Alice: It would be so nice if something would make sense for a
change. – From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The denial of the Nakba is
as much a crime as the Nakba itself. Israel has a duty to recognize the
Nakba.... The Nakba is equivalent to the Destruction of the First and Second
Temples. – MK Taleb a-Sana
A neurological condition where a person experiences a
complete distortion of perceptual reality. – Symptoms of Alice-in-Wonderland
The notion that there is any reasonable basis for the demand by
Israeli citizens for official commemoration of the “Nakba” is grotesquely
absurd. The fact that such a ludicrous notion is not only being seriously
debated, but endorsed, in some of the country’s mainstream media is a deeply
worrying indication of just how frayed the nation’s cohesiveness around the idea
of Jewish political sovereignty has become.
Drive to deconstruct
should cause grave concern for the future of Israel as the nation-state of the
Jews. Just like attempts to de-Judaize the national anthem, along with other
state symbols, so too the drive to inculcate the commemoration of the Nakba, as
an official element into Israeli public life, is part of the anti- Zionist
endeavor to deconstruct the national ethos upon which the state was
Citizens of sane democracies do not grieve over the
establishment of their state, nor lament its survival as a “catastrophe.”
Indeed, where – other than in a topsy-turvy reality akin to Alice’s Wonderland,
the creation of Lewis Carroll’s fevered imagination – could an elected
parliamentarian publicly characterize the creation of the state he allegedly
serves as a “crime” – with total impunity?
Well, in Israel. For that is exactly
what MK Taleb a-Sana is doing when he proclaims that the Nakba (i.e. the Arab
defeat/Jewish victory that precipitated the establishment of the State of
Israel) is a crime.
It should be recalled that
when Sana was sworn in as an MK, he took an oath of allegiance to the State of
Israel – the existing State of Israel, not some desired future non- Zionist
entity – whose genesis he considers a criminal act.
arise from this sort of conduct, which is generic to almost all the Arab MKs:
Why would he want to swear allegiance to a state for which he clearly feels such
aversion, – unless sinister motives are assumed? Why is such overtly
hypocritical – or surreptitiously seditious – conduct considered societally
acceptable? Why does it incur no repercussions of any kind? Why should
individuals, who clearly strive to undermine the nation-state, continue to serve
in its legislature, and to enjoy the benefits of their position?
The flipside of
the exploitative hypocrisy of Sana et al is the display of Israeli impotence
and imbecility, without which the former could not exist, much less
This reticence to respond robustly reflects a grave
misunderstanding of the nature of democracy and the duties its maintenance
Anarchic abandon or balkanized bloodbath?
This inertness does
not serve the interests of Israeli democracy. Adherence to the doctrine
of democratic governance is not a suicide pact. Neither is it an obligation to
self-destruct by means of terminal stupidity. Belief in democratic principles
does not require one to forgo the distinction between friend and foe. Nor does
it require one to jettison any trace of survival instinct or common
This is not a prescription for fascism. Quite the contrary.
It is an approach embedded in the thinking of many prominent figures in the
United States regarding the practical administration of democratic governance –
from the founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, through Abraham Lincoln and
Supreme Court justices such as Arthur Goldberg and Robert Jackson, the chief
American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, to present-day jurists such as
Richard Posner in his 2006 book, Not a Suicide Pact.
democracy, therefore, is not a system of unconstrained political permissiveness,
devoid of any differentiation between the inimical and the amicable, between the
admissibly critical and the inadmissibly corrosive.
It cannot embrace an
undiscerning, unregulated all-inclusiveness of anything and everything – lest it
collapse, at best, into anarchic abandon, at worst into a balkanized
National, not personal
Make no mistake, the attempt by Israeli
Arabs to institutionalize public commemoration of the Nakba has nothing to do
with the exercise of legitimate freedom of expression in a democracy.
demand for commemoration of the Nakba is not motivated by a desire to mark any
sense of personal loss, but by a sentiment of national loss; not by a feeling of
grief on a private level, but by identification with “tragedy” at a national
level; not by a desire to restore respect at an individual level but for
restitution of “honor” at a national level.
For, as much as it is a
ceremonial manifestation of mourning over the consequences of Arab defeat, it is
also – ipso facto – a ceremonial manifestation of disappointment at Jewish
survival. These are inseparable sides of the same coin.
It is a
collective declaration of sorrow that the Jews were not wiped out as a national
entity. For if there had not been an Arab Nakba (catastrophe), there would have
been a Jewish Mad'bha (slaughter).
Accordingly, demands for commemoration
of the Arab “disaster” cannot be likened to individuals or groups protesting
some (real or imagined) evil/defect in their society, which should be removed or
repaired. It is not a demand to right a wrong that society or the state
allegedly inflicts on particular categories of citizens.
Rather, it is a
rejection – in their entirety – of the state and society in which the aggrieved
party resides; a collective refusal to come to terms with their existence, with
their intrinsic nature, and with the most elemental foundations upon which they
This is a grievance that can only be redressed by the
obliteration – or at least the negation – of Israel as the Jewish
Clearly, no nation-state – liberal democracies included –
is under any obligation to restructure the conduct of its public life to
accommodate the demands of an adversarial nationality.
It must not be forgotten that anyone who was personally touched by
the events that comprised the Nakba would today be close to 70 at the very
least. They certainly do not make up the bulk of those demanding public display
of sorrow over the Arab military debacle.
In Israel, the clamor for
commemoration does not arise from dispossessed, deprived refugees but from fully
enfranchised citizens who are neither impoverished nor persecuted, nor homeless
– as the ample homesteads found in abundance throughout most Arab villages in
Israel clearly testify.
