The Palestine Media Unit of the Public Relations Department at the An-Najah National University recently issued the English version of the book Narrations of the Palestinian 1948 Catastrophe. The book,which was based on testimonies of Palestinian refugees who fled from their hometowns and villages in 1948, contained numerous stories that portray the social, cultural and political atmosphere in Palestine before, during and after the deportation of around a million Palestinian citizens from their cities, towns and villages. The book includes thirty-six testimonies of elders, most of whom are from refugee camps in the Nablus district in the refugee camps of Balata, Al-Ein and Askar, as well as some who are residents of the city of Nablus.
Ala Yousef, the Coordinator of the Palestine Media Unit (Zajel), expressed his gratitude to have this book published. “It is a dream come true to see the testimonies written in a book in order to preserve the memories of the elder generations for the new ones,” said Yousef, “especially at a moment where Palestinians feel the Nakba (catastrophe) continues.”
The book itself took a few years before it was ready for publishing. Great efforts were needed to preserve the accent, and all of the dialect words of each village had to be reserved in the Arabic version of the book.
However, One of the problems that have been encountered while working on the book is the decrease in the number of available eyewitnesses; many eyewitnesses died after being interviewed.
The testimonies concentrate on life before the Diaspora in Palestinian cities such as Yafa, Haifa, Lud, as well as the villages that defended themselves for months before collapsing. The witnesses describe Palestine as a non-empty country before the arrival of the Jewish immigrants; Palestine was neither empty nor desert, there were green fields and meadows extending all over the countryside.
“If Palestine had been desert, then why did Jews make everything to capture it?” Fatima — one of the elders — said. “We were producing our food and our lands were fertile, we were enjoying our social life and life was so good.”
Eyewitnesses speak about their first visit to their homes after twenty years of deportation, about the pain they felt and the memories that came to their minds. The publishing of this book comes as an initiative to raise public awareness about what happened in 1948, and to encourage Palestinians to demand a solution of the refugees problem that should be based on the United Nations Resolution 194, the non-negotiable right of return.
Yousef added that the current Israeli attacks against Palestinian properties serve as a constant reminder of what happened in 1948. He also thanked all the volunteers who contributed to the publication by recording and interviewing the eyewitnesses of the Nakba over the past few years, and all those who have made it possible for the book to see the light. Among these were the Askar Development Center and the University Administration, Liam Morgan, Alison Morris, Kim Avila, as well as the unforgettable volunteer Asem Yousef, who died few days before publishing the Arabic version of the book. The first copy is dedicated to his memory.
Ala Yousef also recommended that oral history should be taught at Palestinian schools and universities, and furthermore that it should be translated into English in order to develop a better understanding of the refugee issue. More interviews should be conducted with the eyewitnesses who are still alive, and should be broadcasted on the Palestinian radio stations, and more documentaries and historical fictions based on this historical period of Palestine history should be made. He finished by asking the British Government and the British Parliament to apologize to the Palestinian people for the historical plight and injustice done to Palestinians; for the atrocities and deportations from their homeland since 1948. These injustices have forced Palestinians to live in refugee camps, even though they were not involved in the anti-Semitic attacks against the Jews in Europe. Why then, do they have to pay the price of others mistakes?