On Sunday, May 15, 2011, Palestinians marked what they call, Nakba, or catastrophe. The catastrophe they recall is not about land they lost in their 1967 war with Israel, nor is it about the war they lost in 1948. It is not about the failure of peace negotiations. The catastrophe they recall is the creation of the State of Israel.
The catastrophe is that Israel exists.
Western culture has no analogous commemoration. The West might remember a war fought—or lost; soldiers who served and/or died; a natural disaster or an unprovoked attack. But to label the birth of another nation as a catastrophe?
How does one respond to such a unique day? It depends on what one reads.
Here are three version of Nakba, 2011. Read, and then decide which version you believe.
First, from the New York Times: May 15 was a deadly day as thousands of Palestinians confronted Israeli troops “to mark the anniversary of Israel’s creation”.
- At the Lebanese border, 10 Arabs were killed by Israeli soldiers and more than 100 wounded.
-At the Syrian border, Israeli soldiers fired on a crowd of Arabs, killing four.
-In the West Bank, scores of Arabs were injured by Israeli soldiers.
-At the Gaza border, Israeli troops fired into an Arab crowd, wounding dozens.
While the story appeared to present fact only, the facts seemed carefully worded, and the impact on readers was emotional-- and negative: Israel was brutish and cruel, oppressively killing innocent protesters.
As if to support these reader comments, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos announced the same day (through a different news outlet) that innocents were being killed by Israel.
The second version of Nakba comes from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described Nakba differently: it is a day that focuses on the existence of the State of Israel, he said, which the Arab sees “as a ‘catastrophe’ which has to be corrected.” The next day, speaking to the Kenesset, he added that “the reason there is no peace is because the Palestinians refuse to recognize the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. This is not a dispute about 1967. This is a dispute about 1948, and the establishment of the State.” He then reminded his audience that Nakba does not take place on June 5, the anniversary of the Six-Day War (Arabs demand that Israel pull back to 1967 pre-war borders). Nakba takes place on May 15, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.
Nakba demonstrates for Netanyahu that Arab anger is not directed at Israel occupation or the absence of a Peace accord; it is focused on Israel’s very existence.
The inference is that Arabs celebrate Nakba with riots to declare that they do not want Israel to exist.
The third version of Nakba comes from the Arabs themselves.
In the days leading up to May 15, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament, Yunis al Astal, gave an interview on Al Aqsa TV. In that interview, he explained that Jews are more dangerous than all the world’s lethal birds of prey, dangerous reptiles and lethal bacteria combined; the Jews have been ingathered into the land of Israel so that the Muslim god would give the Arab the honor of annihilating them and their evil; and, finally, the Jews will soon understand that they were brought to Israel in order to be slaughtered in a great massacre.
Part of this interview appeared on the Glenn Beck program, on the Fox Channel, on May 17.
Two days before Nakba, Arab radio broadcast —for Israeli Arabs—a song about ‘Palestine’. The lyrics state that the Israeli Jaffa (part of Tel Aviv), Acre, Haifa, Lod, the Gallilee, the Golan, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Ashkelon are all ‘Palestine’.
All of these places, except for the Golan, are within the 1947 Israel lines. Nevertheless, in the song, they are ‘Palestinian’.
Finally, on May 13, during a festive outdoor gathering of hundreds of Arabs, Hamas TV in Gaza interviewed a 92- year old woman who, when asked what Nakba means to her, responded, ‘with god’s help you should massacre Jews with your own hands, the way we did in Hebron (in 1929). We, the people of Hebron, massacred the Jews.’
Part of her interview appeared on Glenn Beck, on May 19.
The day after Nakba, Saeb Erekat, former Palestinian Authority negotiator with Israel, told a Tel Aviv conference that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are over.
Then, next day, Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zahar stated that the Hamas-Palestinian Authority government has no intention of negotiating with Israel.
Three versions of Nakba: each presents facts and/or quotes. Each suggests how one might feel about Israel and her Arab neighbors.
Which version do you believe?