The dark side of coexistence

Israeli Jews who commemorate the Nakba on Independence Day have negated their own state's existence.

nakba rally 248 88 (photo credit: )
nakba rally 248 88
(photo credit: )
The current controversy over a bill in the Knesset designed to make it illegal to commemorate Nakba Day should raise awareness of what exactly Nakba day has come to entail, and why some elected officials find it such a provocation. Last Independence Day, as millions celebrated with barbecues and family trips to national parks, another group of Jewish Israelis were making a different sort of pilgrimage - to Kafrayn, a former Arab village southeast of Haifa. Once there, they were joined by Palestinians from east Jerusalem and Israeli Arab activists from all over the country. Speeches were given and Palestinian flags were waved. Keffiyehs were a dress code requirement. Among the groups present was Zochrot, an organization whose publications are sometimes funded by the Mennonite church, and which hosts tours to ruined Arab villages which existed before 1948. Zochrot's Jewish leaders, such as Noga Kadmon, have dedicated their lives to preserving the memory of these villages, arranging for elderly descendants to visit them, erecting signs to memorialize them and bringing Jews to them to teach about the Nakba. They produce small booklets about the villages in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Another organization present at the Nakba day tour of Kafrayn was the Defending the Displaced Palestinians' Rights Society. Its booklet has "Nakba 61st anniversary: We shall return" emblazoned across its front. It is only in Arabic. Where it is produced and who supports it are not clear. What is clear is that while the message of Zochrot appears to be about memorializing history and understanding the narrative of the "other," the message of DDPRS is about eliminating Israel as a state. However the Israeli Jews present at the Nakba-day events did not openly oppose the distribution of this anti-Israel material. THE TRAGEDY here is that by commemorating the Nakba on their own Independence Day, these Israeli Jews have negated their own state's existence. The cynical manipulation of Nakba day to coincide with Yom Ha'atzmaut is deliberate. Palestinians actually commemorate Nakba day twice, once on the Independence Day which is celebrated by the Hebrew calendar, and again on May 15, the Gregorian calendar's date of Israeli independence. Thus those Israeli Jews who wish to commemorate the Nakba can actually do so on May 15 and still reserve Independence Day to celebrate the existence of a Jewish state. That would be an act of genuine coexistence. By choosing not to do so, these Israelis are not preaching coexistence but merely the existence of one group and its narrative: the Palestinians. This profound disconnect from the story of Israel and the Jewish people points to the tragedy of many coexistence groups. Further evidence of the tragedy of the coexistence project is clear from examining the village of Neveh Shalom-Wahat al-Salaam, a "binational community" of "Jewish and Palestinian Israelis" located near Latrun, built on land leased from the Trappist monastery and supported partly by donations from abroad. Over the years the voting patterns at the village show that while it was once a Meretz stronghold, in 2009, 35% supported Hadash and 29% voted Balad (22% supported Meretz). During the Gaza war, Shulamit Aloni addressed a "gathering to mourn and protest" and called the IDF a "brutal and hedonistic army of conquest." The village's "humanitarian aid" project only gives to Palestinians. In 2004 Howard Shippin, a resident, wrote about a "Tale of two buses" in which he compares the hardship of waiting at checkpoints and the security barrier with the suicide bombing of Bus 14 in Jerusalem, in which eight people were murdered. He said the murder "can be understood." Coexistence is an important value. But coexisting at the expense of erasing one's own identity and "understanding" why someone would murder people from your own community is not coexistence, it is simply becoming the other, in this case a Palestinian. Those Israeli Jews who can't take one day a year to celebrate their state are not coexisting; they are simply part of the nationalist cause of others. The same is true of Neveh Shalom: It is not an "oasis of peace" - it is an oasis of extreme anti-Israel hatred; its dialogues are entirely composed of people speaking to those who agree with them; and its humanitarian aid only helps one side of the conflict. Its voting record is proof enough of the fact that coexistence has resulted simply in Arab nationalism. That is not a model, it is a perversion of the entire concept. The writer is a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University and runs the Terra Incognita Journal blog.