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For Israeli media, even the memory of the Nakba poses a threat

A new study reveals that although Israeli newspapers present an array of views on the Nakba, the most common one sees it as nothing less than a threat that seeks to delegitimize Israel.

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A new study reveals that Israel’s mainstream media maintains the state’s official stance toward the Nakba, and “puts full responsibility on the tragedy that occurred in 1948 on the Palestinian leadership, thus purifying Israel from any responsibility for the outcome of the war on the Palestinian people.”

The study, conducted by Amal Jamal and Samah Basool and published earlier this year by the I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, is based on the way Israel’s five main newspapers – Yedioth Ahronot, Ma’ariv, Israel Hayom, Haaretz and Hamodia – describe the Nakba (the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which Palestinians use to describe the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 War). The researchers looked at how the newspaper articles refer to the Nakba during the period in which the term comes up most naturally – two weeks before Israel’s Independence Day, and two weeks after May 15, Nakba Day. The study took place between 2008-2012 in an attempt to understand the “patterns of perceptions of the Palestinian Nakba in the Israeli collective consciousness, as they are reflected in Israel’s media discourse.”

In their study, Jamal and Basool stress that the goal is not “to argue over the stances in the articles sampled, but rather to classify their contents according to parameters of attitudes.”

As one could probably guess, the newspaper that publishes the highest number of articles relating to the subject is Haaretz. Surprisingly, Israel Hayom published a relatively high number of articles on the Nakba, as opposed to Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv.

“The data is surprising, on the one hand, since Yedioth Ahronoth is seen as a centrist newspaper that deals with the major issues of the day,” write the researchers. “[…] on the other hand, the large number of articles published in Israel Hayom does not ostensibly align with the nationalistic, hawkish worldview of the newspaper.

Jamal and Basool explain the findings:

Yedioth Ahronoth tries not to upset its readers, and thus refrains from dealing with controversial issues. On the other hand, Israel Hayom serves as a comfortable platform for expressing hawkish opinions toward Arabs and Palestinians. While this fact raises the amount of attention paid to the Nakba, it does so by framing it in a very negative light, which invites a contemptuous attitude toward it.

Jamal and Basool divide the media’s views of the Nakba into five categories, with the first two categories subdivided into two categories each.

Palestinian students lead a Nakba commemoration ceremony at Tel Aviv University. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian students lead a Nakba commemoration ceremony at Tel Aviv University. (photo: Activestills.org)

The first view is one of denial, which views the Nakba as an invention based on propaganda and historical distortions. This view is subdivided into two subcategories: (1a) Denying that that the events of 1948 amount to a Nakba; (1b) The Nakba is an invention based on propaganda and historical revisionism.

The second view is one of denying responsibility for the Nakba, while not denying the it took place. This view is also subdivided into two categories: (2a) The Palestinians are to blame for their situation; (2b) The Nakba is the result of a war that Israel was forced into.

WATCH: Palestinian students commemorate Nakba at Tel Aviv University

According to the third view the Nakba was a tragic occurrence that continues until today. According to the fourth view the Nakba is a continuing threat whose goal is to delegitimize Israel. According to the fifth view, the Nakba is a part of the collective memory that needs to be respected.

The study shows that the most common view in the newspapers (that are not published in Haaretz) is the fourth one, according to which the Nakba is nothing less than a threat that seeks to delegitimize Israel.

“The prominence of the view that sees the Nakba as a continuous threat whose goal is the delegitimization of Israel is connected to the growing emphasis on Israel’s public, diplomatic struggle against the boycott, which has grown in the last years,” say the researchers. According to them “the view that the Nakba is a threat and delegitimizes Israel is intended to mobilize Israeli public opinion – to mold the public’s consciousness against the most central expression of Palestinian identity: the memory of the Nakba.

