Independence Day and the ‘Nakba Law’

If Israel is to embrace its Palestinian-Israeli citizens, recognizing the minority’s narrative is a vital starting point for full civil participation and greater feelings of belonging.

By ISSA E. BOURSHEH
May 8, 2011 23:39
2 minute read.
ISSA EDWARD BOURSHEH

ISSA EDWARD BOURSHEH. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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‘We appeal – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

This is what the founders of the State of Israel guaranteed to the family of nations and its own people. Full and equal citizenship; and this is what I, as a Palestinian-Israeli, am anticipating, with fairly low expectations.

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Mabrouk, Israel, you’ve made it. You’ve become a prosperous and flourishing state; now let us take one step further toward recognizing the minority’s narrative and not claim sole ownership over the “truth.”

Just as the four characters of Rashomon recount events from their points of view, this is how we see the events of 1948, without sympathy or the other’s catastrophe. A lot has happened since, and neither we nor the reality remain the same. In order to move ahead to real, full citizenship for all, we must confront our history with open ears and eyes, willing to listen to another narrative that might not fit well with our own.

MY PARLIAMENT recently passed the “Nakba Law,” prohibiting state funds from being used to commemorate the Nakba. How does that fit into full citizenship? If Israel is to embrace its Palestinian-Israeli citizens, telling the Nakba story is a vital starting point for full civil participation and greater feelings of belonging.

While Jewish Israelis are honoring their heroes, Palestinian-Israelis have the right to honor theirs. I want to be able to remember my grandfather’s saying, “I would rather die as a dog in my own land rather than live as a king in exile”; I want to be able to examine the relationship between Arabs and Jews in Mandatory Palestine, and I want to be able to criticize the Zionist and Palestinian leadership equally. I want to be able to visit demolished villages and have an open, honest dialogue about our past, and future. I want to be able to discuss not only the Jewish immigration to Israel, but also the exodus of my people. I want you to know about my history as much as I know about yours. I want you to know who Emile Habibi and Tawfik Toubi are, just like I know who David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett are.

If we are to share a brighter future, we must learn about the aliyas to the Holy Land, but also about the exodus of Palestinians.



In a perfect world, we all might be able to celebrate Independence Day and Nakba Day jointly. Realistically, I would compromise on an Independence Day on the fifth of Iyar and a Nakba Day on 15th of May; live and let live.

The Israeli and Palestinian narrative may never agree, but I trust that in the long term, with proper steps taken now, we will be able to reach a point of understanding. We might never celebrate Independence/Nakba together, but we may be able to have sympathy toward a hope that is not lost – to be free people in our land.

The writer is a graduate student at Tel Aviv University.

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