The impact of Nakba, hudna and tahdiah on Israel

Israel must first learn the meanings of these Islamic terms and then alert the West to the dangers inherent in their unilateral imposition. The West must denounce any Arab efforts that are not part of universally accepted rules of engagement.

Nakba Day protests_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Nakba Day protests_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
A few days prior to “Nakba Day,” Yuval Diskin, chief of the Shin Bet, predicted that hudna or tahdiah  (he used the two terms interchangeably) would not last but that “Nakba Day” could escalate beyond what we had experienced in previous years. The prodigious Chief of Security was proven to be correct in his forecasts. However, his use of the above terminology was not accurate and could confuse uninitiated audiences.
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“Nakba,” the Arabic term for catastrophe, was first appropriated by the Arabs following the 1948-9 war with Israel. They lost their national foothold in Palestine and as a result of their bitter opposition to share the land with the Jews under the November 1947 UN partition plan, many of them became refugees. The concept of “Nakba” was then institutionalized in Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari's seminal book “The Mystery of the Catastrophe (Nakba)” in 1955. This, together with “Land Day” (launched by Arabs in Israel on March 30, 1976) signaled the evolution of the Palestinian issue from a socio-economic/religio-cultural one into a politico-national one.
The Palestinian and larger Arab community’s partaking of the commemorative “Nakba Day” is of more recent memory, following the growing influence of the 22-member Arab League and the 57-member Organization of Islamic countries in the UN. In many Muslim and Arab countries it is marked with ceremonies and processions. But only in the countries directly adjacent to Israel (apart from Iran), did this event witnessed outbursts of violence and garner any significance.
This year, in preparation for September’s UN climax - mistakenly promoted by Palestinians and Arabs as a showdown with Israel - Nakba’s significance seems to have peaked. The apparent purpose of this year’s “Nakba Day” was to delegitimize Israel and hail the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees.
In recent years Hamas invented new international terminology to impose on its enemies. This is because Hamas is not a state and therefore does not recognize or use internationally accepted norms and concepts like contractual peace, cease fire, exchange of prisoners, agreed boundaries, and peace process. And because Hamas is enmeshed within civilian populations (getting protection from human-shields), no one can retaliate or respond to their challenges without raising the wrath of the world. So Hamas plays the game on their terms and with their terminology. Two examples of terms that Hamas has introduced to the international arena are hudna (cease-fire) and tahdiah (calm).
While in the past the PA might have displayed a certain degree of readiness to sign a peace treaty (even one that they may renege on at a later date), Hamas, along with other radical groups like Hizbullah, straightforwardly declare that no peace is possible with the Jews/Israelis, and only a war of extermination to the finish could resolve the conflict.
Since a peace plan is out of the question, Hamas resorts instead to the Hudaybiyya precedent set by the Prophet himself, when, constrained by his weakness at the gates of Mecca, Muhammad consented to a 10-year hudna. Unlike Western ceasefires, which hinge on consent from both parties, hudna is unilateral and the party implementing it can reverse it anytime they like.
Yet an open-ended hudna might, Allah forbid, imply a recognition of Israel, as indeed may have been the case during the 19 years of truce/cease fire in 1948-67. To combat this, our creative terrorists then introduced the term of tahdiah which doesn’t assume any permanence and usually lasts up to one year. Only if Israel withdraws from all of Palestine and agrees to the full right of return, would Hamas consider instituting a longer hudna (which Islamic Sharia still limits to ten years at most).
It should then become clear to Israelis, that while the PA and the rest of the Arabs may have despaired of their own ability to defeat Israel militarily, they have also discovered that Israel can be made to either yield to its demise via the current lawfare geared to delegitimize it, or be intimidated by the Islamic alternatives embraced by Hamas, Hizbullah and other fundamentalist movements throughout the Arab world.
Israel's only way to resist then, is to alert the West to the dangers inherent in the security arrangements that are forced on them by Islam, and to insist that no international arrangement or settlement is possible unless it is based on the universally accepted rules of engagement.
Thewriter is a professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history atthe Hebrew University of Jerusalem  and a member of the steeringcommittee of the Ariel Center for Policy Research.