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Israel at the age of 70: We Palestinians also remind us



On May 14, the Israelis celebrate 70 years since they founded a Jewish state in Palestine, the land of my birth. On May 15, we Palestinians will commemorate the Nakba (Arab for Disaster) – the price we paid for the Israelis to have their own state in predominantly Arab Palestine.

I was not even 3 years old when Israeli soldiers came to Ailaboun family village in North Palestine, but I remember running into fear of hiding in a nearby cave. Exhausted, I paused to rest, but someone pulled my arm forward and warned me that the soldiers were right behind us. There were no soldiers on this day. It was a false alarm, like so many other false alarms in the summer of 1

948. Arabs all over the country were living in fear and some fled their homes after hearing of the atrocities committed by victorious Israeli soldiers in Arab cities.

Israeli historians relying on Israeli archives have well documented the fact that the founders of Israel had a plan to create a Jewish majority in Palestine by driving Arab Palestinians out and destroying their villages. Today we would call this ethnic cleansing. When the State of Israel was founded, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. A total of 531 Arab villages were destroyed and 11 districts cleared by their Arab residents. The victorious Israeli army has also committed 31 confirmed massacres. One of these massacres took place in our village.

On October 30, 1948, the Israeli army finally reached our 680-inhabitant city. The frightened people gathered in the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the hope of protection, while the priests white flags from the church roofs. My great-uncle Father Murques, the Catholic priest, met the soldiers at the door of his church and told them, "We surrender." The people were sent from the churches to the village square, where a soldier killed a man when he came out of the church. While people held their hands up, the soldiers selected 12 young men from the crowd, one of them my cousin Fadil. They then took these men to another place and executed them. No one who was on the square that day and was old enough to understand has ever forgotten the sound of those rifle shots.

When 13 people had to rot in the sun, the soldiers next forced the humans – including two of my brothers – to begin a long march into exile. The Israelis feared that the road would be dismantled and the people of the city marched ahead like human shields. For several days, they forced the thirsty, hungry people to walk until they reached exile in Lebanon. Along the way, they killed another of the men and demanded money and jewelry from the others.

But Father Murqus refused to leave Ailaboun. He meticulously documented the atrocities he saw, including not only the massacre and exile of hundreds of people, but also the looting and destruction of the exiled homes. He also managed to get a letter about the massacre and a request for help to the Vatican, which urged the United Nations to investigate. For the investigators, the Israelis attributed their atrocities to the mistaken belief that some residents of Ailaboun had desecrated the bodies of two Israeli soldiers weeks earlier. The UN officials completed their information visit to Ailaboun demanding that Israel immediately allow the residents of Ailaboun to return from exile in Lebanon.

Six months after their arrest, the last two exile villagers were returned. They were my 6 year old brother, Abdullah and my uncle Yousef. (Along with some elderly people, some women and children, I stayed in Ailaboun with my mother who had just been born, and my father, who had been captured along with other men from the village, was released months later.) [19659008] However, the somewhat "happy ending" of our city was the exception. Most massacres of Arabs, forced evictions, and the destruction of villages have not been similarly investigated by the US. The destroyed cities were removed from the map and the memory of the new state of Israel. After 1948, only 156,000 Palestinians remained in our homeland, and for the first 18 years of Israel's existence we lived under martial law, discriminated and strictly controlled.

Most of the 750,000 Palestinians exiled in 1948 were never allowed to return. They are the source of today's 5 million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Among them are the Palestinians in Gaza, who have demonstrated in recent weeks to return to their villages within Israel. But for the letter from Father Murqus and a rare UN investigation, I could be one of them.

Most Americans know little about the Palestinian people and do not know much about how the land of the Palestinian people was taken from them to create the state of Israel in 1948. As Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is important for the Americans and the rest of the world to understand why the Palestinian people solemnly remember our Nakba and renewed our demands for justice and peace for all the people of Palestine / Israel.

Souheil E. Ailabouni from Farmington is a retired family doctor. He lives in the US since 1968 and became a US citizen in 1976.

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