Reflections on al-Nakba

To Most Palestinians, 1948, the year of al-Nakba, is the formative year of their lives. This is true irrespective of age, background, or occupation, or whether the person is a refugee or not, or lives in Palestine or the diaspora. On this fiftieth anniversary of al-Nakba, JPS asked a number of Palestinians of different generations and walks of life to write short pieces on what this event has meant to them.

In JPS's letter of invitation, the "guidelines" suggested were to avoid political and historical analysis in favor of personal reflections.

Mamdouh Nofal was born in Qalqilya, Palestine, in 1944. He has held a succession of high military posts in the Palestinian movement. In Tunis as of 1988, he was a member of the Higher Coordinating Committee for the intifada. He participated in the Madrid Conference in 1991, and served on the Higher Steering Committee for Palestinian Negotiations. Permitted by Israel to return to Palestine in March 1996, he is also a member of the PLO Central Committee and the Palestinian National Security Council. He is the author of two books (in Arabic): The Story of the Oslo Agreement and The Madrid Turning Point. He lives in Ramallah.

Fawaz Turki was born in Haifa, Palestine, in 1941. He is the author of a number of books, including The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile and Exile's Return: The Making of a Palestinian-American. He has lectured extensively around the country and in 1980 was writer in residence at SUNY Buffalo. He currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Haidar Abdel Shafi was born in Gaza, Palestine, in 1919. He received his medical degree from the American University of Beirut in 1943 and is founder and director of the Red Crescent Society in Gaza. A founding member of the Palestine National Council and a member of the first PLO Executive, he was the head of the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference and of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington, D.C., from 1991 until 1993. Elected a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 1996, he resigned in October 1997 to protest the marginalization of the legislative council. He lives in Gaza.

Inea Bushnaq was born in West Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1938. A free-lance translator and writer, she is the author of Arab Folk Tales (Pantheon, 1986). She lives in New York City.

Yezid Sayigh was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1955 but moved to Beirut when he was one year old. He teaches international politics at University of Cambridge, where he is assistant director of studies, Centre of International Studies. He is the author of Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

Shafiq al-Hout was born in Jaffa, Palestine, in 1932. He was head of the PLO Beirut Office from 1966 to 1993. On a number of occasions he served as spokesman of the PLO delegation to the United Nations General Assembly sessions, and frequently represented the PLO on international missions. A member of the first Palestine National Congress in 1964, he resigned from the PLO Executive Committee after the signing of the Oslo agreement and has since been a prominent member of the Palestinian opposition. He lives in Beirut.

Salma Khadra Jayyusi, a poet, was born in Salt, Transjordan, in 1928. She is editor of Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology, Modern Arabic Poetry: An Anthology, and an Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature, all published by Columbia University Press, and author of the two-volume critical history Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry. She is founder and director of PROTA (Project of Translation from Arabic), and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Musa Budeiri was born in West Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1946. He is the director of the Center for Area Studies at al-Quds University, where he teaches political science, and is the author of The Development of the Arab Labor Movement in Palestine [in Arabic] and The Palestine Communist Party 1919-1948: Arab and Jew in the Struggle for Internationalism. He has been living in Jerusalem since 1973.