We Must Deal With the Nakba

Israel's Independence cannot be celebrated fully until we ignore the feelings of around one-fifth of the population - the Arabs of Israel

A US-made Israeli air force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft flies during the 70th Independence Day celebrations on April 19, 2018

Israel marked its 70th Independence Day Wednesday with a mixture of official ceremonies and open events. Israel has cause for celebration, and the joy was appropriate. But the festival can only be incomplete, so long as the state ignores the feelings of around one-fifth of the population — the Arabs of Israel — and even attacks them over these feelings and attempts to prohibit them from expressing them publicly.

Not only is this holiday not theirs; all of the Jewish holidays are not theirs. To them, Independence Day symbolizes the national catastrophe of the Palestinian people, of which they, Arab citizens of Israel, are an inseparable part. This the state cannot ignore, even if it is extremely distressing.

For the state’s Arab citizens and of course for the Palestinians who have been living under Israeli occupation for 51 years, the day of the state’s establishment was the day they lost their villages, towns and lands, the day they lost their land and their dignity. Whoever may be to blame for this, one cannot fail to understand the feelings of loss and mourning of a people that lost its land.

But the situation is much worse. A historic look backward shows that the Palestinians’ Nakba, their disaster, did not end with the state’s establishment. It only began, and in fact it hasn’t ended to this day. Israel hasn’t changed its approach to the Palestinian people since then, nor its treatment of them. The policy of dispossession and eviction continues: not only with the occupation in the 1967 areas and the settlements’ prospering, but with the destruction of a Bedouin village in the Negev, Umm al-Hiran, and the building of a Jewish community on its ruins.

As long as a Palestinian state hasn’t been established, the Nakba isn’t over, and the mourning of the Palestinians — and Israel’s Arab citizens among them — isn’t over. As long as Israel’s occupation and dispossession policy isn’t changing, the state must at least contain and respect the sentiments of the national minority living in it.

“I cannot be partner to your joy,” wrote the head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh in Haaretz (April 18), adding: “as long as you refuse to recognize the past and to act to repair current reality, we cannot build together a future for Jews and Arabs in this country.” His words should resonate in Israel, especially on its national holiday, Independence Day.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.