Left: An honor guard of Israeli soldiers observe a minute of silence at the beginning of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers (25 April); the following day the state will celebrate its 56th Independence Day. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Right: An Israeli boy plays with weapons during an army weapon display to mark the 56th anniversary of the Israel's Independence in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. (AFP/Pedro Ugarte)
Two weeks ago, Israel celebrated Independence Day, marking the 56th anniversary of its emergence as a independent nation.
Tomorrow, Palestinians will observe Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the lesser-told side of the 1948 war of Israeli independence. Nakba Day commemorates the uprooting and exile of about 60% of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine who, along with their descendants, continue to be excluded from their ancestral home in order that Israel might remain a "Jewish democracy".
May 14, 2004. Palestinian refugee Hasna al-Jardat displays deeds to her land in the Safad area (now in northern Israel), issued by Palestinian authorities in 1946. Jardat fled to Syria in 1948, the year Israel was created. More than 350,000 Palestinian refugees live in Syria.
(REUTERS/ Khaled al-Hariri)
The failure of Israel, and the wider world community, to recognise the enormity of the catastrophe that befell Palestinian society when a Jewish state was created in its midst, has ensured that the refugee question remains an open wound that poisons Israeli-Palestinian relations perhaps more than any other. Without an honest recognition of how the Palestinians were made refugees, and a creative and empathetic approach to resolving their grievances, there will never be a peace settlement. I considered the main issues in the Palestinian refugee crisis, and how they might be resolved in final status talks, in a February 2004 post: The Right Of Return.