Indeed, had there been no Nakba, the personal
socioeconomic conditions of most Israeli Arabs would be far worse than they are
today – as comparison with the surrounding Arab countries irrefutably
Yet consider the remarkable declaration by Arab MK Jamal Zahalka:
“The Jews’ Independence Day is our Nakba Day.... Independence Day is a national
day of mourning for the Palestinian people, and on this day we remember the
victims of dispossession, expulsion and integration.”
national(!) day of mourning!” And one commemorated not only by those directly
affected by the events of 1948 but across the Arab and Muslim world, where
expression of identification with the Palestinians is invariably accompanied by
expression of hatred for Israel.
Of particular interest is Zahalka’s use
of the phrase “victims of integration.” Victims of integration? Really?
So not only the Arabs who were expelled from Israel have a grievance, so do
those who were integrated in to its society?
The conclusion to be drawn from
this is unavoidable: If the Arab defeat, which gave rise to the Nakba, was an
undesirable event – both for those Palestinians who left and those who didn’t –
then clearly for them it would been desirable for it to have been avoided, which
could only have been achieved by an Arab victory, i.e. by the annihilation of
the nascent Jewish state.
This is something the self-proclaimed champions
of democracy, who mindlessly prattle on about freedom of speech, should mull
over before they argue for unbridled political permissiveness, condone political
promiscuity and in effect approve political perfidy.
Nationhood and Nakba
Much nonsense has been written recently by Nakba apologists, who seem to be
woefully uninformed as to the nature of nations, not as set out in any treatise
on tyranny or dissertation on despotism, but in the works of stalwart supporters
of democracy, representative government and liberalism the over the past two
From the seminal works of John Stuart Mill and Ernest Renan in
the 19th century to modern-day scholars such as Francis Fukuyama, a clear
convergence of opinion emerges.
Democratic governance is a largely
consensual system of administering the affairs of the nation, i.e. an amalgam of
human beings who may differ in many aspects but are bound together by some basic
affiliation to a number of fundamental core values, without which that nation
would lose its identity – even its very raison d’être.
rudimentary cohesiveness, no collective identity – and hence no collective,
non-coercive governance – is possible. The very word “democracy” derives from
the Greek dhmokrat (demokratía is “popular government”). But if the
“demos” (people) become too nebulous, if there is no dominant ethos around which
to coalesce, if the bonds between its members are too tenuous or adversarial, if
the divisions between them become too deep, if disagreements are too
irreconcilable, then no form of consensual administration of communal affairs is
In such situations, anarchy and civil war begin to bubble to
the surface. In such situations the only form of kratos (rule) that will
be able to effect any semblance of governance will be the autocratic version,
the one that brooks no diversity of opinion, but coercively imposes order and
Imposing a choice
The Arab citizens of Israel must choose.
They must decide whether they wish to be part of a developed, industrial society
in which they enjoy the civic freedoms and benefits it bestows on them or
whether they wish to give expression to a national identity which is inherently
inimical to their country of residence. They cannot do both.
It must be
clear that they cannot make demands to replace the founding ethos of the state
with a competing ethos of its enemies; they cannot supplant the existing edifice
of national symbolism and ceremony with one that conforms to that of states that
strive to undermine their own.
They must either throw their lot in with
their county of residence or seek residence elsewhere. If they feel the fabric
of life in Israel is incompatible with their national identity, they can act in
exactly the same manner as many Jewish citizens of Israel did when they decided
to make this country their home because they felt stronger affiliation to it
than to their countries of residence or birth.
In an age in which more
than a quarter-billion people migrate each year – mainly for economic reasons –
there would be nothing remarkable in this proposal. Moreover, there is nothing
“racist” or “fascist” in it. It merely reflects the eminently reasonable notion
that the Jews too have a right to self-determination.
The lessons of
This is in line with the increasingly prevalent mood across many, if not
most, Western democracies today where attitudes are stiffening against the
erosion of the founding values of the state by discordant cultures.
and explicit declarations have come from the leaders of nearly all major
European countries, acknowledging the failure of multi-culturalism and warning
that those who cannot integrate will have to leave.
president Nicolas Sarkozy declared, “If you come to France, you accept to melt
into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want
to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France.”
Angela Merkel lamented: “The tendency had been to say, ‘let’s adopt the
multicultural concept and live happily side by side.’ But this concept has
failed, and failed utterly.”
UK Labor’s former prime minister Tony Blair,
in a speech titled “The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values,” concluded:
“Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain, Britain. So conform to it; or
don’t come here.” These are sentiments which parallel those recently uttered by
his Tory successor, David Cameron.
And in democracies as far-flung as
Australia and Canada, the media have begun to publish expressions of
exasperation and frustration at the deleterious effects of cultures incompatible
with the host culture, accompanied by calls for “repatriation” of those who
Silly or seditious?
The calls for official
commemoration of the Nakba in Israel are silly or seditious. But whatever the
origins, they are deeply damaging.
There is clearly something profoundly
flawed in a society that permits a significant segment within it to express
grief at its success in preventing its destruction.
Israel, as any other
country – perhaps more than any other county – cannot condone widespread,
organized political activism aimed at negating the founding values of the state,
lamenting the defeat of its enemies and perpetuating the adversarial narrative
Those who insist in persisting with such activity should
know that they face a tangible risk of being stripped of their Israeli
citizenship. Of course, this should not constitute a great hardship for
them. After all, why should they object to being relieved of membership of a
collective they obviously find so objectionable they consider its creation a