Elaine Kinch and Pat Chaffee at RCPJ's peace vigil Saturday
The word is "Al-Nakba," and it means "the catastrophe" in Arabic -- the day in 1948 when Israel was created and 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homeland.
The RCPJ, which has been a monthly fixture at the corner of Highways 20 and 31 protesting the war in Iraq, took up the new cause today, because May 15 is Al-Nakba Day in the Arab world.
Borrowing protest signs from Peace Action Milwaukee, seven members of RCPJ stood for an hour, hoping to educate those driving past. It was a mostly losing battle; what few reactions they garnered with pro-Palestinian signs -- like No U.S. $$$ for Israeli occupation of Palestine -- were more of the thumbs down variety; one driver shouted "Nazi" as he waited for the light to change.
Pat Chaffee took pains to point out, "We're not talking about Jews; we must distinguish between Israel and Jews."
Elaine Kinch said the vigil was about "peace and justice." The creation of Israel forced out more than 700,000 Palestinians. "Today there are 7 million refugees who can't return where they came from."
"When Israel was created, it started ethnic cleansing," she said.
A solution will be difficult, since turning the clock back 60 years to restore Palestinian homelands would displace the European Jews who came when the State of Israel was created on May 14, 1948, by the United Nations' partitioning of Palestine.
Corky Gerard of the Milwaukee Peace Action Coalition, said, "You can't pick and choose which historic claim to support." If you went by history, he said, "Native Americans would probably own your house."
"I don't think there will ever be a peace, because the Israeli government doesn't want it," he said.
Kinch said "you have to divide" Israel to create states for both Jews and Palestinians. Chaffee said this would be impossible, because of the "Swiss cheese" of opposing settlements.
For a fuller explanation of Al-Nakba, go here. Gerard also recommends a documentary film, Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, about the U.S. media and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.