What is the Nakba?

The Nakba, Arabic for "catastrophe," refers to the widespread displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during, prior to, and following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. After the UN's 1947 partition plan was rejected by the Arab world, Haganah, Irgun and Lehi militias attacked Palestinian villages, killing many and forcing tens of thousands to flee. This was followed by a full-scale war in 1948 that resulted in the permanent displacement of over half the Palestinian population, or around 700,000 people, and the destruction of over 400 of their villages and towns.

Despite UN resolutions calling for the return of refugees and property restitution, 75 years later, more than 5.9 million Palestinian refugees exist around the world. The Nakba's anniversary on May 15th is a poignant reminder not only of the tragic events of 1948, but also of the ongoing injustice faced by Palestinians, shaping their struggle for justice and the right to return to their homes.


How is the Nakba ongoing?

Today, Palestinians continue to be dispossessed and displaced by Israeli settlements, evictions, land confiscation, settler attacks, and home demolitions. As of 2023, there were 279 illegal Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank, with a population of around 700,000 settlers. From 1 January to 19 September 2023 alone, Israeli settlers and forces killed 189 Palestinians in the West Bank and wounded over 8,000. According to the UN, between 2009 and 2024, over 10,000 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israeli forces and settlers, leading to the displacement of over 15,800 civilians. The UN also estimates that between 28 and 46 per cent of all Palestinian homes could be at risk of demolition.

The Gaza Strip has also been under a blockade since 2007, with over two million Palestinians there enduring severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people. The blockade has hindered the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged in numerous conflicts and has denied Palestinians control of their own resources, as restrictions on fishing zones, and limitations on access to water, electricity, and on imports and exports contribute to severe economic stagnation and over half the population relying on humanitarian aid. Gaza's only airport was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in 2001 and severe limitations on movement outside of Gaza have meant that the vast majority of Gazans have been denied physical access to the rest of the world.


Why is this a critical moment?

On 7 October 2023, Hamas-led militant groups in Gaza breached through the perimeter fence of Gaza at multiple locations, entering into Israeli towns and killing over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals, in addition to launching thousands of rockets toward Israel. During this attack, Hamas kidnapped more than 200 Israeli and foreign nationals. 

On October 8th, the Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas and began striking targets in the Gaza Strip, followed by a large-scale ground invasion.

The Israeli bombardment and ground invasion across much of the Gaza Strip has resulted in massive civilian casualties, displacement, and destruction of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and places of worship. 

As of 19 February 2024, 29,092 Palestinians have been killed, 69,028 injured and more than 1.7 million have been displaced, as large parts of Gaza have been reduced to rubble. In the West Bank, Israel settler and army attacks on Palestinians have also escalated sharply: Since 7 October, 393 Palestinians, including 100 children, have been killed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (as of 18 February 2024).

On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice issued an Order in relation to the provisional measures request by South Africa, in which it deemed that at least some of South Africa’s allegations of violations of rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention are “plausible”. The Court ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent any acts that could be considered genocidal according to the Genocide Convention, to prevent and punish incitement to genocide; to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza; and generally, to take more measures to protect Palestinians. The ICJ order cited numerous human rights monitors, including UN officials, who have routinely alleged that Israel has violated international humanitarian and human rights law throughout its operation in Gaza.


Why does this matter to Canada?

So many Canadians – Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and more - are devastated by the ongoing violence and horror in the region and remain worried for family and friends. Canadians are looking to their government for solutions – but in the absence of action, and feeling unheard and unrecognized, it is crucial that Canadians have the opportunity to inform Canada’s position on the longstanding crisis in Palestine and Israel.

And Canada has legal obligations that it is not meeting. The ICJ Order puts third States on notice that if they provide military or other support to Israel, they may be in violation of their own obligations under the Genocide Convention. All Parties to the Convention have duties of prevention - and governments that supply Israel with arms may be considered complicit in violations of international law.

It is therefore critical for Canada to re-assess its role and potential complicity in the ongoing violations of international law in Gaza, as well as the ongoing violations of international law in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It is time we, as Canadians, meaningfully engage with these issues and have a public discussion about Canada’s position on Israel-Palestine, using the tools and leverage we have to help find solutions to a 75-year injustice faced by Palestinians. The Nakba Bill is an opportunity for people across Canada to take a participatory, grassroots approach towards bringing real, impactful legislation to the House of Commons and make our voices heard in an effort to achieve lasting peace in the region. Both Palestinians and Israelis have the right to peace, security and justice.