So whose Nakba is it anyway?

by Maskil on February 6, 2008

According to this recent article in Haaretz,

The Zochrot (Remembering) organization, which supports promoting the Palestinians’ right of return to the destroyed communities… last week celebrated a breakthrough: Senior Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth L’Israel (JNF) officials notified the organization that in parks that have a sign explaining the history of the area, the Palestinian villages that were once located there would also be mentioned.

With so many other pressing issues to confront, is this something we (as Zionists, supporters or citizens of Israel) should be concerned with, or is this just a harmless gesture towards historical facts? Here’s why I think we should object.

In very simplistic terms, Zionism almost universally accepted the stipulation that the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people would be achieved without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities there. There was, quite frankly, no such commitment on the part of the Arab population of Palestine or its leadership.

When Israel’s War of Independence broke out it was not (at least initially) a war between states or armies, but rather a war between neighbours, in a sense perhaps the first Palestinian civil war. It was clear to all objective observers at the time that the Arabs were the aggressors, the Jews simply attempting to defend themselves (unless you consider just being there as aggression). Those who chose not to take up arms against the nascent Israel remained largely unharmed, and today they and their descendants number more than 20% of Israel’s population.

So yes, starting a war of aggression against your neighbours, losing it, and then losing your homes could be considered a Nakba (catastrophe), but it’s your Nakba, not mine. There’s no good reason why I should be adding this to my burden of Jewish guilt.

I can’t help thinking that, in the real world, this is as close as it gets to a kind of cosmic justice, with attempted actions, having failed, bringing consequences very much in tune with what was intended for the original victims. (This is not to deny that many innocent individuals were also caught up in the events.)

It is also difficult not to compare the fate of these villages and their refugee populations with that of the Sudeten Germans after the fall of the Third Reich (indeed, some historians have made exactly that comparison). Not only has there never been a serious proposal for the return of this group to their homes – in what is now the Czech Republic – but nobody would seriously suggest that the Czechs be overly concerned with commemorating their fate.

The keeping of these maps, recording of place names and locations, etc., is something that rightfully belongs in the camp of Palestinian Arab irredentism. It is not something that needs to be part of the Israeli, Jewish or Zionist landscape, memory or “narrative” (to use a term much abused in the name of political correctness).

Citing the names of destroyed villages on park signs does not in itself seem to be a big deal. Seen as just a small part of the bigger picture of the denial and uprooting of Jewish history and connection with Israel (as a prelude to physical removal) it looks a little different, and the State of Israel and the JNF should have no part of it. Write to your MK…

JNF to erect signs in parks, citing destroyed Palestinian villages – Haaretz – Israel News

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