23 May 2023

Impassioned pleas for peace as Palestine supporters mark 75th anniversary of 'Catastrophe'

| River McCrossen
Start the conversation
Woman at rally

Noor Jarbou after the Nakba Day rally … this is not only an “old story of my family”. Photo: River McCrossen.

Noor Jarbou has never visited her dad’s home town, but family would feed her stories about life there.

“My dad used to tell us all about his home and he’d describe each corner, so I’m Palestinian by blood,” Ms Jarbou said.

“I only just got my Australian passport, so I’m willing. I would love to go there, but I’m not sure how can I see and meet Israeli Army. But I need to. I need to smell the ground.”

Her father is from Haifa, where in 1948 a Jewish paramilitary displaced Palestinians from territory now part of Israel.

More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in events they refer to as Al-Nakba, Arabic for ”The Catastrophe”.

The events sparked an ongoing refugee crisis and Palestinians traditionally commemorate them on 15 May as Nakba Day.

“I have brothers and uncles and cousins all over the world because they have been brutally uprooted from their land,” Ms Jarbou said.

She spoke to about 50 supporters at the Crown Street Mall amphitheatre last weekend to mark Nakba Day’s 75th anniversary.

Rally march through Wollongong

Palestine supporters march down Burelli Street. Photo: River McCrossen.

She said her father, who was only six at the time, made a deadly barefoot journey across mountains to neighbouring Jordan.

“It’s really massive that a six-year-old could capture the exact image of what happened that day when they had to flee and leave everything behind,” Ms Jarbou said.

“My dad, as little and quite terrified as he was, he asked his mum, ‘Are we going to meet God?’ My dad lost his two younger brothers at [the] age of four and six months because of this unbearable journey.

“My dad passed away having a dream of seeing his homeland once more, as [did] my grandparents, but none of them got that chance. “[Joining the rally] is the least that I can do for my people.”

READ ALSO Crown St Mall showing signs of life but still alarming number of empty shops

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, who also addressed the gathering, said the ongoing conflict, although in the Middle East, still affected people in Wollongong.

“It’s about justice,” Cr Bradbery said.

“We can all be implicated in some respects if we ignore what’s going on in the world. And whether it be the Palestinian situation or the Kurdish situation or even the Aboriginal situation and the need for a Voice, these are all issues about the betterment of the wellbeing of humanity.

“When one hurts, I also hurt.”

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery addresses the gathering. Photo: River McCrossen.

Ms Jarbou told the crowd she was not only there to tell an “old story of my family”.

“The sad reality is that our story keeps happening to almost every Palestinian family for the past 75 years, whose only guilt is that they were born Palestinian on their land,” she said.

“Peace can’t come with unfairness and injustice.”

Israel occupied Palestinian territories known as the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 after the Third Arab-Israeli War.

Israeli settlements have since expanded in the West Bank, which the UN warned threatens the area’s viability as part of a future Palestinian state.

The territory is now divided under a patchwork of Israeli and Palestinian governance. The UN’s 1947 Partition Plan allotted Israel 56 per cent of land in what was then called Mandatory Palestine, the other part going towards a separate Arab state. However, Israeli paramilitaries captured territory outside the allocation, securing nearly 80 per cent before Israel declared independence in May 1948.

The UN has registered about 5.9 million Palestinians living as refugees, including descendants of people displaced from former Mandatory Palestine.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.