More than 300 people rallied on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge last night in support of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, before marching almost two miles through heavily trafficked commercial districts. Monday, May 15, was the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the forcible expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, known as the Nakba (النكبة) or, more simply, “the Catastrophe.” It was also the day that the American Embassy in Israel was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Steve Mnuchin mingled at a glamorous opening ceremony with American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu, while just 60 miles away 60 Palestinian protesters were killed, and 1,700 were wounded, by Israeli troops. All of this served as a vivid and painful backdrop to the rally in Bay Ridge, which began in front of An-Noor Social Center (7114 Fifth Avenue). Demonstrators chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!,” drowning out the traffic and other usual city noises.
The Nakba is the foundational event of Palestinian dispossession and the beginning of the conflict in the Middle East that has unfolded over generations—and which, for all its political and religious and ethnic complexities, comes down to the question of land and the right of return. It’s less a historical date to be memorialized than an ongoing trauma associated with dispossession, a trauma reexperienced with every new Jewish settlement, every scrapped treaty and every Palestinian death. The catastrophe ripples out from 1948 to the present moment; for many of the speakers at the rally, who weren’t even born then, it was if it had happened this month. After the rally, protesters marched down Fifth Avenue to 86th Street, down to Third Avenue, then back north to 72nd Street before turning back up to Fifth and An-Noor.
The event, “Jerusalem is Palestinian: Rally to End 70 Years of Colonialism,” was organized by a coalition of groups who work under the banner of NY4Palestine, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, Within Our Lifetime, Jews for the Right of Return, the Arab–American Association of New York and others.