The Nakbah: Israel’s Extermination of Indigenous Palestinian Shi’ism
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas
When the tense history of Israel and the Shi’i world is discussed, either the brutal Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon (1985-2000) is mentioned and the resulting rise of the Hezbollah militia, or the bitter regional rivalry between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel is stressed. However, this history is not limited to just international disputations, it is also utterly and entirely local, it stretches back to the origins of the Palestine conflict itself.
In 1948, 70 years ago, the colonial project now known as Israel embarked on a mission to depopulate Palestine of its people, hundreds of villages were sacked and over 700,000 Arabs [both Muslim and Christian] were violently expelled from their homes. This great tragedy is commemorated by Palestinians and their supporters worldwide on the 15th of May as يوم النكبة (Nakbah Day), or the Day of Catastrophe; for this forceful expulsion was a نكبة, a catastrophe of unseen proportions.
Of the many villages sacked by the Israeli forces, many in the north were populated by Shi’i Muslims, and of those villages seven were majority Shi’i.
The Seven Majority Shi’i Villages of Northern Palestine:
النبي يوشع(al-Nabi Yusha)
آبل القمح (Abil al-Qamh)
The Israeli forces depopulated these villages fully, thus in effect they accomplished the full extermination of indigenous Palestinian Shi’ism. Some of these Shi’i villages were inhabited for thousands of years by the same families, Abil al-Qamh is mentioned in II Samuel of the Hebrew Bible as Avel Beit-Maakha. Of similar historic importance was the village of al-Nabi Yusha where the local Shi’i Palestinians maintained a gravesite for the village’s namesake prophet, additionally they buried respected scholars and community elders from Jabal ‘Amil therein.
This once rich Shi’i heritage of Palestine was completely wiped off the map by the Israelis in 1948, therefore when Palestinians rally to commemorate the Nakbah it is imperative for the Shi’i community to join with them. Their demanding the right of return should too be a Shi’i demand, their call for Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) of the Israeli state should also be a Shi’i call, their resistance should be our resistance, for the Palestinian cause intrinsically is a Shi’i cause.
(Henceforth, this should give greater meaning to Imam al-Khomeini’s declaration of al-Quds Day which is to be marked in the coming month of Ramadan)