On the eve of 14 May a candlelit vigil in Wellington’s Civic Square picketed celebrations marking the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
This is the day Israel declared its independence in 1948. Palestinians mark this day as Al Nakba – the catastrophe.
Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of no particular faith gathered to remind those attending the celebrations that until the occupation is ended and justice done in Palestine there will be little chance of real peace.
Catastrophe because on 14 May over 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and villages by Israeli military activity. Palestinians were left with the West Bank and Gaza strip. Israel occupied these areas in 1967 and further ethnic cleansing took place.
Fifty-seven years later Palestinian refugees and their families number 4 million. The West Bank and Gaza, land on which a Palestinian state could be established, are still occupied.
Even if the proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip takes place, Israel is consolidating its hold on the West Bank through settlement expansion and control of water sources. Special settler-only roads and the huge apartheid wall grab ever more land and separate Palestinian communities one from another – a far cry from what the UN promised Palestinians in 1947.