Right-wing nationalists from the group Im Tirzu protest as Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters commemorate the Nakba outside Tel Aviv university, May 11, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists from the group Im Tirzu protest as Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters commemorate the Nakba outside Tel Aviv University. The sign reads: ‘Nakba is Bullshit.’ May 11, 2014. (Activestills.org)

The prominence of this view along with the relative prominence of other views, creates what the researchers describe as an “array of public stances, which deny the truth behind the catastrophe that the Palestinians underwent in 1948, and Israeli responsibility for this catastrophe.”

On the other hand, one also encounters views that place the blame on Palestinians for what took place in the 1948 War. “In other words,” write Jamal and Basool, “there are two basic stances that are not necessarily coherent. The first stance denies the existence of the Nakba, while the second one denies Israel’s responsibility for what happened to the Palestinians.”

After analyzing the headlines of the articles included in the study sample, the researchers created a world cloud that presents the most popular terms in different sizes, according to the number of times they appeared. The most common terms that appeared (aside from “Nakba” itself) are: “Israel,” “IDF,” “in the territories,” “were wounded,” “borders,” “riots” and “were killed.” Jamal and Basool claim that “this testifies to the context in which the Nakba is raised, and reflects Israeli public discourse as a whole, particularly the one most intensively engaged in issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Read: What do Palestinian refugees want?

Jamal and Basool provide various quotes to back their central premise. However, one of the articles “Nakba Carnival,” by Assaf Geffen and published in Yedioth Ahronoth, was misread by the researchers. Geffen’s satirical article, which called on readers to “stop denying the existence of the Nakba and begin to enjoy it,” and wrote that Israel’s Independence Day celebrations should be turned “into a day of celebrations of the Palestinian catastrophe,” was understood by Jamal and Basool as a serious op-ed. Thus, in the study they claim that Geffen is “trying to make a convincing argument that we must recognize the Nakba and use it for the sake of Jewish nationalism, in order to ensure the future of the Zionist project, with no need to apologize.”

According to Jamal and Basool, the data they collected points to the Israel public’s complex relationship with the Nakba. “On the one hand the view that denies the Nakba as a historical event and opposes taking any responsibility for it is clearly dominant. On the other hand, there is also support for the need to admit not only to its existence, but also its continuation as well as recognizing the legitimacy of memorializing it,” they write.

Jamal and Basool write that the public discussion that arises from these contradictory stances abets the official Israeli stance. “Despite the different attitudes toward the Nakba, the data allows us to differentiate between the general atmosphere, which suggests a fruitful discussion taking place among the Israeli public… and the power of the hegemonic view, according to which not only did the Nakba not take place, but it is a clever Palestinian invention whose sole purpose is to delegitimize Israel,” they write.

Palestinians demonstrate on the 66th anniversary of the Nakba in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 14, 2014.

Palestinians demonstrate on the 66th anniversary of the Nakba in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 14, 2014.

“The array of stances ostensibly ‘whitewashes’ the discourse of denial and repression of the past and its memory. That way the official position wins twice: it is able to affirm itself in the wider public’s consciousness, while presenting itself as liberal and tolerant. The very existence of this range of positions gives a feeling of pluralism, which grants legitimacy to the dominance of a denouncing position, which in the end leads to the legitimate conclusion of denial.”

Jamal and Basool write that “despite it taking place six decades ago, the Nakba is evident even today. This evidence only strengthens the claims of the minority in the media, according to which the Nakba is an event that has continued from 1948 until today, and thus neither denial nor responsibility have been able to become normative views. The Israeli anxiety vis-a-vis the Nakba, which is manifested through symptoms of past trauma and the return of that that has been repressed in various ways, is an expression of how relevant the Nakba is, despite the attempts to push it out of the public discourse.”

The two conclude by writing that “viewing the memory of the Nakba as a threat to the legitimacy of Israel mean that Israel needs Palestinian recognition in order to be at peace with itself. This need reflects the deep chasms in the moral strength of the narrative, as well as how Israelis view themselves.”

This article was first published in Hebrew by The 7th Eye media watchdog website. It is reproduced here with permission.

Related:
Liberating Israeli Jews from the dark legacy of the Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?

