Local Palestinians hold "Nakba" demonstration on Wilshire
The small event was itself a local microcosm of the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that has been a focal point of world politics for decades.
The demonstrators, waving Palestinian flags as drivers honked both in support and hostility, claimed that the founding of Israel resulted in the displacement of thousands of Arabs who had lived in the British-occupied territory known as Palestine. The crowd was much smaller than the massive protests that overtook these same streets over the summer when Israel launched an invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Local Santa Monica resident Shafik Musa, in a kaffiyeh, said "We are here to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the Nakba, 'the catastrophe.' It is the day when the Israelis displaced 800,000 Palestinians and forced them to leave their homes under gunfire." As Musa explained, thousands of Palestinian refugees remain without citizenship and living in Arab countries such as Syria and Lebanon.
"The Western world are starting to recognize that this is an issue that needs to be resolved," said Musa while pointing out that the Vatican and France recently officially recognized Palestine as a state.
"I want to see peace," said Musa. "Until the Palestinians have a homeland there will never be peace in the Middle East. My goal, my dream is to see the Palestinians live next to the Israelis with a homeland." For Musa both Jews and Arabs deserve a home in that slender waist of tears. "I want to see them live side by side with one flag or two flags, whatever. But that is our dream."
Local Palestinian resident from Gaza Loay El took photos and said "It's about a people who need a country." El lamented the current plight of Palestinian refugees trapped in countries like Syria where civil war is raging and radical groups like Islamic State (ISIS) are spreading. ISIS recently took control of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. "ISIS wants to eliminate the Palestinian cause. They don't believe in nationalities and want everyone to be under their flag."
Danyah Mousa, a young Palestinian-American activist, spoke of the significance of the Nakba and how her own personal experiences in Israel shaped her view of the ongoing conflict. She and her family attempted to enter Israel, and witnessed troubling conditions for Palestinians also trying to enter. “I was turning into an 8th-grader, and we were going to the Dome of the Rock,” she said.
Even though her family was permitted to go, they could not get past the Israeli checkpoint. She described the wall separating Israel and Palestine’s West Bank as that of a “jailhouse,” and explained “people were in lines, fighting to try to get in.” “People couldn’t stand because of how narrow they made the gates. It felt like a prison cell.” Mousa also mentioned that the fighting made it seem “as if they were not brothers. It’s not humane.” When asked who is to blame for all the hatred today, she laughed and said “Herzl, the first guy,” referring to the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl.
Mousa also criticized U.S. support of Israel and how it affects the conflict. "As an American citizen, I just hope America stops. Obviously lots of Americans also have the same opinion, it’s not just Palestinians. Isn’t it about time that they start listening to their people?”
Despite all of the setbacks, Mousa believes Palestine still has a chance. “Even after all this time, there’s still just this spirit that gets passed down generation after generation. Even now in Palestine there’s still this unrest, and no matter how much time passes by, we’re still going to fight back and do things to make our land free. As long as this will is passed down through Palestinians, nothing is going to change that,” she said.
“My wife is fairly active in politics, so I came out here to be with her,” said Michael McKay, another protester. Brandishing a Palestinian flag, he told us he “definitely support[s] every people’s right to self-determination and freedom to have a place to live.”
McKay believes the best solution, two-state or otherwise, is “for the Palestinian people to decide,” and criticized Israel’s current right-wing government, saying “I don’t think that they’re helping the cause of peace by building settlements and continuing to expand into areas that were not originally part of the Israeli state.” He also believes the Palestinians would come to an agreement for peace “fairly quickly” if Israel stopped its occupation of the West Bank and “granted people the freedom of movement that they deserve.” In regards to which solution is best for the Palestinians, McKay simply said, “I think that they should have a say in how they’re governed.”