Today marks the the 64th anniversary of the exodus of between 700,000-1,000,000 palestinians from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. 15th of May is the day after Israel’s declaration of independence and it is commemorated by palestinians and many others all around the Arab world in what is known as Al-Nakba day (Nakba النكبة meaning ‘catastrophe’ in arabic). Today’s rally was held outside the headquarters of the Arab League, which lies just off Tahrir Square, and attracted what I estimated to be around 100-150 people.
The rally itself was incredibly peaceful, bar about 5 minutes where someone pulled out apiece of card with the Israeli flag painted on it: que angry stamping, ripping and burning of said flag. The rally itself was planned from 2-6pm but seemed to peak by about 3:30pm and had died down completely by 4:30pm. The majority of the rally was held in good cheer, fine voice and better banners, with anti-israeli and arab-solidarity chants resonating through the little crowd of Palestinians and Egyptians.
Around 5pm I was told to head to a cafe where I found a group of people including some from the demonstration. One of them (second from right in the picture) was telling me how large the Al-Nakba rally was the previous year. He was an Egyptian who had spent some time in Palestine. He had unusually blue eyes and on his wrist he wore a black, green and red band with the words “Free Gaza” in bold white. When he spoke English, he spoke with a strong American accent.
“Last year there were thousands of people who came for Al-Nakba”
I asked him why there were so few people this time. He seemed ashamed that I had noticed the relatively poor turn-out, before sitting back and sighing,
This seemed a somewhat tenuous connection to me
“You think what happened in Abbasiya stopped some people from coming to the rally today?”
“Of course man! What happened in Abbasiya was scary. Nobody thought that would would happen during a peaceful protest with unarmed civilians. But the thing about Abbasiya is that its geography is perfect for an ambush. And that’s what happened, a fucking ambush. Who knew what would happen today”
Another, far more persuasive, train of thought was that the deal brokered between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority over the hunger strikes was timed to perfection.
The fact that a deal was made the day before Al-Nakba may have killed any momentum there was. Perhaps the fact that Egypt itself is in a state of political unrest didn’t help the Palestinian cause. In the weeks building up to an election that many see as both too early (there isn’t a constitution in place) yet too late (the ruling SCAF military have been in control so long, they wouldn’t really give it up) it would be understandable if the Egyptians had other things on their mind.