The 'Nakba' - catastrophe or success? - comment

Today, Palestinians and their apologists worldwide should stop to consider these realities and face up to the fact that the Nakba describes their failure, not Israel’s success.

 A PALESTINIAN girl takes part in a rally marking the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, in Ramallah, May 15. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A PALESTINIAN girl takes part in a rally marking the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, in Ramallah, May 15.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

On May 15, Nakba Day was commemorated.

Palestinian groups and their supporters have termed the establishment of Israel as the Nakba (catastrophe) and it is still annually commemorated on May 15, 74 years later. Ironically, this widely used term of abuse against Israel originated as a criticism of the Arabs.

What is the 'Nakba'?

In August 1948, Constantin Zurayk, a Syrian Arab Christian, defined the term the Nakba in a book and pamphlet written after the Arab-Israeli war, when seven Arab states went to war against the newly independent Israel. Zurayk described the Nakba as the catastrophic “failure by the seven Arab countries to destroy Zionism.”

In his book, The Meaning of the Disaster, Zurayk pointed to the Arabs’ failure to work in unison at the time to stop the creation of Israel by the Zionists and explained that some may say that the Arab states are still young, with small, ill-equipped armies and that the problems and dangers they face within and without do not allow them to put all their military resources into the field. There is some truth in this.

However, he wrote, it was difficult to believe that the seven states could not muster up more than they did muster, or that they would not be able if they had the true perception of the danger and will for self-defense and if the course of action were judicious and planning proper, to build a military force much stronger than that which they sent into the field and which was incapable of standing before the Zionists.

In truth, Zurayk continued, it was a shame and a disgrace that the Arab states and their millions about whom we continuously brag, appeared with this pitiful number of troops, impotent in leveling what he referred to as the strongholds of Zionism or even to hold firm before them.

If the Zionists, he wrote, within their narrow geographical limits, were able to equip themselves so abundantly and so extensively, then certainly the Arabs, within the broad expanse of their territories, which are open to both the East and the West, are not unable to import through legal or illegal channels what they need, or at least that which will make them militarily stronger than they were, assuming that their previous effort was the best of which they were capable.

Zurayk continued by saying that the Arabs of Palestine have proved themselves weak and impotent, that no sooner had the first bombs fallen than they fled in utter rout, evacuated their cities and their strongholds, and surrendered them to the enemy on a silver platter, that a large number of them had fled even before the battle had taken place and had taken refuge in other Arab countries and in remote regions of Palestine.

ZURAYK SUMMARIZED the failure by predicting that If a Jewish state is actually established in Palestine and is internationally secured through recognition by the United Nations and by individual states, it will not be long until it has the largest air force in the Near East and, God forbid, a merchant marine and a fleet which will dominate these shores in their entirety as well as an organized, mechanized army supported by abundant material and the most hellish modern weapons. This state will open its doors to thousands of immigrants who will pour into it from Europe and to millions of dollars which will flood it from America.

Thus, he argued, it will become a human and financial force which will be difficult to contain in its own area and which will overflow into the remainder of the Arab countries by every possible means and thus constitute, during a situation of world disturbance, a great danger to those countries.

This danger, Zurayk wrote, was aggravated by the fact that Israel occupied the coast and sea passages, and was established in a vital area between Arab countries. Palestine, he claimed, was the bridge between these countries and if a foreign power conquered it, relations between them would be disrupted, and the chain of cooperation and unity would be broken.

In the intervening 70+ years the Nakba, or catastrophe, which Zurayk emphatically defined as the failure of ineffectual Arab states, who sought “the abolition of partition and the eradication of Zionism” only to “leave the battle having lost a not inconsiderable portion of the soil of Palestine” has been disingenuously redefined as the expulsion of Palestinians from part of the proposed State of Palestine.

In fact, in his book Zurayk made no mention of the Palestinians as a people or the formation of the State of Israel. The Nakba was the self-inflicted wound of the Arabs, not of Israel.

The politicized hijacking of a term the Nakba which bemoaned the absence of pan-Arab unity and castigated Arabs for their failings, into a term of abuse against Israel is a calculated and continuous act of deception, designed to absolve Arab states of blame and condemn Israel for successfully defending itself against attack.

Zurayk’s dismal conclusion on the outlook for Arab youth was as prescient as it was depressing. He accurately predicted that the absence of Arab unity would cause future generations to “fall prey to some destructive movement and find their consolation in uproar and disturbance for its own sake, regardless of the result”. Seventy years later, the pointless brutality of Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO shows just how devastating the Nakba, or Arab failure, has been for Arab hope and Arab lives.

Unwilling to establish lasting peace

The recent treaty known as the Abraham Accords, which saw the four Arab Gulf states, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, formally establish diplomatic relations with Israel, left the Palestinians looking isolated in the Middle East. Sadly, their isolation is self-inflicted. The Sunni Arab world is moving on and refusing to accept a veto from the West Bank or Gaza in the face of a growing threat from Iran.

In the absence of any movement on peace talks or willingness by Palestinians to negotiate, standing by the Palestinians is no longer a priority for the Gulf States, as protecting themselves from Iranian aggression is.

While most Palestinians are weary of their corrupt, ineffectual leaders and would welcome the chance of elections and a fresh start, neither seems to be on the agenda. 87 year old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas probably isn’t the solution to constant factional infighting and endemic corruption, so in all likelihood, the Palestinian politics of grudge and grievance will continue.

Today, Palestinians and their apologists worldwide should stop to consider these realities and face up to the fact that the Nakba describes their failure, not Israel’s success.

The writer is chairman of Glasgow Friends of Israel.