How to fairly support and compensate Palestinian refugees , individuals and their descendants displaced before and during the 1948 war that established the state of Israel, is one of the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Palestinians, the refugees are the original sin of Israel's birth; for Israelis, they are another Arab-created problem Israelis are unfairly blamed for. But there's one thing that, even in this politicized conflict, no one can contest: the plight of Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948 is real and heart-breaking. A newly digitized United Nations photo archive documenting the refugees' lives hammers this home.
The UN's Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) put up an archive of roughly 525,000 photos on May 15, known to Palestinians and many others around the world as Nakba Day. Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, is the word Palestinians use to describe their mass eviction from what's currently Israel and the Palestinian territory. The May 15 date is very specific: Israel declared independence on May 14th, 1948. These photos document what happened to Palestinians before, around, and after that date.