Here are reports on the Nakba commemorations that took place on May 15 in Beacon and May 16 in Yonkers. The Beacon event was the far more elaborate and included a march to a community center that began at 5:30p.m., followed by music, food provided by a local Palestinian owner of a restaurant-bakery, and remarks by a number of speakers. Phillip Weiss of Mondoweiss urged participants to make Nakba Day a yearly remembrance in the region. Lillian Rosengarten, who was on the boat dubbed “the Jewish boat to Gaza” that attempted to break the blockade in late September 2010 and was intercepted by the Israeli navy and diverted to an Israeli port, read some of her poetry. The number of attendees reached some seventy-five, and the atmosphere was reportedly warm and family-oriented.
We would welcome observations from other participants in these events. Send your contributions to this email address. firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Zigmund submitted the following account of the Beacon event.
On Friday, May 15, I participated in Beacon, NY, Nakba Day events representing JVP. There was a rally on Main St and highway 9D, with a surprising number of drivers honking in support of our signs. Then Bennett Weiss, organizer of the events and an outoing and enthusiastic man, led us on a parade through town to a hall made available to us by a local Italian association. In this auditorium we heard folk songs, and both Palestinians and Jews spoke about Nakba and the Palestinian tragedy. I gave a short talk about JVP and our activities and later received three requests from attendees for contact info for our group.
Particularly moving were two speakers. The first was an elderly veteran of World War II who with his buddies helped liberate the concentration camps. He described his horror at what they found, and how it helped in a later groundswell for the creation of a Jewish state. But when he sees what has happened since, he now asks bitterly, "What did I fight for?"
The second was a man who has worked in social service agencies in Israel and the Occupied Territories for many years. He told a story he heard from a Palestinian who with his family was forced to leave his home in 1948 despite having been told they could stay. He described thousands of people walking on a broiling dusty road without knowing where they were going. After hours of walking, a single well appeared that was surrounded by hundreds of refugees and could not be gotten to. Those lucky enough to be near it were dipping shirts in and sucking the muddy water from them. Israeli soldiers ripped off his friend's wristwatch, causing a wound, and threatened to cut off his finger if he did not quickly give them his ring, with the man begging them to give him time to get it off. I myself have friends who are anti-Netanyahu and think this kind of behavior has only recently begun, when this testimony shows it was there at the very inception.
This speaker stressed that these stories of Nabka need to be collected, spread, and re-told and re-told, the way the Holocaust stories were years ago and have been ever since. The Nakba is still largely undiscovered territory for the world and even for activists like ourselves.