Toward Nakba as a Legal Concept by Rabea Eghbariah

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  1. The law does not possess the language that we desperately need to accurately capture the totality of the Palestinian condition. From occupation to apartheid and genocide, the most commonly applied legal concepts rely on abstraction and analogy to reveal particular facets of subordination. This Article introduces Nakba as a legal concept to resolve this tension. Meaning “Catastrophe” in Arabic, the term “al-Nakba” (ةᚁالنك (is often used to refer to the ruinous process of establishing the State of Israel in Palestine. But the Nakba has undergone a metamorphosis; it has evolved from a historical calamity into a brutally sophisticated structure of oppression. This ongoing Nakba includes episodes of genocide and variants of apartheid but remains rooted in a historically and analytically distinct foundation, structure, and purpose.
  2. This Article therefore proposes to distinguish apartheid, genocide, and Nakba as different, yet overlapping, modalities of crimes against humanity. It first identifies Zionism as Nakba’s ideological counterpart and insists on understanding these concepts as mutually constitutive. Considering the limits of existing legal frameworks, this Article goes on to analyze the legal anatomy of the ongoing Nakba. It positions displacement as the Nakba’s foundational violence, fragmentation as its structure, and the denial of self-determination as its purpose. Taken together, these elements give substance to a concept in the making that may prove useful in other contexts as well.

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