Letters to the Editor: On the Nakba, Palestinians, and Absolute Truth

Members of pro-Palestinian and other civil society groups demonstrate outside the US Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa, during a protest to mark Nakba Day. May 15, 2018
GULSHAN KHAN/AFP

Arabs’ role in Nakba

Re: How Netanyahu is stoking Israelis’ fear of the Nakba (May 21)

In Dr. Galia Golan’s analysis of Israel’s approach and understanding of the Nakba, there is a very salient point not mentioned.

In 1948, the Arabs residing in [British Mandatory] Palestine were also urged, nay encouraged, by their leaders – and especially by the surrounding nations about to attack – to leave their homes.

This advice was given on the premise that the defeat of Israel would be swift and they would then be in a position to return along with the invading armies.

In the scheme of things it might not add to our perception of the Nakba, but likewise it should not be avoided when analyzing its origins.

Stephen Vishnick 
Tel Aviv

Absolute truths 

Re: Israel: Always in the right (May 24)

In his opening paragraph about local myths as absolute truths – which can only be swallowed if one has had a sufficient supply of Absolut – Gideon Levy is so very sadly correct. 

We are told by “Big B” that Israel is so enlightened,  while we see it wasting money on KKL-JNF that might be better spent on the needs of the mentally ill and challenged among us. 

When I arrived in Israel decades ago, there was the dream of coming to help build a modern, enlightened commonwealth with its power derived from Jewish values. What has happened in the interim? A state has arisen based on a Hebrew ethnic code instead of a Jewish ethic code. 

As a result, we see Western Jewry (especially U.S.-Canada), which traditionally supports Israeli Jews, distancing themselves. Most American Jews have no dumb desire to abandon the civil rights that their ancestors fought to gain for themselves and people like them, and even for people who were, at first glance, unlike them. They have a Constitution that does not mention any cult, god or religion. It is based on the concept of the people being endowed certain rights by their Creator, period. It includes some not-so-simple ways to amend it. 

Abandon these real things for fanciful myths and to become lords over others; there is no drive. Some gals might like to emulate the Meghan Markle fairy tale, but she isn’t doing it at the cost of Celts and Picts. 

A Big B regime, left or right, regardless of its gods, must have some absolute truths that are of mythological proportions. Thank you, Mr. Levy, for pointing out that anyone who questions these myths can never be right. 

Zhev M. Freed
Be’er Sheva 

Not Teddy Kollek’s initiative

Re: “The time Jerusalem’s mayor tried to convince Arafat to get Palestinians to vote” (April 27)

In the upcoming local elections for the Jerusalem Municipality, there is a good chance that at least one Palestinian and/or Palestinian-Israeli party will enter the fray. For that reason, it is particularly unfortunate that Haaretz published an article that is full of misinformation that would mislead anyone trying to understand the history of the 1993 party Shlom Yerushalayim (aka As-salaam min ajal al-Quds). Here is what really happened to the party in the 1993 Jerusalem election.

Leading up to that year’s election, the late Sarah Kaminker formed the party in the hope that Palestinian residents would – either by themselves or with like-minded Israeli Jews – enter the municipal election to fight for both capitals to be included in Jerusalem, and to use legitimate political power to hold onto their lands and property and to get their fair share of municipal largesse.

Some Palestinians were concerned that voting, even in this local election, would be interpreted as accepting Israeli sovereignty over all of the annexed city. 

The Haaretz article erroneously claimed that Mayor Teddy Kollek initiated or supported this party (which potentially threatened his Labor Party). In fact, the founding members were Chairwoman Kaminker and those she invited: Dr. Moshe Amirav; Deputy Mayor Dr. Lotte Salzburger; Dr. Gershon Baskin; Prof. Veronika Cohen; Dr. Shlomo Elbaz; and Hillel Bardin.

Party members met repeatedly with leaders of Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, who said they would vote only if Yasser Arafat gave his support. 

The party decided to meet exiled Chairman Arafat in Tunis to explain that if Palestinians did not gain power on the council, they would lose the little land still in their possession. Kaminker, Amirav and Bardin flew to Tunis to explain the lands situation, armed with maps. The three returned to Jerusalem with no clear commitment from Arafat.

Without getting many tens of thousands of votes from noncitizen Palestinian residents, the elections would not have yielded positive results. As time was running out, the party terminated its work.

Prof. Veronika Cohen
Dr. Gershon Baskin
Hillel Bardin 

(Former members of Shlom Yerushalayim)