|Israeli children celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the events of 15th May 1948 in the manner taught to them by their families and their society|
|Palestinian Arab children celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the events of 15th May 1948 in the manner taught to them by their families and their society|
For Arab Israelis and Palestinians, the creation of Israel was a “nakba,” a catastrophe. On Friday, Arab towns across the nation will kick off three days of Nakba commemorations with marches, conferences and rallies. Though these ceremonies take place every year, this year is different in a significant and positive way. The absurd practice by which organizations and municipalities were allowed to use state funds to pay for Nakba events has been stopped. Legislation approved by the Knesset in March, known as the “Nakba law,” empowers the state to fine those who finance their commemoration ceremonies with public money.
The Nakba law will not, and was not intended to, prevent Arab Israelis or anyone else from commemorating Israel’s Independence Day in any way they wish to, as long as they do so peacefully. Rather, the legislation has put an end to the folly in which Israel underwrites activities that undermine the very foundations of Zionism by falsely presenting it as an imperialist movement that engaged during the War of Independence in ethnic cleansing and the intentional, wholesale transfer of the Arab population outside the borders of Israel.
However, while it is Arab Israelis’ and Palestinians’ right to commemorate the Nakba in a way that not only incriminates Israelis for crimes they never committed but also places all the blame for failure on the Zionist movement, it is self-defeating and a major obstacle to peace for them to do so.
If Palestinians were to look clearly and objectively at their behavior around the time of Israel’s founding, they would realize that today they are repeating many of the same mistakes. “Jihadism” – or the hatred of the infidel and a desire to kill him – to a great degree underlay the Palestinian assault on Zionism through the 1920s-1940s period. The leader of the Palestinian national movement during these years, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a rabidly anti- Semitic Muslim cleric with close ties to the Nazis.
Similarly, today, many Palestinians have chosen to embrace the most extreme form of Islamist leadership. In the West Bank-Gaza elections of 2006, Hamas trounced the ostensibly secular Fatah. And the national unity deal signed on May 7 in Cairo, which enjoys broad Palestinian support, has brought Hamas – a rabidly anti-Semitic Islamist terrorist organization that has launched dozens of suicide bombings and thousands of mortar shells and rockets against the Israeli civilian population – back to the heart of the Palestinian leadership in all its rejectionist, reactionary glory.
It was this sort of religious extremism and intransigence that exacerbated the plight of the Palestinians back in 1948. In the first weeks of the War of Independence, for instance, Jaffa mayor Yousef Heikal tried to reach a non-belligerency agreement with neighboring Jewish Tel Aviv, to allow the citrus crop to be harvested and exported. But Husseini vetoed this and called for “jihad against the Jews.” As a result, many of Jaffa’s Arabs were expelled during the ensuing war.
Another repeated Palestinian blunder over the past century has been the rejection of a two-state solution.
Offered successive compromises – in 1937, the Peel Commission partition of Palestine with a Jewish state on only 17 percent of the land; in 1947, the UN partition with the Arabs getting 45% of the land; and in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and US president Bill Clinton’s partition with Arabs getting 20%) – the Palestinians consistently said no. And each uncompromising refusal was accompanied by violence and terrorism.
IN THE 1948 War of Independence, after they had rejected the UN partition plan that would have given them a state, Palestinians launched a bloody offensive to prevent the emergence of a Jewish state. If they had won the war, the result would have been a massive slaughter of Jews just a few years after six million Jews had been massacred in the Holocaust.
The violent, unsympathetic and ungenerous Arab population of Palestine repeatedly attempted to destroy any hopes that the Jewish people would return to their homeland after nearly two millennia of exile and after suffering the worst genocide ever known to mankind.
Thankfully, they failed.
The world’s only Jewish state is now surrounded by 21 Arab nations and has shown a willingness to help establish a 22rd state, for Palestinians. Yet in large part due to their distorted view of history – the Nakba being just one example – Palestinians continue to focus on their victimization and suffering while ignoring personal responsibility for their predicament. One of the crucial psychological barriers to peace today is Arab Israelis’ and Palestinians’ stubborn insistence on ignoring their own role in creating the refugee problem and in the failure to obtain Palestinian political autonomy.
Instead of devoting so much energy to emphasizing their victimization, Arab Israelis and Palestinians would do well to learn from their mistakes. At present, they seem bent on repeating them.