

Palestinian Women Narrative Histories and Gendered MemoryThe cities of Lyd and Ramleh, which lay just a few kilometers southeast of the city of Yaffa, were, like Yaffa, full-fledged Palestinian cities prior to 1948, each having a population of close to 20,000. In the summer of 1948, the two cities were subjected to a massive violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. The women interviewed by Dr. Kassem all lived through that horror and now, all these years later, were asked to tell their stories.

Admittedly, I have only recently become aware of this book, which is written around the stories of these “ordinary Palestinian women” who represent what Dr. Kassem calls the weakest sector of the population. Some of them were originally from Lyd and Ramleh, some ended up there as internally displaced people. They typically begin their stories with, “I am from here,” or, “I am not from here;” in both cases, the next sentence describes how their world was destroyed and forever transformed when “the Jews entered and took the country.”

Dr. Kassem writes that by telling the stories of these 20 women who survived 1948 she seeks to have those who are responsible “take responsibility for these stories.”


The kitchen and the living room

Dr. Kassem dedicated the first chapter to her own family stories. She writes that long before the new Israeli historians began exposing the atrocities committed by the Zionist brigades in 1948, “I’d already heard the stories many times in our family home.”

Her father, she said, used to tell the stories in the living room: “The living room represents the public space of the home where a much more diverse group of people would visit.” And her mother told her stories in the kitchen, “a private place with a much smaller audience of immediate family members.”


Fleeing for survival

“We fled,” they say one after the other, describing harrowing stories of fleeing violence by the Israeli army. One describes carrying a baby for miles on foot to escape Israeli warplanes.

“In a state of war people leave dangerous and hazardous places in the rational interest of preserving their safety,” Kassem rightfully asserts. However, when people do this they have a right to go back to their homes. Yet the newly formed State of Israel did not permit this. Those who fled are still not permitted to return, and, in fact, Palestinians who tried to return were designated as infiltrators and were arrested or shot on sight.

The women also described in great detail the homes they had lived in prior to 1948. Once Israel had taken over, their homes were either demolished or became the property of Amidar, an Israeli-government-owned housing company.

In 1948, the women’s sense of safety and security was destroyed along with that of their communities and indeed all of Palestine. And yet, against all odds, these women succeeded in the heroic task of remaining in their native homeland, Palestine. They built homes and raised families, albeit in extremely harsh conditions, and they did so in defiance of the Zionists who made claims to their land.


Remembering the bodies

“If you’d only seen the bodies in the streets, if you only had seen the bodies. Little children without their shoes walking about the mayhem and crying.” Several women in the book mention the “death roads” — roads upon which countless Palestinians died following mass expulsions.

They recall seeing the bodies of family members and neighbors, elderly men and women, and even children. They knew these people could not survive the difficult physical conditions, walking for miles and miles in “the heat, hunger and the thirst.”

One of the women recalls, “it was so hot, so hot, they died, they died, bodies were left on the road, there was no drop of water, no water.”

Palestinian women

A displaced Palestinian woman stands in a sprawling refugee camp after the 1948 Nakba. Photo |

“Some of the women I interviewed,” Kassem says, in what must be a harrowing moment for a mother to hear from another mother, “lost their children on the road of expulsion: ‘We left Isdud. We walked for two hours on foot along the beach. When we left, my daughter was in my arms… There were no doctors and no food.’”

“The silences and facial expressions and the sweat that’s covered her face indicates she was concealing something,” Kassem writes. This mother, understandably, did not want to talk about the death of her two-year-old daughter. In the words of another: “It was the fast, the third day of Ramadan, when this happened and we were fasting. When the Jews came in, they didn’t leave anything to us. Not bread, not water for the children, and the people were expelled into the mountains barefoot and empty-handed, not a drop of water to drink. They threw us out at noon. It was noon so it was so hot.”


Dahmash Mosque

On a personal note, the story of the massacre at the Dahmash Mosque in Lyd was the first story I ever heard of the Zionist atrocities of 1948. I heard about it from someone who had personal knowledge of the massacre. My friend Ibrahim, a Palestinian originally from Lyd, told me how his father was among a group of men whom the Zionists forced to go in and clean up after the massacre.

