Today, May 15, marks the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) in Palestine. It is the day that thousands of Palestinians left their homes, for the violence or the fear of the violence that was sweeping across villages as Israel took over the land. 2012 marks the 64th year that countless Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.
Last year I went to a conference hosted by a Kvinna partner organization, Ma´an, where Safa Abu Rabia spoke about Bedouin women´s memories of the Nakba and their place in history. She had to make a concerted effort to find their voices, as a gender blind-look would have easily made them invisible. They told her how they remember land and landscape and the expulsion from their land. Their land, she explained – as well as remembering how they cared for it, how they moved across it – is integral to their identity.
And yet, now, there is a law in Israel since 2011 against remembering! More specifically it says that organizations that receive state funding cannot commemorate – that means schools, possibly community centers, and so on. Without remembering your past, how can you know who you are. This year, students who hosted an event at Tel Aviv University to remember were not allowed to hold it on campus and are being forced to cover security expenses – unlike other student-hosted events.
But remembering is still visible in our public spaces. Poster and leaflets appear on notice boards. Statements are circulated. Facebook and twitter explode with commentary. Patriarchal norms and even legal measures cannot get rid of a memory – especially when that memory is still so real and forms a cornerstone in the identity of thousands of people.