I walked into the small, warm office on a recent pleasant spring day to find three, white-haired older gentlemen drinking coffee, exchanging small talk accompanied by grins, even outright laughter. One of them stood up suddenly as I entered the room and started to leave. Without even introducing us, one of the men said as a way of explanation, “He’s Naksa.”
Well, I couldn’t argue with them, then. After all, I was there to interview the brothers who had survived the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine in 1948. The Naksa was another ritualistic cleansing, but this one occurred some 19 years later, during Israel’s Six Day War, in which it illegally occupied the 22 percent of historic Palestine that had remained after Israel’s War of Independence.
As the gentleman left the office – I didn’t even get his name – I sadly thought what it must be like to be identified by the event that lead to your family’s displacement and the displacement and death of scores of your countrymen. To be defined as either “Nakba” or “Naksa” is something to be overcome but not outlived. At least that’s what those who have survived the events have told me.
The two events alone resulted in the largest and longest-standing refugee group in the world. According to Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, 40 percent of the world’s refugees are Palestinian. and Palestinian refugees or Internally Displaced Persons account for 74 percent of today’s Palestinian population of about 9 million.