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    COMMENTS

    1. Tony Rilet

      This pair are the ones who are actually in denial of the truth.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Why not actually tell us what the truth is? Seems to me this was simply an analysis of a variety of attitudes about an event, rather than an attempt to describe that event itself.

        Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          The truth is that the Palestinian Arab leadership created the Naqba of its own people. In March of 1948 Jamal Husseini of the Arab Higher Committee told the United Nations that as the Jews said the Arabs shed the first blood in and created the conflict. In fact Chariman Jamal Husseini promised that blood would flow in the streets on the passing of the UN resolution on partition. And it did.

          The Arab Palestiians killed bus passengers and threw bombs and grenades into cafes. The Arab Higher Committee lead a riot into and destroyed the Jewish Commercial Center of Jerusalem. The Arab Salvation Army attacked Jewish communities in early December and interdicted all Jewish traffic. The war was on. It was a war for the existence of the Jewish state. In the chaos of the war the Jewish community proved more resilent and over came great odds. The Palestinian Arabs suffered several hammer blows to their society and many Arabs fled the fighting and most were not allowed back into the Jewish controlled territory. Instead of accepting the outcome of the war and building a state of their own, the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria accepted Jordanian citizenship and Egyptian control and rule of the Gazaq strip. Unlike Israel the Arabs did not resettle their refugees but put them into camps which became ghettos. The Arabs continued to wage attacks and wars against Israel instead of accepting the outcome of the 1948 war. As a result the Arabs lost control of the West Bank. When Israel offered to give Jordan the West Bank and Egypt Gaza in return for peace and recognition, the Arab world refused and said it would prepare again for war which it did. The results of the 1973 war were the same, Arab humilitation and a resounding Israeli victory. Still the Arabs hung onto their belief that Israel could be beaten by attacks of terrorism and refused to join Israel and Egypt in peace talks in 1978. The Palestinians still overwhelming believe that acts of terrorism can get them what they want. They still fail to acknowledge their responsibility for their own Naqbas.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            The truth very definitely is not that “the Palestinian Arab leadership created the Naqba of its own people”. In the most comprehensive historical analysis produced to date (“The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited” by Benny Morris) a village by village analysis is provided which breaks down the refugee flight into six categories (Abandonment on Arab orders, Influence of a nearby town’s fall, Expulsion by Jewish forces, Fear of being caught up in fighting, Military assault on a settlement, and whispering campaigns resulting from Hagannah psychological warfare of the danger of massacres like Deir Yassin). You can see for yourself his village by village classification on pages beginning xvi at the front of the book (http://books.google.com.tr/books?id=uM_kFX6edX8C&printsec=frontcover&hl=tr&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false) Military assault is overwhelming the commonest cause, followed by influence of a near-by town’s fall, fear of being caught up in the fighting, whispering campaigns, and last with very few occurrences Arab orders for evacuation. As many eye-witness accounts (both Palestinian and Israeli) make clear the classical military assault entailed surrounding a village on three sides, leaving a corridor of escape, and then entering the village, guns blazing, often augmented by the dynamiting of houses to hasten the residents departure. Thus was the ethnic cleansing of Israel initiated. To blame the Arab leadership for the Naqba is even worse than blaming Hamas for the slaughter in Gaza, since many of the villages depopulated had lived on perfectly friendly terms with neighbouring Jewish settlements. Indeed many Jewish settlements requested of the army that they leave their neighbours in peace.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Very interesting study thanks for publishing it out.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tomer

      What about The Jewish Nakba?

      I am still waiting for 972 mag’s analysis about the expulsion of 800,000 Jews from their homes and confiscation of their wealth.

      One rule for Arab Nakbaists but a different rule for Jewish Nakbaists.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        The topic of THIS article is the Palestinian Nakba; there isn’t any need, moral or otherwise, to always discuss the two at the same time, and there are other places where the Jewish Nakba is discussed. Furthermore, I don’t hear from a lot of people in the Jewish Nakba that they want to go back, but there are a lot of folks in the Palestinian Nakba who do, and the Palestinian Nakba is ongoing.

