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Readings for Nakba Day

Today is Nakba Day, when Palestinians around the world mark the anniversary of their dispossession. The Nakba—Arabic for “catastrophe”—names the events surrounding the founding of the State of Israel, when Zionist forces expelled an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. As Jewish Currents board member Nadiah Saah notes in her introduction to the photo essay we published last year for the 75th anniversary of this expulsion, “the Nakba is not a discrete event, but an ongoing process,” with Israel continuing to seize and destroy homes and push Palestinians off their land ever since. This ongoing Nakba has dramatically accelerated since October 7th, as Israel wages a military campaign in Gaza that many experts have labeled a genocide, and which, as of December, had already displaced a staggering 1.9 million people, the vast majority of the enclave’s population. Many Palestinians have been expelled repeatedly over the course of Israel’s assault: In the past week and a half, nearly 450,000 people have been displaced from the southern city Rafah, where more than a million had taken refuge, and about 100,000 people have been pushed from homes or shelters in the north of the Strip. Again and again, Palestinians have asked: “Where are we supposed to go?” At the same time, settler violence has escalated in the West Bank, expelling more than 1,000 Palestinians from their homes since October. The dispossession of the present resonates painfully with the exile of the past. In a dispatch from October 16th, human rights worker Rania Hussein described the crowds fleeing Gaza City: “It looked like we were reliving the Nakba.” In a message to her interviewer in November, she sent a picture of her house keys—an enduring symbol of the Nakba and the aspiration of return. “Every time I touch them,” she wrote, “I feel my heart stop.”

To mark this day, we’re sharing a selection of pieces from our archive on the Nakba, as both a moment in history and a still-unfolding catastrophe, and on the horizon of return.

—The Editors

Photo Essay
Our Catastrophe
A photo essay to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nakba.
Nadia Saah
Point of No Return
Palestinians cannot turn back the hands of time. But we might still imagine a world beyond exile.
Dylan Saba
Teshuvah: A Jewish Case for Palestinian Refugee Return
Given our history, how can Jews deny another people the right to return to their homeland?
Peter Beinart
Road to Nowhere
Israel’s Arab citizens fight for an address.
Elisheva Goldberg