An international peace process is necessary to stop the deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian conflict, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters on Sunday after separately briefing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Arab MKs participated in a “Nakba Day” ceremony at Entin Square in front of the main entrance to Tel Aviv University on Sunday.
The Im Tirtzu NGO held a very loud Zionist counter-demonstration, chanting “Nakba Nonsense,” waving Israeli flags, passing out flyers, and drowning out the “Nakba” ceremony speakers.
They also brought a 4.5-meter inflatable Pinocchio doll.
“You are on the side of the terrorists that kill children!” Im Tirtzu’s CEO, Matan Peleg shouted into the speaker.
A couple of hundred Nakba protesters and a few dozen Zionist counter-protesters were on opposite sides of the square, with security barriers and a strong police presence separating them.
The Nakba protesters held a ceremony and a moment of silence for those displaced in 1948 amid constant noise from the Im Tirtzu side.
Muhammad Barakei, the leader of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and former Hadash chairman, told The Jerusalem Post
that there needs to be “justice, to fix the suffering and the ethnic cleansing” that took place in 1948-49 War of Independence.
“Most Palestinians became refugees,” claimed Barakei.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh (Hadash) said, “The Nakba is our tragedy, 531 villages were destroyed, entire families lost everything.”
“It is particularly important to mark this day in Tel Aviv with a message to all citizens of the state. The Nakba is not just about a painful past, but also about the possibility of a common future,” he said.
“Only the recognition of past crimes will allow for the construction of a common citizenship, based on equality and mutual respect,” he said.
Joint List MK Osama Sa’adi (Ta’al) said that the Nakba is an “ongoing situation that the young generation is experiencing in the Negev with the destruction of homes.”
The event passed without incident.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, following the participation of Odeh in the Nakba event, said, “I ask myself when will MK Ayman Odeh recognize the past crimes of the people he represents in the Knesset – the Palestinians, and apologize on their behalf for the thousands of Israelis killed in terrorist attacks."
“When will Ayman Odeh begin to represent the citizens of Israel and not his friends in Gaza?” he asked.
The Arab-Jewish Hadash party group at the school and other leftist groups organized and took part in the event.
Arab students from all political affiliations and what appeared to be a few Israeli Jews took part in the Nakba ceremony, Luna Mouallem, a senior member of the Hadash party student group on campus, told the Post.
She noted that the organizers had asked the police to quiet down the Im Tirtzu speaker because it was making it difficult to hear the ceremony, but the Im Tirtzu protesters never stopped.
“My grandmother and parents told me about what happened,” she said, adding that this is part of keeping the narrative alive.
“It is still important to honor those that died in the crime committed against the Palestinian people,” she said, referring to the creation of Israel and that of the refugee issue and the loss of homes.
Asked if she and her supporters would stop holding Nakba demonstrations if their demands would be met and a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict achieved, Mouallem responded that there would still be a need to hold the annual Nakba day events.
“The memory would still be important just as Jews remember the Holocaust and people everywhere remember memorial days and honor the dead,” she argued.
Alon Schvartzer, the head of policy at Im Tirtzu, told the Post that “Israel has a right to exist” and that “we must expose the lie of the Nakba.”
“The radical Left and the Arabs are trying to bring the lie of the Nakba into the mainstream political discourse and even have resorted to comparing their loss in the 1948 war to the Holocaust,” he said.
However, “this is a total lie. They tried to kill us,” referring to the Arab attack launched against the young Jewish state upon its founding.
Im Tirtzu CEO Peleg said, “The goal of these radical-left organizations is to create an atmosphere of guilt within Israeli society about Israel’s victory in the War of Independence; this in order to undermine from within the very existence of the State of Israel."
“In the face of such a hypocritical anti-Israel event that aims to rewrite history, and which ultimately calls for the destruction of Israel, we must display Israeli pride and faith in the justness of our cause,” he continued.
“We cannot afford the luxury of allowing this anti-Israel propaganda to go unchallenged. It is already widespread throughout the world, and is embedded within Israel, backed by foreign political funds.”