Last week, millions around the world marked the 67th anniversary of the Nakba – literally “the disaster” or “the catastrophe” in Arabic – commemorating the seizure of Palestinian land and transformation of historic Palestine into modern Israel. Naturally, there is little ambiguity among pro-Palestine activists that the Nakba represents the opening salvo in the ongoing war perpetrated by Israel and Zionism against the people of Palestine; it is the continuing war of gradual (and not so gradual) erasure of Palestinian culture, Palestinian ethnic identity, and Palestinian collective memory. The weapons in this war range from Israeli bombs, to Zionist propaganda that seeks to dehumanize the Palestinian people, robbing them of both their agency and their humanity, their land and their livelihoods.
But these facts are only controversial when facing the barrage of pro-Israeli propaganda either in the media, or as parroted by liberal Zionists whose humanity and compassion somehow does not extend to a tiny strip of land called Gaza, or the disjointed and disfigured territory known as the West Bank. Indeed, most people of conscience have come to see the self-evident injustice of the Nakba and the occupation; they recognize the apartheid and continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, correctly believing this struggle to be one of the great injustices of the contemporary world.
However, there is another Nakba, another catastrophe, that is ongoing today that even many pro-Palestinian voices fail (or choose not) to see – the war on Syria, Iraq, and indeed much of the region. For while 1948 saw the destruction of whole villages, extermination of families, displacement of millions, and the stealing of land throughout Palestine, so too have the last few years seen a similar phenomenon in Syria and Iraq. But while the rape of Palestine is a cause around which millions all over the world can unite, the war on Syria and Iraq has left much of the international movement divided. Many even today refuse to see this continuing war as even a war at all; it is “sectarian conflict,” it is “merely a proxy war,” and many argue that “all sides should be condemned.” But is this really true? Or, are these merely the empty platitudes of intellectual and moral cowards who prefer to stick with just Palestine because Syria and Iraq are “not their issue”?