Endless catastrophe

‘Nakba Day” has expanded into “Nakba weekend” and now threatens to occupy our attention for days to come.

Majdal Shams demonstration 311 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Majdal Shams demonstration 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
‘Nakba Day” has expanded into “Nakba weekend,” and judging from the potential diplomatic and military fallout in the wake of the turmoil in the north, now threatens to occupy our attention for days to come.
But while the developments in Majdal Shams and Maroun a-Ras set this year’s “Nakba” apart from previous years, the preferred way to commemorate the supposed “catastrophe” visited on the Palestinian people from the creation of the State of Israel has remained the same: violence, incitement and provocation.
Early Sunday, a 22-year-old man from Kafr Kasim chose to commemorate the failed attempt 63 years ago to violently snuff out the emerging Jewish state at birth with more death and destruction. Repeating the mistakes of previous Arab generations, the truck driver from Kafr Kasim chose the way of violence and hatred. He climbed into the cabin of his semi-trailer and embarked on a collision spree along a two-kilometer strip of highway in Tel Aviv, using his huge vehicle as a deadly weapon. When his truck was finally forced to a stop when it collided with a bus, the driver nevertheless continued his rampage, clubbing a young women.
By the time he had been subdued, the truck driver, who was only moderately wounded by an incensed crowd, had left behind him one dead and at least 17 injured, one of them critically.
In the north, meanwhile, Bashar Assad, in a cynical attempt to distract the Arab world’s attention from the atrocities and human rights abuses he is perpetrating against his citizens – including hundreds shot down in the streets during demonstrations, and thousands who have disappeared – orchestrated an intentional provocation in the most unlikely of places.
Hundreds of Syrians, many of them living in refugee camps as Palestinians (because Assad refuses to integrate them into Syrian society), were bused in coordination with Syria’s military forces to the border with Israel on the Golan Heights. From there, they descended en masse on the quiet town of Majdal Shams, a Druse village whose citizens are generally loyal to Israel and who reject commemoration of Israel’s establishment as a “Nakba.”
In the ensuing anarchy that included rock-throwing and violent confrontations, IDF soldiers opened fire in an attempt to prevent the Syrians from overrunning the border. Unfortunately, at least one Syrian was killed and more were wounded.
IDF soldiers seemed to have reacted reasonably judging from the circumstances. The border in the north stretches well over 200 kilometers. The army could never hope to position the requisite amount of soldiers needed to confront hundreds of infiltrators. The 30 to 40 soldiers who were in Majdal Shams reacted as appropriately as they could. And they were responding to a new phenomenon apparently inspired by the sorts of “Arab Spring” demonstrations that have taken place in Egypt and Tunisia.
On the Lebanese border in the town of Maroun a-Ras, as hundreds of additional Palestinians moved toward the border, meanwhile, three to five Palestinians were shot dead. In the south, on the border with Hamas-ruled Gaza, similar attempts were made to infiltrate Israel. Inside Israel, riots broke out around Jerusalem from Kalandiya to Silwan, A-Tur and Isawiyia, though these disturbances were “usual” for annual “Nakba” demonstrations.
This year's “Nakba” provides additional bitter evidence that, far from preparing its people for peace with Israel, the Palestinian leadership continues to encourage the most extremist, intransigent positions. Palestinians have been encouraged to focus solely on their own suffering and victimization rather than coming to grips with their own tragic historical mistakes. These include rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan and launching an unsuccessful war against the nascent Jewish state, continuing to reject peace proposals including those put forward in 2000 by prime minister Ehud Barak and in 2008 by prime minister Ehud Olmert, and voting a Hamas majority into their parliament in 2006.
Just this weekend Abbas, supposedly representing the more moderate Palestinian leadership, vowed that the PA would never neglect the “right of return.”
Since Abbas knows that full implementation of this “right” would put an end to the Jewish majority in Israel, he was implicitly calling for an end to Israel as a Jewish state. In parallel, a high-ranking official in Fatah declared this weekend that his organization’s political program is identical with Hamas’s. As for Hamas’s program, its Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh marked “Nakba Day” by predicting “the collapse of the Zionist project in Palestine.”
How much longer will Palestinians allow themselves to be captives to extremism and intransigence, and pawns to rogue states such as Syria? The only path to their independence lies through reconciliation with the State of Israel. That was the message of the international community in 1947. For how many more years are they going to reject it?