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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.