Lecture Revisits the Nakba as Psychological War

The Forced Migration and Refugee Unit at Birzeit University’s Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies held a lecture on May 15, 2013 entitled, “The Meaning of the Nakba: Thirdly and Fourthly.”
The lecture was offered on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, the 1948 exile of Palestinians, in collaboration with Al-Tawasol Forum Society. The lecture is part of a larger project on the right of return, ”We Will Return,” funded by the Norwegian Population Aid (NPA). The lecture was presented by professor of history and political science at Birzeit University Saleh Abdel Jawwad.
Professor Abdel Jawwad presented a critical reading and review of the Nakba in terms of its meaning, causes, and its narratives. He emphasized that the Nakba did not only target Palestine, but also deeply impacted the Arab region.
Because there is no comprehensive Palestinian narrative and collective memory of the Nakba, Professor Abdel Jawwad called for promoting the Palestinian narrative in a more comprehensive way by speaking of the crimes and acts of heroism alike. He advocated speaking in a way that would transform each case, massacre, story of a village and story of a refugee into a portrait that becomes entrenched in Palestinian collective memory so that every Palestinian would know what happened during the exodus.
He also noted that most Arab literature even today has not examined the 1948 Nakba properly, depicting it not only as a tragedy and catastrophe and portraying Palestinians as victims, but also including the acts of heroism that many authors tend to overlook.
“The Nakba was a natural outcome of a deformed history, and Palestinian and Arab elites are only look for their personal interests,” Professor Abdel Jawwad said. Moreover, he claimed that defeat from the Nakba was more of a mental defeat rather than a political and military one. He said it is important to pay more attention to mental and intellectual systems, just like the political system, in order to overcome this predicament.
Illustrating this point, Abdel Jawwad said, “The occupation tries to portray Palestinians leaving their homes and villages in 1948 out of fear. It does not talk about the extent of crimes this entity committed to expel Palestinians from their lands.”
Professor Abdel Jawwad counted nearly 80 massacres and the destruction of more than 400 Palestinian villages, about 60% of the Palestinian villages at the time. “These villages were completely destroyed through the use of violence, in which the Zionist gangs realized that Palestinians would not leave their land and country without a significant level of violence,” he said.
“Violence was a critical means for the occupation; the purpose behind it was to impose a psychological war in which we either ‘die’ or ‘leave.’ It is very important to clarify this to our people and to the world, and that all of what happened was part of a plan of ethnic cleansing,” he went on.