Middle East Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia of the Middle East


MidEastWeb Middle East


nakba - Palestinian refugees
Nakba  - (Arabic - meaning "catastrophe" or "disaster") -
 1. The defeat of the Arab armies in the 1948 Arab-Israel war and 2. The flight and expulsion of the Palestinian Arab refugees in 1948, or both together.

Arab countries and the Arabs of Palestine refused to accept United Nations General Assembly resolution 181, which called for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in the former British Mandate territory of Palestine. Hostilities broke out inside Palestine on December 1, 1947. British authorities did little to stop them. Arab armies invaded the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 in order to destroy the state, as some announced, or in order to protect the Palestinian Arabs as others announced, or in order to "restore order" as the Egyptians announced. The Arab armies were defeated.

Authorities differ on whether the refugees were expelled or fled of their own volition. As many as half the refugees (see Ruling Palestine, A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine, COHRE & BADIL, May 2005, p. 34 ) left prior to the declaration of the State of Israel. During this period, the British were responsible for keeping order, and Zionist forces could not really exercise force to openly expel Arabs in most cases. However, an attack by the dissident Irgun and LEHI on the village of Deir Yassin resulted in the massacre of over 100 Palestinian Arabs, and Irgun bombings of Arab civilian targets helped to create panic. During this period, there were also massacres of Jewish civilians, particularly in Gush Etzion, and Arab bombings of Jewish civilian targets as well as an Arab blockade of Jerusalem. Jews were expelled from Gush Etzion and from the old city of Jerusalem. At the conclusion of hostilities, about 150,000 Arabs remained in the territories that became the state of Israel. No Jews remained in Arab held territories - they had either been expelled, or they fled in advance of the Arab takeover.

About 711,000 Palestinian Arabs remained homeless at the end of the conflict, according to final UN figures, though Arab sources often claim a higher number, and Israeli sources claim the number was lower. An approximately equal number of Jews were expelled from, or fled Arab and Muslim countries in the years following the establishment of the state of Israel.  UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 called for return or compensation of refugees. However, this was never implemented. Israel enacted a law forbidding the return of Arab refugees, and some Arab countries enacted laws to the same effect for Jewish refugees.

The Jewish refugees were absorbed in Israel, the United States and other countries. The Arab refugees were given a special status under the care of UNRWA, created in 1949. This status does not correspond to the rights and regulations pertaining to refugees from other conflicts. Several hundred thousand Palestinian Arab refugees remain in camps maintained in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In Jordan and the Palestinian areas however, the refugees are free to become citizens. Palestinian Arabs claim the "right of return" - that is, the right to return to their homes or the homes of their ancestors in what is now Israel. Israelis do not recognize this right, and note that it would void the Jewish right to self-determinations, which is Jus Cogens under international law.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Nakhba, Naqba (incorrect).

Further Information: At MideastWeb: Palestine Refugee Problem

  Zionist point of view:  Nakba

  Arab Palestinian Point of view: Nakba

USA Credit Card - Donate On-Line - Help us live and grow

Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

Copyright 2007- 8,  MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.

All original materials at MidEastWeb are copyright by MidEastWeb and/or by their authors unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy materials from this Web site to your Web site or to forums without permission. Please tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Please forward these materials in e-mails to friends with links to this URL - http://www.mideastweb.org and to the URL of the material. You can print out materials for your own use or classroom use, giving the URL of  MidEastWeb. For pages marked Copyright, printed material should bear this notice:

"Copyright by MidEastWeb for Coexistence R.A - Middle East Resources. - http://www.mideastweb.org. All rights reserved. "

and should give the URL of the original. Reproduction in any other form - by permission only. Consult detailed terms of use and copyright information

Mideastweb: Middle East Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Issues in a Nutshell Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Brief History Zionism Zionism: Definition & brief history