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“The Nakba did not begin in 1948. Its origins lie over two centuries ago….” So begins this four-part series on the ‘nakba’, meaning the ‘catastrophe’, about the history of the Palestinian exodus that led to the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel. This sweeping history starts back in 1799 with Napoleon’s attempted advance into Palestine to check British expansion and his appeal to the Jews of the world to reclaim their land in league with France. The narrative moves through the 19th century and into the 20th century with the British Mandate in Palestine and comes right up to date in the 21st century and the ongoing ‘nakba’ on the ground. Arab, Israeli and Western intellectuals, historians and eye-witnesses provide the central narrative which is accompanied by archive material and documents, many only recently released for the first time.
In 19 April 1936, the Palestinians launched a national strike to protest against mass Jewish immigration and what they saw as Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement. The British responded with force. During the six months of the strike, over 190 Palestinians were killed and more than 800 wounded. I cannot imagine Zionism without violence, whether before or after the establishment of the state of Israel. Dr Anis Sayegh, the Palestinian Encyclopedia editor. , Wary of popular revolt, Arab leaders advised the Palestinians to end the strike. Palestinian leaders bowed to pressure from the Arab heads of state and agreed to meet the British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord Peel. In its report of July 1937, the Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine. Its report drew the frontiers of a Jewish state in one-third of Palestine, and an Arab state in the remaining two-thirds, to be merged with Transjordan. A corridor of land from Jerusalem to Jaffa would remain under British mandate. The Commission also recommended transferring where necessary Palestinians from the lands allocated to the new Jewish state. The Commission’s proposals were widely published and provoked heated debate. As the Palestinian revolt continued, Britain’s response hardened. Between 1936 and 1937, the British killed over 1,000 Palestinians; 37 British military police and 69 Jews also died.
Few Palestinians, if any, could have imagined they were to become victims of what would later be called ‘ethnic cleansing’. When the British were preparing to leave Palestine, we didn’t have weapons. My father gave me money and I bought a gun with only three bullets for 100 Palestinian liras. Sami Kamal Abdul Razek, palestinian refugee, After 30 years of British rule, the question of Palestine was referred to the United Nations, which had become the forum for conflict. On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly met to devise a plan for the partition of Palestine. UN Resolution 181 divided Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an internationalised city. The Jewish state was granted 56 percent of the land; the city of Jaffa was included as an enclave of the Arab state; and the land known today as the Gaza Strip was split from its surrounding agricultural regions. But making the proposed Arab state all but proved impractical in the eyes of many Palestinians. When the draft resolution was presented for voting, Arab newspapers ran a ‘name and shame’ list of the countries that voted for the UN partition plan, and Arab protesters took to the streets. Following the partition resolution, Britain announced it would end its mandate in Palestine on 14 May 1948.
In early 1948, Jewish paramilitary forces began to seize more land in Palestine. By the end of July, more than 400,000 Palestinians had been forced to flee their homes, and their plight as refugees had just begun. I swear to God, we tasted it; we tasted starvation like no one else did Hosni Mohammad Smada, Palestinian refugee, In May of that year, Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte had been appointed as the UN Mediator in Palestine. His mission was to seek a peaceful settlement. The Count surveyed devastated Palestinian villages and visited refugee camps in both Palestine and Jordan. The scale of the humanitarian disaster became apparent, as he witnessed cramp living conditions, long queues for basic food and scarce medical aid. Count Bernadotte was no stranger to human disaster; with the Red Cross he had rescued over 30,000 prisoners of war from Nazi concentration camps. Now he advocated the Palestinian’s right to return to their homes. In a report dated 16 September 1948, he wrote: “It would be an offence against the principles of elementary justice if these innocent victims were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.” The Count’s first proposal argued for fixed boundaries through negotiation, an economic union between both states, and the return of Palestinian refugees - the proposal was turned down. On 17 September, the day following his UN report, Count Bernadotte’s motorcade was ambushed in Jerusalem. He was shot at point blank range by members of the Jewish Stern gang.
The first episode of this three-part series looks back on what it meant to be both black and French in the decades before France’s African colonies achieved independence.
The second episode of this series reveals the ongoing struggles of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean to achieve rights, form communities and have their contributions to French society recognised.
The last episode of this series focuses on the extreme racism and discrimination black immigrants faced during times of economic hardship and through political shifts in post-World War II France.
Forty years on, Al Jazeera examines three weeks of war from which both Arabs and Israelis claimed to emerge victorious. The first part of the series focuses on the build-up to the war and the role of an Egyptian double agent. It examines Egypt and Syria's lightning attack against an unprepared Israel as well as the Israeli response, the mobilisation of reserves and stabilisation of the Syrian thrust into the Golan Heights in a bloody tank battle in what became known as the 'Valley of Tears'. And it looks at the failure of an Israeli counterattack in the Sinai and the Egyptian consolidation of bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal.
Forty years on, Al Jazeera examines three weeks of war from which both Arabs and Israelis claimed to emerge victorious. The second part of The October War investigates the Israeli counterattack on both fronts, pushing Syrian and supporting Arab forces back across the ceasefire line, and taking control of territory deep inside Syria and almost within reach of Damascus. On the Suez front, Israeli forces under Ariel Sharon identify a gap in the Egyptian Canal defences, and after fierce fighting in The Battle of the Chinese Farm, they succeed in crossing the Canal to occupy positions in Egypt, behind the Egyptian front line. Meanwhile differences emerge in the Arabs' war aims, as Syria looks to conquest, while Egypt seeks only to jump-start peace talks.
Forty years on, Al Jazeera examines three weeks of war from which both Arabs and Israelis claimed to emerge victorious. Stalemate at the battlefront brings the threat of involvement by the two global superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union. For a full 24 hours the world stands on the brink of nuclear confrontation. Kissinger brokers a UN monitored peace deal, but turns a blind eye to an Israeli land grab. Arab oil-producing nations turn the screw on Western supporters of Israel by cutting production. Finally a ceasefire is agreed which paves the way for the eventual return of Sinai to Egypt. But the Arab-Israeli conflict continues to this day.
A debate to mark the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian 'Nakba', a discussion about its roots and ramifications.
Sociopolitical Documentary hosted by Richard Gizbert, published by Al-Jazeera broadcasted as part of Al-Jazeera Listening Post series in 2013 - English narration
We follow one man as he becomes the only Israeli granted access to the inner sanctum of the whirling Dervish order. Miki Cohen is a 58-year-old college teacher who has 'discovered' the works of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, a 13th-century Muslim poet and Sufi mystic. Attracted by Rumi's writings and philosophy, Miki translates his works into Hebrew and practices whirling in worship. What makes Cohen's story so remarkable is that he is an Israeli. The son of holocaust survivors and a veteran of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Cohen found himself searching for answers to his spiritual identity.