        Reply to Comment
        • Sluggo

          Bruce, everything has a context and you should not be afraid to address them. As far as wanting to go back, the solution to the Nakba will not be the pRoR. Other creative solutions need to be found. And to day this the Nakba continues minimizes what happened in 1948.

          Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Had the Arabs of Palestine not been ethnically cleansed in 1948 the Jews of the Arab countries would have not been forced out.

        Both ethnic cleansings should be considered to be war crimes, don’t you agree?

        Furthermore both peoples should long ago have been given the right to return to the place of their birth. Don’t you agree with this too?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Sluggo

      Is it mandatory for every dispossessed Palestinan to run around with a giant iron key? Where are these things produced? Lol.

      Reply to Comment
      • Are you suggesting that the re-telling of a people’s tragic history is getting tiresome?

        Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Sluggo: Your intellectual dishonesty and moral degeneracy continue to amaze. Is there a selective breeding protocol in Israel seeking to produce the dumbest racists alive? The Nakba is the history wherein the Palestinians were dispossessed by the Ubermenschen Jews known more commonly as Zionists. Now, when are the Israelis going to pay either reparations for the property stolen or allow the dispossessed to reclaim their property? If you didn’t purchase it from the legitimate owner, then you stole it. And the Jews only purchased less than 6% of the land prior to the ethnic cleansing between ’47 and ’49, let alone the outright theft after ’67. Simple concept, isn’t it?

      Reply to Comment
      • Gray

        Sadly, your frivolous use of “Ubermenschen Jews” stains your comment. You can’t claim ethical superiority over right wing trolls when you totally unnecessarily put oil in the flames yourself. More restraint, please!

        Reply to Comment
    6. Richard

      It’s impossible to remember or forget the Nakba because the Nakba is an ideology, not history. The Nakba is the ideology of a point guard who stays on the court shooting free throws after his team has already lost, or the running back who scores touchdowns in an empty stadium. Losers who cannot get over defeat pretend the game isn’t over. That’s all the Nakba is. Denial. Its not a threat to anyone but future generations of Arabs who’ll live in camps and learn to only to feel self-destructive amounts of bitterness and spite.

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        the Nakba is an ideology, not history.

        Years of reading crap like this has made me rather impatient and hostile, so let’s cut to the chase: Zionism could not have achieved its goal without a military invasion of Palestine. Instead of arriving fully armed however, they established colonies through a shifty navigation of the Ottoman legal system, relied on Britain to crush native resistance and gradually armed themselves so when the British left they’d have the ability to finish the job.

        If the WZO had a regular army before WWI, they would have skipped the Balfour Declaration and gone straight to the nakba. The history of every European settler movement suggests no different.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard

          Before the Holocaust, there were a lot more Jews in Europe…enough to create a sizable majority in Palestine without expelling anyone. And this was discussed well before WWI. So you’re actually, completely full of shit.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Did you really expect that to keep me quiet? Both Herzl and Ruppin came up with similar schemes to pay off evicted fellahin to abandon Palestine for Syria.

            “Article III gives the JOLC the right to deport the native populations, an act aiming at legitimizing ethnic cleansing, by granting “The right to exchange economic enclaves of its territory, with the exception of the holy places or places already designated for worship. The owners shall receive plots of equal size and quality procured by it (the JOLC) in other provinces and territories of the Ottoman Empire.”
            al-awda.org/zionists01.html

            “We are considering a parallel Arab colonization. Thus, we are planning to buy land in the regions of Homs,
            257 Aleppo etc. which we will sell under easy terms to those Palestinian fellahin who have been harmed by our land purchases.” 258
            tau.ac.il/tarbut/tezot/bloom”/EtanBloom-PhD-ArthurRuppin.pdf (pdf 375)

