In Israel’s call for mass evacuation, Palestinians hear echoes of their original catastrophic exodus
In Israel’s call for the evacuation of half of Gaza’s population, many Palestinians fear a repeat of the most traumatic event in their tortured history, their mass exodus from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.
Palestinians refer to it as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” An estimated 700,000 Palestinians, a majority of the prewar population, fled or were expelled from what is now Israel in the months before and during the war, in which Jewish fighters fended off an attack by several Arab states.
The Palestinians packed their belongings, piling into cars, trucks and donkey carts. Many locked their doors and took their keys with them, expecting to return when the war ended.
Seventy-five years later, they have not been allowed back. Emptied towns were renamed, villages were demolished, homes reclaimed by forests in Israeli nature reserves.
Israel refused to allow the Palestinians to return, because it would threaten the Jewish majority within the country’s borders. So the refugees and their descendants, who now number nearly 6 million, settled in camps in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Those camps eventually grew into built-up neighborhoods.