The Palestine Papers
Salam Fayyad Speech on Nakba 60th Anniversary
This is a transcript of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's speech on the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.
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Prime Minister Speech

On Nakba 60th Anniversary

Ramallah ? Culture Palace ? May 13, 2008

Members of the PLO?s Executive Committee

Fellow Ministers

PNC & PLC Members

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of International Organizations Accredited to the Palestinian National Authority

The Higher National Committee Commemorating Nakba?s 60th Anniversary

All Guests and Attendees

Our Palestinian People Everywhere

Today, 60 years passed since the greatest tragedy of displacement in the modern history.  60 years passed since the uprooting of our people from its homeland and its scattering and displacement in exile and the Diaspora.  60 years passed and the wound of the tragedy is still open…..

60 years of Nakba and suffering.. it is also 60 years of struggle and steadfastness to restore identity and create the miracle of resurrection and survival…

Brothers and Sisters..

From Gaza, to Balata refugee camp and the city of Nablus who is steadfast despite the blockade .. and from Jabalya refugee camp, the title of will to steadfast and hope.. to the refugee camps of Jenin and Sabra & Shatila, the symbol of commitment to the right of return and life, passing through all Palestine?s refugee camps, villages and cities and up to the farthest location on earth.

After 60 years of displacement… the people of Palestine commemorate the Nakba anniversary, and emphasize its right to live on its land and in our only homeland.

Today, the comprehensiveness of Nakba events emphasize to our people, first, and to the whole world, second, that the people of Palestine, despite 6 decades of Nakba and suffering, have resurrected united from the ruins of this tragedy to protect and strengthen its national identity, determined to achieve freedom, independence and return, and to continue its contribution to human culture.  When we take a quick look at these functions, including exhibitions and marches, we see the legend of Palestinian steadfastness emphasizing that its ember is glowing, and generations are giving to each other the dream, the hope and the will of steadfastness.

The organization, diversity and comprehensiveness of these events is an expression of the collective will of the Palestinian people in continuing its legitimate national struggle led by the PLO.  The starting point for responding to this Nakba and tragedy was represented in restoring and formulating the national identity in response to the conspiracies of nullification and dissolving, and in strengthening the national awareness of our people?s will as expressed by the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which transformed the tragedy of suffering and refuge into a title for national struggle.  If the Nakba tragedy aimed to uproot us from our land and dissolve and destroy our national identity and culture, our path to end this tragedy will remain the serious work to strengthen our ability to steadfast on this land, protect and develop our national and cultural identity, and continue to write about the Palestinian narrative with our pain, hopes and national awareness.  The perpetrators of the Nakba will not be able to break the will of the Palestinian people or bury its national identity, not by displacement, nor by ignoring or neglect.

Brothers and Sisters

The Nakba that started 40 years ago is not a title for displacement and refuge only.  It is also a factor that unifies the will of the people in the face of the occupier, and a growing determination to get rid of the occupation, settlement, killings, arrests, house destructions, uprooting trees, blockade, starvation and the Wall.  The start of the modern Palestinian revolution in 1965 and the unity of the Palestinian people within the framework of the PLO was the practical response to refuge, suffering and Nakba tragedy, by extracting international recognition of the Palestinian people?s inalienable rights, including its right in freedom, self-determination and return.  The popular Intifadah of 1987 expressed the maturity of the national movement and openness in its vision, enabling the political leadership to launch the Palestinian peace initiative and announce the declaration of independence in 1988.  This increased international recognition of our rights, dictated an Israeli recognition of our people?s right in self-determination and independence and the establishment of the first Palestinian National Authority on the land of Palestine.  This represented a new stage whereby the task of completing national liberation interlinked with the task of building the Authority?s institutions in order to be additional bases that strengthen steadfastness and survival, and the ability to continue struggle to end occupation and achieve freedom and independence.

Brothers and Sisters

The commemoration of Nakba this year puts us before a historical entitlement represented in the ability to move successfully from the state of formulating collective awareness, renewed memory and revival of national identity to the state of embodying the national identity and project, in the framework of strong institutions that are capable to achieve national independence in an independent, democratic and modern state.  A state in which our people develop its life, culture and future.  This is the great challenge ahead of us that has great risks, not only because of the growing settlement activity and attempts to deny refugee rights, but also because of the coup against the Authority in Gaza Strip, and continued deepening of separation and division, which poses a real threat to the national project by weakening our ability to achieve peace in accordance with our people?s right in full national independence, and bring an end to the occupation of all the Palestinian territories which started in 1967.

Brothers and Sisters

Reviving our national identity and strengthening peoples? national awareness form a main pillar for building nations.  But this alone will not be enough unless it is combined with the ability to succeed in building the institutional framework that can protect the interests of the people and its advancement and prosperity.  On the basis of this vision, and in the framework of struggle to remove the occupation, and side by side with this, we are working to strengthen the National Authority and its institutions in order to be able to establish citizenship, take care of citizens? interests, provide them with the best services for steadfastness and to be able to continue the national liberation and the building of state institutions.  In this regard, on the basis of the main task of the authority and the state, represented in establishing security and stability, and its right to have monopoly over the use of force in the framework of the rule of law and strong and capable institutions, we must not at all accept multiple security or any form of double authority, which posed a threat to the national project and the citizen?s right to security.  In the meantime, we must persist in protecting democratic accomplishments, establish political plurality and protect human rights and foundations of justice, as elements of strength for the political system, to enable it to complete the national project of ending occupation and building the state of law and institutions, and on the basis of separation of authorities.