Several of the women Dr. Kassem interviewed had witnessed this horror. One recounted: “The first days when the Jews came in, people went inside the mosques, they thought that the Jews would not kill them in the mosques. But they killed everyone who was inside.”  Another told: “My father and many others went inside the mosque to protect themselves. He was not fighting. He was an old man. My father and my cousin, they pushed them into the mosque and shot all of them.”

Dozens of people seeking refuge in the mosque in Lyd were butchered by the Israeli army. They were buried in a mass grave in the cemetery in Lyd. Today the mosque itself stands as an informal memorial to those who were massacred.


The ghetto

The Cities of Yaffa, Rameh, and Lyd were now occupied by the new state of Israel. The few Palestinians who remained were placed in ghettos. These were streets that the army designated for this purpose, surrounded by barbed wire and heavily guarded by Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian women

A displaced Palestinian woman holds her child on the outskirts of Jerusalem in 1948. Photo |

As one of the women explains, tellingly using the word ghetto to describe conditions at the time, “The Ghetto is where the old city is next to the big mosque.”

Minimal rations of food and water were provided but no one was permitted to leave. Anyone found outside was executed on the spot: “If they wanted to bury a dead person they needed a permit. Otherwise people did not dare to go out.”


“The days are repeating themselves”

The reality of violence against Palestinians is an ongoing story. As they were being interviewed, noticing the reality around them, the women commented: “The days are repeating themselves.” In Gaza, for example, where many of these women’s relatives ended up, people have nothing to eat.

“The more recent suffering of Palestinians,” Kassem writes, “the horrors of dead bodies and of hunger and thirst, link contemporary events to traumatic recollections of these women from 1948.”

At the conclusion of the book, Kassem writes, “the personal life stories of these women acquired additional layers of meaning.” Their very existence raises serious questions about their rights as women, as human beings, as Palestinians, and as citizens of a state that imposed itself upon them and doesn’t want them.

Feature photo | A young Palestinian woman paints a mural to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Israel’s bloody crackdown on Gaza, in Gaza City, Dec. 29, 2009. The Arabic text reads “Gaza,” Hatem Moussa | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post 2011 Book Gives Voice to Palestinian Women Who Survived 1948 Nakba appeared first on MintPress News.

History Debunked Refutes the Myth that James I was Black

More from the whackier end of racial politics. History Debunked has put up a number of videos refuting various assertions and myths promoted as Black history. One of his videos attacked the claim, seen in the Netflix interracial historical romance, Bridgerton, that Queen Caroline was Black. This has arisen from the fact that one of her ancestors was a 13th Spanish Moorish prince. But that was five hundred years before her birth, and so any biological trace of her non-White ancestry would have disappeared way back in her lineage. Apart from which, the Spanish Moors were Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. They were darker than Europeans – the term ‘blue-blooded’ for the aristocracy comes from the Christian Spanish nobility. Under their idea of limpieza de sangre, ‘blood purity’, the racial ideology that distinguished them from the Moors, their skin was supposed to be so pale that you could see the veins in the wrist. But the Moors were nevertheless lighter-skinned than the darker peoples south of the Sahara, in what the Arabs called Bilad as-Sudan and the Berbers Akal Nguiwen, ‘The Land of the Blacks’. Which I think shows that the Arabs and Berbers, dark as they were compared to Europeans, very clearly didn’t think of themselves as Black.

In this video Simon Webb debunks a similar myth, that James I of England/ VI of Scotland, was Black. This ahistorical idea apparently began with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Black Jewish sect who believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel went to sub-Saharan Africa. Webb mentions that a group of them settled in Israel in the Negev. He uses this to try to refute the demand that Israel should open its borders by stating that Israel had taken in people of a number of different racial groups. They are now, for example, taking in people from India. It’s true that Israel has taken in refugees from Africa, but many of the groups they’ve accepted were Jews. In the 1970s they mounted a rescue operation to transport the Falashas, the Black Jews of Ethiopia, away from their oppression in that country to safety in Israel. My guess is that the Indians they’re accepting are also Jewish. There’s an indigenous Jewish community in India, the Bene Israel, and it sounds like some of them may be migrating. There is, however, considerable racism amongst White Israelis. Abby Martin covered this in some of her reports for The Empire Files on TeleSur, in which she interviewed Black Israelis about the abuse, including physical assault, they’d experience. Gentile African refugees, although present, are resented by many Israelis as ‘infiltrators’, the term they also use for Palestinians trying to return to the ancestral lands from which they were evicted during the Nakba, the term they use for foundation of Israel and their massacre and ethnic cleansing in 1947.

But back to the Black Hebrew Israelites and James I. The Black Hebrew Israelites believe that the Spanish Moors were Black, and that they went from Spain to colonise Ireland and Scotland. Which must be news to most Scots and Irish. Mary, Queen of Scots was mixed race, but Lord Darnley, James’ father, was fully Black and so was James. The English, however, were determined to erase any trace of this Black ancestry, and so embarked on a deliberately policy of intermarrying with the Black Scots and Irish in order to make them White, at the same time destroying all the contrary evidence that they were Black. Although this myth began with the Black Hebrew Israelites it has spread out from them into the wider Black community. To support his description of this bizarre myth, Webb on the YouTube page for the video has link to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Patriot, which proudly promotes this claim.

Was King James I of England black? – YouTube

The belief that the Spanish Moors were Black has formed the basis for an anti-White racist view of history. A few years ago the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, carried on its online edition a piece by a Black historian, Garikai Chengu. This claimed that the Moors were ‘obviously Black’, and their colonisation of Spain brought science and reason to a Europe then gripped by ignorance and superstition. There’s some basis for this in that the revival of science in the West began when Christian scholars acquired Arab and Islamic scientific texts from places such as Islamic Spain and Sicily after that was conquered by the Normans. However, it’s grotesquely exaggerated and is really just a piece of racial supremacist propaganda, albeit one by Blacks rather than Whites. I think it’s fair to see such Afrocentric views of history as a form of Fascism, including this myth that the Irish and Scots were also really Black. Some historians have no trouble describing certain Black political movements as forms of Fascism. One recent book by an academic historian not only includes the classic Fascist movements of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and various other White, European far right movements, but also Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association and the Nation of Islam, as well as Narendra Modi’s BJP in India. The inclusion of Marcus Garvey and his organisation may well offend many Black activists. Garvey is one of the pioneers of Black liberation. A month or so ago there was a Black celebrity writing in the pages of the Radio Times recommending that children should be taught about him in school. I really know very little about Garvey, but the claim that he was Fascistic rings true. When I was working as a volunteer in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol one of the jobs I was given was unpacking some of boxes of material given to the Museum by private individuals and institutions. One of these included a document by Garvey’s organisation. I didn’t do more than glance at it, but it appeared to be describing some kind of military parade or armed wing. This included women’s units and mechanised and mounted forces of various kinds. I don’t know if Garvey and his followers were ever able to set up such a paramilitary force or whether it was all a fantasy. But one of the features of Fascism is its militarism. The Nazis and Italian Fascists, not to mention the various other Fascist movements, all started out as paramilitary organisations complete with uniforms and arms.

Alongside the entirely reasonable demands for social and economic improvement and renewed action to combat White racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has also brought out and articulated strains of overt anti-White racism. One example of this was the attempt by Sasha Johnson, of the Oxford branch of the organisation, to set up her own paramilitary Black army in Brixton to protect Blacks from the cops, and her tweet that the White man wouldn’t be Blacks’ equal, but their slave. Which got her banned from the social media platform. I think there is a real need to start studying and publishing material specifically on Black racism and Fascism. At the moment, there appears to be very little, if any, books specifically published on it. If you search for ‘Black racism’ on Google, what comes up is articles and books on the attacks on affirmative action programmes by right-wing Whites. Way back in the ’90s and early parts of this century there was a book published on Black anti-White violence in America. This might be White Girl Bleed A Lot, which is a similar book. However, I’m not sure how academically respectable the latter is, as I think its author may have joined the extreme right. I can see many people on the left resisting any attempt to categorise and study various Black Fascist movements from the belief that, as Blacks have been oppressed in the West, and are still disadvantaged, it is unfair to characterise such movement as they arose in response to White racism and persecution.

But this does not change the nature of these movements and the racism and racist history they promote. Whatever their connections to the broader Black liberation movement, they’re still racist and Fascist themselves, and should be viewed as such. Fascism everywhere needs to be fought, regarded of race.