Memoricide is the killing of memories. It is not just the forgetting of the past, which might happen to any individual who thinks history is dusty or who has lost his or her family stories. Rather, memoricide is the determined policy of getting rid of parts of history that trouble the preferred history of the powerful, those whose stories have the most political, economic, social, and cultural currency.
Memoricide is accomplished by destroying both physical places and conceptual and imaginative spaces. For example, by destroying and building on top other peoples’ living, gathering, or sacred places (such as building a highway over Indigenous graves) or by killing the ability to imagine what used to be (such as replacing one way of thinking with another that disparages the concepts of the former; e.g. through language).
In a democracy who could imagine that not only another history is disparaged and dismissed but even talking about it with others would be a crime? That making memories public becomes an illegal act?
Yet this March 22 Israel did just that by passing The Nakba Law. Beginning May 15 it is illegal in Israel to publicly commemorate the Nakba. Arabic for “catastrophe,” the Nakba marks the loss of the lands of Palestine and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, cities, and villages through the creation of the Zionist state of Israel in 1948.
Israel’s new Nakba Law criminalizes stated-funded organizations, bodies and schools from observing May 15 as the Palestinian catastrophe, instead of Israeli Independence Day. Through this law, Israel has outlawed commemorating the Palestinian story that lies inside Israel’s creation.
Stories, histories and memories, however, cannot be killed even if they are made illegal.
Palestinian teachers, groups, and communities dedicated to non-violent resistance against memoricide are challenged this May 15 to bring into public places their call for the recognition of their human rights, for their right to voice history as they see it and tell their stories in public.
Who could imagine that telling and listening to stories is such a dangerous pastime? Stories hold memories and histories and through their telling and circulation, history cannot be killed.
Stories can’t be killed even if languages, lands, and people are lost, killed, or made illegal.