            Besides that, you probably know Israel adopted an austerity measure in the 50’s with 1M people, dispossessed Palestinian land and German reparations. Without a significant cash inflow, a Yishuv of two million or greater during WWII as well as the native Palestinians would have been in serious trouble.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            No, I don’t expect you to keep quiet because you’re clearly an obsessed and troubled person. Don’t you have other things in your life that are more important to do than reading wacko irredentist nationalists like al-awda? Even WHAT YOU CITE talks about a plan to appeal to the SOVEREIGN – which was the Ottoman Empire. You must be pretty deep down the rabbit hole to think that anyone but you and a few other delusional weirdos see that as a act of ethnic cleansing. You should find another hobby. Being obsessed with Jews doesn’t lead people to happy places.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Even WHAT YOU CITE talks about a plan to appeal to the SOVEREIGN – which was the Ottoman Empire.

            The point of citing these plans is to show the motive for ethnic cleansing existed among Zionist leaders. Both plans would have removed evicted fellahin from the eventual borders of the Jewish state.

            The logic of ethnic cleansing was built into Zionism itself from the very start, regardless of how the Palestinians reacted to immigration.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            hahaha…a motive? That’s your argument now? The bar keeps getting lower and lower for you. First it was that there HAD to be ethnic cleansing. Then is was that ethnic cleansing was PLANNED. Now its that there was a MOTIVE. keep retreating, I don’t think you’re capable of looking more ridiculous.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            That both Herzl and Ruppin proposed these plans demonstrates they had something to gain from ethnic cleansing, i.e. a motive. Ergo, Zionist leaders were aware from when they first formed a political movement that they could not have a Jewish state without depopulation of the natives.

            And yes, Herzl and Ruppin had similar plans for ethnic cleansing by collaborating with the sovereign. There’s no way they would be getting any help on that score. It was a pipedream. IOW, while they tried to find an easy way of doing it first, Zionism could not have succeeded without a military invasion and forced expulsion. The British provided the invasion, the Yishuv paramilitaries the expulsion.

            See how nicely tied together that is? Anyone with minimal intelligence could have worked this out from my last few posts. Which happens to not include you.

            Reply to Comment
      • Self-destructive amounts of bitterness and spite? Sounds like Im Tirzu, the Jewish Home, Likud……

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard

          Yeah, look how self-destructive the Zionists are. Built a developed country and keep building. You are so right Marnie. Actually I mean stupid and obsessed with hating Israel. Get over it and everyone will be better off 🙂

          Reply to Comment
          • “Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection works by allowing the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.”
            Psychology.about.com

            Look in the mirror Richard.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            Sorry I didn’t realize you were illiterate. I won’t respond to you anyone. Good luck with improving your reading comprehension.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Two very different events, but you would be rightly aggrieved had someone written: “It’s impossible to remember or forget the Holocaust because the commemoration of the Holocaust is an ideology, not history.”

        Reply to Comment
    7. Sluggo

      That senile woman in the photo gave me an idea… Does anyone know how to get in touch with Flava-Flav? I figure that Public Enemy can get back together (without the dead guys of course) and instead of his signature giant clock necklace,he can wear one of this huge iron Palestinian keys that they give out at demonstrations. We can book towns like Irvine, Berkeley etc. where they believe that Palestinians have magical powers. We’ll make a fortune!

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        Cool. The Sephardic Jews who’s ancestors fled the Inquisition can supply the keys, also.

        Reply to Comment
        • Sluggo

          No, they won’t be there. These people were not sold a bill of goods that promised their return to Spain. So in spite of hardships, they settled other places and went on with their lives. The 48 refugees will be compensated and resettled in an end of hostility agreement.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            http://www.euronews.com/2014/08/29/sephardic-jews-eye-return-to-spain/

            There are several individuals in the article who want the law to pass so they can get Spanish citizenship. Some view it as a symbolic reparation for the original expulsion, but others want to live in Spain.

            And yes, Sephardic Jews still have the keys to their old properties in Spain. Think about that when you denigrate Palestinians for the same thing.

            Reply to Comment
      • Josh

        PE never splitted. You know the same about music as about politics and history. ;erely nothing

        Reply to Comment
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