Al-Nakba | Just Vision Skip to main content

The glossary is comprised of nearly 250 terms related to the Israeli-Palestinian context. Given the rapidly shifting landscape, these terms cannot capture the full range of nuances, narratives and historical events. This tool is meant as a starting point and we encourage you to continue your exploration of this topic through further research. Last update and review: September 2015.


(Arabic for "the catastrophe.") Refers to the uprooting, expulsion and displacement of 700,000-800,000 Palestinians (approximately 80% of the population at that time) concurrently with and in the years following the 1948 War and the establishment of the State of Israel. During and after the 1948 War, many Palestinian villages and properties were seized or destroyed by Israeli forces and the remaining territories (the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights) were seized by Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian forces respectively. The vast majority of Palestinians displaced from what was now Israel became refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Israel considers these same events to be its War of Independence and, especially in its first three decades, maintained that Palestinians were not expelled, but fled of their own free will, or at the instructions of Arab leaders. Starting in the late 1970's more critical narratives began to emerge from Israeli soldiers who had participated in the events of 1948, as well as from academics and journalists. Some official Israeli government agencies, including the Ministry of Education and Israeli National Archive, have published accounts that are more inclusive than the traditional Zionist narrative, though the Zionist narrative remains dominant among most Israelis. Al-Nakba Day is commemorated annually by Palestinians and supporters on the 15th of May. The Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Nakba Law, criminalizing commemoration of al-Nakba. See "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited," Benny Morris, Cambridge University Press, 2004; "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," Ilan Pappe, Oneworld Publications, 2006; "All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948," Walid Khalidi, Institute for Palestine Studies, 2006; and Institute for Middle East Understanding's FAQ on the Nabka.