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The Palestine Nakba

The Palestine Nakba

Nur Masalha


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2012 marks the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba - the most traumatic catastrophe that ever befell Palestinians. This book explores new ways of remembering and commemorating the Nakba. In the context of Palestinian oral history, it explores 'social history from below', subaltern narratives of memory and the formation of collective identity. Masalha argues that to write more truthfully about the Nakba is not just to practise a professional historiography but an ethical imperative. The struggles of ordinary refugees to recover and publicly assert the truth about the Nakba is a vital way of protecting their rights and keeping the hope for peace with justice alive. This book is essential for understanding the place of the Palestine Nakba at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the vital role of memory in narratives of truth and reconciliation.
'As a meticulous scholar, historian and above all Palestinian, Nur Masalha is eminently suited to write this excellent book. He has produced a marvellous history of the Nakba which should be essential reading for all those concerned with the origins of the conflict over Palestine.' Ghada Karmi, author of Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine 'Nur Masalha has a distiguished and deserved reputation for scholarship on the Nakba and Palestinian refugees. Now, with his latest book, his searching analysis of past and present makes for a powerful combination of remembrance and resistance.' Ben White, journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide 'Nur Masalha's 'The Palestinian Nakba' is a tour de force examining the process of transformation of Palestine over the last century. One outstanding feature of this study is the systematic manner in which it investigates the accumulated scholarship on the erasure of Palestinian society and culture, including a critical assessment of the work of the new historians. In what he calls 'reclaiming the memory' he goes on to survey and build on a an emergent narrative. Masalha's work is essential and crucial for any scholar seeking this alternate narrative.' Salim Tamari, Visiting Professor of History, Georgetown University 'This book is the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis available of the catastophe that befell Arab Palestine and its people in 1948, known as the Nakba. It shows how the expulsion and physical obliteration of the material traces of a people was followed by what Masalha calls 'memoricide': the effacement of their history, their archives, and their place-names, and a denial that they had ever existed.' Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies Department of History, Columbia University
Nur Masalha is Professor of Religion and Politics and Director of the Centre for Religion and History at St. Mary's University College, UK.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the Author ii
Acknowledgements vii
Introduction 1
Structure and Themes 15
1 Zionism and European Settler-Colonialism 19
Blood, Soil, Race and Land Conquest 19
Creating a Zionist Language 23
European Zionist Narratives and Colonial Reality 33
Framing the Conflict: Settler-colonialism, Herrenvolk Democracy, Ashkenazi Ethnocracy 43
Colonialism, Anti-colonialism and Post-colonialism 47
How Unique is the Zionist Settler-Colonial Project? 53
Settler-colonialism and the Yishuv’s ‘Transfer Committees’ and Schemes, 1937–48 61
1948: A Pattern of Repeated Atrocities 75
Dayr Yasin, 9 April 1948 79
Rape and Sexual Assault by Jewish Forces in 1948 82
The Galilee Atrocities 84
2 The Memoricide of the Nakba: Zionist-Hebrew Toponymy and the De-Arabisation of Palestine 88
Silencing the Palestinian Past 88
The Importance of Toponymy and the Politics of Renaming 91
Renaming as Self-reinvention: The Hebrewisation of Names after 1948 93
The Zionist Superimposing of Hebrew Toponymy 95
Biblical Myths, Old and New: The Complicity of the Israeli Academy 104
European Artists’ Colonies as Places of Amnesia and Erasure 111
The Reconsecration of Muslim Shrines as Jewish Shrines 112
From Al-Majdal to Biblical Ashkelon, 1948–56 115
Appropriating Palestinian Place Names 117
3 Fashioning a European Landscape, Erasure and Amnesia: The Jewish National Fund, Afforestation and Green-washing the Nakba 120
Forests as a Space of Amnesia and Erasure 120
Fashioning a European-biblical Landscape? 131
The Liberal Coloniser Facing the European Forests 132
The Destruction of al-Araqib, July 2010 133
4 Appropriating History: Looting of Palestinian Records, Archives and Library Collections, 1948–2011 135
The Beirut Archives of the Palestinian Research Centre, 1965–82 140
The Jerusalem Archives of the Arab Studies Society/Orient House, 1979–2001 145
5 Post-Zionism, the Liberal Coloniser and Hegemonic Narratives: A Critiqueof the Israeli ‘New Historians’ 148
The Myths of Zionism 148
A New Regime of Knowledge? 149
A Historiographic Revolution? 153
‘New History’ and the Liberal Coloniser: Khirbet Khiz'ah and Zionist Narratives 158
The New Myths of Liberal Zionism: 1967 168
Shared Responsibility for the Catastrophe? 170
A Post-colonial History? 175
The Impact of the ‘New Historians’/Post-Zionists 179
The Historian’s Methodology and Bridging the Narrative Gap 183
Racism, Justification of Ethnic Cleansing and the Resurgence of Neo-colonial Epistemology 191
The Israeli Academy and the Political–Military–Security Establishment 200
6 Decolonising History and Narrating the Subaltern: Palestinian Oral History, Indigenous and Gendered Memories 205
The Nakba as Site of Palestinian Collective Memory 205
Archiving Popular Memory and People’s Voices: Palestinian Oral History and Subaltern Studies 211
Palestinian Oral History, Gendered Memories and Liberating Experiences 215
Oral History of the Holocaust, Yad va-Shem and Dayr Yasin 220
The Limits of Israeli and Colonial Records, Documents and Archives 224
Silencing Palestinian Women’s Voices within the Subaltern Story 226
7 Resisting Memoricide, Reclaiming Memory: Nakba Commemoration among Palestinians in Israel 229
History Textbooks in Jewish and Arab Schools 233
Nakba Day and the Struggle for Collective Rights inside Israel 241
Grassroots Activism and Palestinian Civil Society inside Israel 245
Epilogue: The Continuity of Trauma 251
References 258
Index 279