These are the challenges that face us, and this is what the government is forcefully attempting to achieve.  This requires from us establishing one authority, re-building its institutions, enabling it to respond effectively to the needs of citizens, including their security and ability for steadfastness, and confidence in the ability to accomplish their national project.  All this represent main foundations for survival on this land, defending it against settlement, protecting the Arab identity of Jerusalem and defending refugee rights.

Brothers and Sisters

Despite Nakba suffering and the historical injustice inflicted upon our people, its desire to achieve just peace did not and will not wane, and to ensure to our people the accomplishment of its national rights in freedom, independence and return.  As our great poet Mahmoud Darwish said in his message to the world on the 53rd anniversary of Nakba: “our wounded hands are still capable of carrying the dry olive branch, out of the ruins of trees killed by the occupation, if the Israelis reach the age of maturity and recognize our legitimate national rights, as defined by international legality, primarily the right of return and full withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories of 1967, the right of self-determination in an independent and sovereign state, with Jerusalem as its capital.  There is no peace with occupation, and there is no peace between masters and slaves.”

Our people?s response to attempts to abandon the entitlements of this peace is represented in stronger commitment to the PLO?s platform, international law and resolutions of international legality, primarily resolution 194 included in the Arab Peace Initiative.

In this regard, we address the world and the international community who, regrettably, kept a blind eye about Nakba.  We say to them: today, you cannot keep a blind eye about what happens on the land of Palestine, including the practices that threaten what remained of land and life, and even what remained of hope to protect peace, and the right of our people and the peoples of the region in security and stability.

The intervention of the international community, and all peace loving peoples, to protect our people from the settlement occupation and its practices, have become a necessity more than ever, not only to redress past mistakes and silence, or prevent another chapter of Nakba, but also to enable our people to turn the page of tragedy and death, and declare a chapter of hope and life, and celebrate an independent state of Palestine, with full sovereignty and Al Quds Ash Sharif as its capital.

Here, I address, and at this time in particular, the people of Israel and say:

How could you celebrate while the people of Palestine are suffering from your settlements, the crimes of your settlers, the blockade imposed by your state and the practices of your occupation army ..!?

How could you be happy while our people are in pain, its future is besieged, its children are killed, its farms are leveled and its dignity is violated??!

How could you enjoy the freedom, while you confiscate the land and freedom of another people..?!

There is no meaning for the celebration, if we do not celebrate together a just and viable peace.  Do not kill our present, so that we may together guarantee life, stability and prosperity for the future of our peoples.

Brothers and Sisters

The Sons and Daughters of our People Everywhere…

As we commemorate this anniversary, we stand with all honor and loyalty to the first leaders and thinkers of our people who contributed to protecting the memory and identity, planted the seeds of victory for the national project and awareness of our people?s national rights.  We recall Abu Salma, Emile Tuma, Emile Habibi, Tawfiq Zayyad, George Kitten, Mustafa Ad Dabbagh, Abdulwahab Al Kayyali, Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Khalil As Sakakini, Aref Al Aref, Edward Said, Ibrahim Abu Lughod and May Ziyada.  We also recall Abdulqader Al Husseini, Izz Ad Din Al Qassam… and recall Ibrahim Tuqan and the red trio with its symbols Muhammad Jamjoum, Fuad Hijazi and Ata Az Zir… and also recall Mu?in Bseisso, Ghassan Kanafani, Ismail Shamout and Fadwa Tuqan.

We recall the martyred leaders .. firstly, president Abu Ammar, Ahmad Ash Shuqairi, Abu Jihad, George Habash, Abu Iyadh, Abu Ali Mustafa, Bashir Al Barghouthi, Faisal Al Husseini, Fuad Nassar, Ahmad Yassin, Fathi Ash Shiqaqi, Abu Al Abbas, Tal?at Ya?koub, Haider Abdulshafi, Omar Al Qasem… and we recall Hatem As Sisi, Muhammad Ad Durra, Fares Odeh and Eman Hijjou.. and we stand in honor of their souls and the souls of all martyrs who carried the cause and memory of our people with their souls.. may they all be immortal.

We also stand with all respect before our heroic prisoners, firstly, female prisoners and the children.  We assure them that their freedom is an indispensable part of the freedom of the people and the homeland.

We stand with all the appreciation before the grandmothers and the grandfathers of our people in refugee camps at home and in the Diaspora who are still narrating the Palestinian narrative and plant hope.

To all of them, to everyone who planted an olive plant or put a stitch in a Palestinian embroidery, we say that loyalty to the refugees? suffering and their rights means to us now to strengthen steadfastness and survival in the face of displacement and uprooting….., it means a concrete program to protect Jerusalem and its holy sites as the eternal capital of the state of Palestine……, means determination to stop settlement and the Wall, and provide all forms of support to popular initiatives confronting the Wall and settlement……, means ensuring the security of citizens and their ability to maintain life and stability……, means developing education and protecting national memory….., means protecting one authority and the national project….., means ending the separation and restoring Gaza Strip to the heart of the national project, and protecting the unity of land, people and cause….., means to us continuing struggle to end occupation, achieve independence and reach a just resolution to the issue of refugees in accordance with international law and legality and the Arab Peace Initiative.

The path of return is the path of steadfastness, building the state and establishing the identity.  As our great poet Mahmoud Darwish says:

“identity is: what we leave behind, not what we inherit, what we invent, not what we remember,

identity: is the corruption of the mirror that we must break whenever we like the picture.”

Peace be upon you.