Who's afraid of Nakba Day?
Like the Palestinians in 1948, we are misreading the political map and the international mood.
The Palestinians refused to see the UN Partition Plan, which was approved by a majority of the General Assembly on November 29, 1947, as the international community saw it: as a way to correct an injustice through an amendment to the British Mandate of 1922, which stripped them of their right to self-determination. They rejected all division or unification proposals that recognized the national rights of the Jewish people.
Since their position denied to the Jewish people what they sought for themselves - to realize the natural, historic right to a state in their homeland - it was rejected, morally and politically, by the international community. To the Palestinians, recognition of their right to a state on 45 percent of the land was unfair because they constituted a decisive majority of the population and owned 90 percent of its privately owned land.
The "all or nothing" paradigm the Palestinians imposed on the two sides' contradictory national aspirations, in the form of the 1948 war - which they admitted to starting - ultimately turned them into its main victims. The Palestinians misjudged the resilience and readiness of the Jewish community in Palestine, in the terrible shadow of the Holocaust, in the face of the weakness and frailty of the Arab world and the United Nations. As a result, 750,000 refugees were created, 11 mixed cities were emptied of their Arab populations and more than 400 villages and 4 million dunams (about 1 million acres ) of land were lost to the Palestinians.
It took the Palestinians 40 years to change their position. In 1988 they accepted the decision of the international community: an independent state alongside Israel, in the 1967 borders. In other words, in addition to the cost of the "Nakba" - "the catastrophe," their term for what happened to them when Israel was founded in 1948 - they were also asked to pay the price of their refusal and their aggression by ceding half of the territory offered to them in 1947. Even so, nearly three decades of successive Israeli governments, despite their acceptance of the wording of UN Security Council Resolution 242, have not put forth in negotiations positions that comply with the resolution and have even carried out actions on the ground that contradict it.
Members of Gush Emunim, like many members of the current government, oppose the idea of two states for two peoples. The former point to a divine promise, which in their view cancels out national and international resolutions on Eretz Yisrael and views the War of Independence and the Six-Day War as stages on the road to the Redemption.
In their eyes, this promise strips the land's non-Jewish inhabitants of their national and individual rights and commands them to "drive out its inhabitants and settle it" - in other words, it gives them the legal and moral right to commandeer private Palestinian land, to build outposts without government sanction, to steal Arab property, to attack Israeli soldiers who try to impose law and order on them and to justify the murder of a prime minister by invoking the religious law of din rodef ("law of the pursuer" ).
Cabinet ministers, for their part, declare as invalid the international resolutions issued after the Balfour Resolution and the British Mandate. From their perspective, the Partition Plan is invalid even if it formed the basis for the establishment of the State of Israel. UN Security Resolution 242 is invalid, even if it formed the basis of the agreements signed with the Palestinians. International recognition of the Palestinians' right to an independent state alongside Israel is invalid. They think the Palestinians should see Jordan, which was separated from Eretz Yisrael in 1922, as their homeland.
But both these groups shy from touching on the Nakba because it shows that the Palestinians' mistake, of denying our rights, has not been learned. Like the Palestinians in 1948, we are misreading the political map and the international mood. The "it's all mine" policy strengthens the hand of those on the other side who do not believe in a solution entailing compromise and partition. This approach eliminates the historic, legal, political and moral distinction between Sheikh Munis (the Arab village on whose ruins Ramat Aviv was built ) and the Ulpana neighborhood (of the West Bank settlement of Beit El ) - the same distinction that the world, the Arab states and the Palestinians have already made.