Gainesville Residents & UF Students Hold Nakba Rally to Honor Martyrs of Past and Present

Gainesville Residents & UF Students Hold Nakba Rally to Honor Martyrs of Past and Present

Gainesville residents, UF students, and community activists held a rally Wednesday evening on May 15th, i.e., Nakba Day. 

Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe, and the term is synonymous with the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

May 15th is the official day for commemorating the Nakba, due to it being the day in 1948 when UK forces withdrew from Palestine, establishing Israel. However, it primarily refers to the time between 1947-1949 when an estimated 750,000 Palestinian people were displaced and over 15,000 were killed in a series of over 70 massacres.

The rally heard from numerous different speakers, among them being Palestinian/Lebanese Gainesville resident and second-generation Nakba survivor Jazmin Cooley.

Cooley detailed how the Nakba against Palestinians is ongoing. “That was the first hundreds of thousands of people that were exiled from their land. They were forced to carry all their belongings on their backs, just like you see now on your phone in 2023 and 2024, where Gazans are forced to evacuate from the North to Rafah and from Rafah to the North.”

Cooley went on to talk about her friend’s family members who had recently been killed in Gaza after falling victim to drone attacks. Amir and Suhaib Basheer. “Just a few days ago on my phone, I witnessed my friend’s family in Gaza being massacred just because someone in Tel-Aviv decided to push a button and kill these 18-year-olds for no reason. We witness all of these horrible and devastating things, and we just feel silent or afraid to speak up about our history.... We need to keep fighting for all the people in history who’ve been exiled, massacred, lost loved ones, and experience this pain because they need us.”

Cooley holding pictures of Amir and Suhaib Basheer

The current number of Palestinians killed in Gaza is estimated to be over 35,000. Traditionally, Palestinian people will not refer to killed Palestinians with the term “dead” but instead use the term “martyred.” Martyrdom is granted to any Palestinian civilian or soldier who has been killed as a result of targeted or untargeted attacks. Martyrdom has been extended to non-Palestinians who have died in acts of resistance, such as in the case of Arron Bushnell, a former U.S. army soldier who burned himself to death outside the Israeli embassy in Washington. Martyrdom is not specific to any religious affiliation; Palestinians of all religions can become martyrs. 

The rally fell a day after Alachua County Commissioners divested from all corporations, including corporations that back Israeli initiatives. Attendees were unanimously pleased to hear the news. 

Notably, speakers did not refer to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as the IDF. They instead referred to them as the IOF. The acronym generally stands for “Israeli Occupation Force,” but was also regarded as the “Israeli Offensive Force.” Activists use these terms to call attention to the Israeli military’s offensive operations, which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, in addition to Israeli government officials making efforts to establish settlements in Gaza.  

Another speaker who talked about their experiences with Nakba publicly was Palestinian Gainesville resident Kayla Rukab. Rukab said genocide is being committed against Palestinians. “This was never a disagreement about the land. It was never a religious war. It was white supremacy and prejudice against Indigenous people, Palestinians. It’s not a conflict. It’s been a genocide all along. It’s honestly even hard to say that word sometimes, but it’s the truth. It made me question why the word 'conflict' was used in the first place…. Who was the supposed conflict against, children defending themselves from Israeli tanks with stones? No, this is a genocide.”

Rukab’s statements come three weeks after Floridan healthcare workers who volunteered in Gaza spoke publicly about the genocide being committed against Palestinians, corroborating their statements with video and photographic evidence. Their presentation came a month after the United Nations Human Rights Council found “reasonable grounds” that genocide is being committed against Palestinians in Gaza.

Rukab told the rally's attendees that their voices are needed and that confidence in Palestinian freedom has been increasing. “The first time I was asked by a non-Arab if I was Palestinian, I knew the narrative was changing. People are now seeing Palestine, and they’re wondering why they’ve never seen it before. This gives me hope, and it should be an inspiration to all of you as well. My grandparents, who fled Palestine, said they'd never seen activism like this before…. People of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and genders are all fighting for a free Palestine. Palestine lives through all of us, and this passion must persist.”

As the rally came to a close, attendees held moments of silence for the martyrs. Cooley honored Suhaib and Amir Basheer, placing pictures of the men on a list which held the names of Palestinians and Israelis who've been killed from October 7 through November.

Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL