The Catastrophe — or Nakba — occurred in 1948 when the British left Palestine and David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s “Independence.” Most Americans don’t know about the Nakba. See Part 1, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V. I confess I am only beginning to understand the magnitude of the atrocities that occurred, and continue to occur, in Palestine.
The forcible expulsion of the Indigenous population and the appropriation of their lands and property would be a fascinating journey through the legal machinations employed by the Zionists (yesterday and today) if it was not so tragic for so many people.
Amjad Alqasis, a legal researcher at BADIL Resource Center, has written an excellent review of some of the laws that Israel has used to confiscate the property of Palestinians, available here.
Although the Israeli government refuses to acknowledge the Nakba, recent polling suggests that Israeli citizens may be ahead of their leaders in this regard. See this article.
Both sides will need to exorcise their demons regarding the other, not to gloss over the present but in order to unlock the door to the future. Here are the fundamental questions for the Israel side: first, can the Right’s frenzied efforts to stifle consciousness of the Nakba succeed? The results seem to say no. Activism recalling the Nakba has only heightened and the data here implies that the Israeli public is ahead of its leaders in acknowledging not only history, but the implications of history on conflict resolution.
Secondly, how can the large swath of the Israeli public that is prepared to reconcile with its past in the present be expanded and leveraged? How can this political maturity be brought to bear on future negotiation efforts or any other effort to resolve the situation? Surely, beating a guilt-fatigued population with more historic guilt will backfire (if it hasn’t already). Is there a less threatening way to address and redress history that does not undercut Jewish identity in this land? This is one of the vital challenges of the day, that the Nakba (and perhaps the “Jewish state” definition, for Palestinians) symbolizes for all parties in the conflict: can each side acknowledge the most sensitive and frightening aspects of the other party’s identity without losing its own, and then lashing out violently to protect it?
Now listen carefully . . . Secretary Kerry, President Obama, everyone . . . here’s the most important lesson from the Nakba that you mustn’t forget.
If you begin negotiating with Netanyahu and Abbas with the assumption that the conflict began in 1967, you will fail. You might as well save your breath and travel expenses.
The injustices occurred in 1948, and have continued every year since, and your negotiations must begin from the Nakba.
- Israel must acknowledge the Zionists’ responsibility for the trauma and loss of Palestinian lives and property as a result of Plan D and the Zionists’ project.
- Israel must pay reparations to the Palestinians, just as Germans are paying reparations to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Germany’s postwar reparations program has become such a matter of fact that many Germans are not even aware that their country, after paying $89 billion in compensation mostly to Jewish victims of Nazi crimes over six decades, still meets regularly to revise and expand the guidelines for qualification. The aim is to reach as many of the tens of thousands of elderly survivors who have never received any form of support.
- Israel must acknowledge the Right of Return and make plans to allow Palestinians who wish to live peacefully with their neighbors, the right to return to pre-Israel lands, or pay compensation to those who decide they do not want to return.
I know the current leadership in Israel flatly rejects these points, but Israeli citizens deserve to live in peace — just as Palestinians deserve to live in peace — and neither side will achieve it until the Nakba is on the negotiating table and these points are addressed openly and honestly.