Israel Turned the Nakba Into a 63-year Process

Israel crowns itself as the winner in the global competition of victimhood; yet it manufactures methods of oppression and dispossession.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

How natural it is for Israeli spokesmen to assert that the Nakba Day marches from Syria and Lebanon were the product of incitement and foreign calculations. The state, which bases its existence on 2,000 years of longing for and belonging to this country, shows contempt toward palpable displays of belonging to and longing for the same country of those who we expelled 63 years ago - and of their descendants.

The memorial day for the Holocaust, and the memorial day for the Nakba, are behind us. So the time has come to write about them both. "Holocaust" and "Nakba" are mistaken definitions, because they do not distinguish between natural disasters and man-made catastrophes. But the definitions gained currency. So too did negative attitudes, such as the denial of the historical occurrence and its political implications. For example, that Jewish survivors became refugees in their own lands of birth, or that Palestinians in the diaspora and those who remained in the country share a close bond.

Another example would be the refusal to acknowledge the suffering endured by the other. Here it will be said "the Arabs started the war", and there it will be said "the Jews caused the Nakba - the expulsion of the Palestinian people from its homeland, whereas the Palestinians bear no responsibility for the Holocaust - the genocide of the Jewish people."

In a private, personal sense, the Holocaust did not become the "past;" for those who survived it, it continues until they die. Something of this ever-painful continuousness is dictating - to a greater or lesser degree - our own lives, as the offspring of the survivors.

In contrast, with regard to the Jewish collective that came into existence after 1945, the Holocaust has a beginning and an end. The Allies' victory before Germany had time to extinguish additional Jewish communities, the establishment of the State of Israel, Germany's acknowledgment of the murder industry it established - all such events marked the end of this chapter of history.

The same for individual Palestinians, their beloved one who were murdered by Jews or killed in battles, the painful uprooting from homes - never turned into sheer memory. But 1948 is just a first chapter in a series that hasn't ended yet. For those who haven't experienced expulsion and bereavement - Israel provided ample opportunities to share such fate.

How much skill has Israel displayed in the wrong-doing to refugees in Gaza? How many times a week do the "present absentees," refugees who live within the borders of the state, pass by lands which were given to Jews at the behest of the legislators' cunning? What are the statistics of chronic poverty and structural discrimination faced by the "Arab sector" in Israel, and by Palestinian Jerusalemites, if not a nakba by other means?

And what is the sickening similarity between the pressuring of Bedouin away from Negev lands today and the removal of 1948 refugee Bedouin in the Jordan Valley? How is it that after 1967 tens of thousands lost their right to live in the West Bank (including Jerusalem ) and the Gaza Strip? Israel did not overcome its instinct to expel, and is today focusing on the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Every Jew in the world, whether a citizen of the U.S. or Morocco, has rights in this one country, from the river to the sea, that we denied to those who live in it today, and those who were born in it and grow old as refugees in Lebanon or Syria. And the Oslo process? Israel devised it as a stratagem to impose the solution of reservations.

Israel makes capital out of the six million to justify policies of destruction and expulsion not just in the past, but in the present and future. As the state which claims to be the heir of the Holocaust martyrs, Israel crowns itself as the winner in the global, historical competition of victimhood. Yet it manufactures methods of oppression and dispossession of the individual and the collective, methods which turn the Nakba into a continuing, 63-year process.



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