Catastrophe, Memory and Identity: Al-Nakbah as a Component of Palestinian Identity: Israel Studies

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The importance of Al-Nakbah, defined as the dispersion of the Palestinian people & destruction of Palestinian society following the 1948 war with Israel, for Palestinian identity is examined. Scrutiny of several books of photography that documented pre-dispersion Palestinian geography & society is performed, demonstrating how such texts do not attempt to scribe a Palestinian history but rather function to preserve Palestinian collective memory. The writings of multiple Palestinian scholars & poets are then analyzed, revealing how the Al-Nakbah severed many Palestinians from their homeland & accelerated the "de-Arabization" of Palestine during the mid- & late 20th century. Additional narrative accounts & fiction about the Al-Nakbah are read, illustrating how this event disrupted Palestinian notions of time & place & Palestinian consciousness itself. Multiple interpretations of displaced Palestinians' reactions upon returning to their homeland following the 1967 war are offered; for example, returning Palestinians' removals of small objects from their former residences are read as attempts to reconnect with their original homeland. In addition, the symbolic significance of the cactus tree for Palestinian identity is considered. It is speculated that Al-Nakbah will remain a central component of Palestinian identity for some time. 1 Cartoon. J. W. Parker
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-198
Number of pages24
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • 1876-1948 ; 1900-1999 ; Arab-Israeli conflict -- History ; Cactus ; Children ; Collective memory ; Darwish, Ma?mud ; Ethnic identity ; Group identity ; History ; homeland ; Jewish studies ; Kanafani, Ghassan ; Literature ; loss ; Men in the Sun ; National identity ; Palestine ; Palestinian Arab history, 1948 ; Palestinian Arabs ; Palestinian literature ; Partition, 1947 ; Photograph albums ; photographs ; poetry ; Political identity ; Refugees, Arab ; Refugees, Palestinian Arab ; Rijal fi al-shams ; Said, Edward W ; War


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