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Why Palestinians protest every May 15

The Palestinian catastrophe, explained.

Ranjani Chakraborty is a lead video producer on the Vox video team and the creator behind Vox’s history series, Missing Chapter.

Around the time that Israelis celebrate Independence Day, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.” The Nakba was a series of events, centered around 1948, that expelled hundreds of thousands Palestinians from their homeland and killed thousands. The Nakba isn’t the beginning of the story, but it’s a key part of Palestinian history — and the root of Israel’s creation.

Prior to the Nakba, Palestine had a thriving population — largely made up of Arabs — who had lived and worked the land for centuries. But with the founding of Zionism, years of British meddling, and a British pledge to help create a Jewish state in Palestine, things began to change drastically. By 1947, with increasing tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinian Arabs, the British left Palestine, and the UN stepped in with a plan to partition the land into two states. What followed was known as Plan Dalet: operations by Israeli paramilitary groups that violently uprooted Palestinians. An estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed, more than 500 villages were decimated, and roughly 750,000 Palestinians displaced.

Most who were expelled from their homes couldn’t return to historic Palestine. And today, millions of their descendants live in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, and surrounding countries. The history of the Nakba has been deliberately concealed and often ignored in Western narratives around the creation of Israel. In this episode of Missing Chapter, we break down how the Nakba happened — and how it defined the future of Palestine.

You can find this video and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.