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In 2015, memory of Nakba has inched closer to Israeli mainstream

Two Nakba-themed events were organized by groups you’d least expect, suggesting that the legacy of the Palestinian catastrophe has ventured beyond Palestinian and leftist circles.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio and Dr. Eléonore Merza Bronstein

Students holding up Nakba banner (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Students holding up Nakba banner (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

 

Until a few years ago, inside Israel Nakba Day was marked primarily on Independence Day. It was a family and community tradition among internally displaced Palestinians going back to the days of the military government. After the Oslo Accords it developed into large, popular political demonstrations.

Three years ago, Tel Aviv University students started holding a memorial ceremony on Nakba Day itself, May 15. The event created a huge scandal and the mainstream media gave voice to supporters of the ceremony as well as to its opponents. It might have seemed, had we not known better, that half the population was in favor of publicly commemorating the Nakba and that the other half was against it.

Other organizations had already been marking Nakba Day, but the students raised the bar for memorial activities in the public sphere — at an Israeli university and on the land of Sheikh Munis, a Palestinian village destroyed in 1948, which they made sure to highlight. Since then, Nakba Day has become more and more central in activities memorializing the disaster that took place in the country in 1948.

This year, alongside the various Nakba memorial activities are two events that do not mark the memory of the Nakba, but have appropriated the name of this great tragedy for themselves. Taking a closer look at those events can teach us a thing or two about the way the Nakba discourse has developed in Israel.

The first is called “The Great Nakba: Riots, Deportation and Displacement of Jews from Arab countries.” It is being organized by Arab Jews (we doubt whether many of them would define themselves as such) and will take place in south Tel Aviv. The headline of the event and the titles of the scheduled talks suggest that the occasion will address the loss of Arab Jews who were uprooted from their countries during the early years of the State of Israel, as well as the impact of the establishment of the state.

Alongside Nakba Day, it appears that the title, “The Great Nakba,” is actually saying that “our Nakba is bigger than yours.” The event organizers are, therefore, well aware of the Palestinian Nakba and are seeking to prove that Arab Jews paid an even more dreadful price than the Palestinians. One of the lectures also aims to show that the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, advanced a “campaign of incitement that led to the deportation” of Jews from Arab countries.

The second event is known simply as “Nakba Now,” except that its logo is designed to look like that of “Peace Now.” The exhibition consists of satirical, right-wing political cartoons that are being displayed at the Gula Club in Petah Tikva. One of the creators, Or Reichert, sounds apologetic: “When I say ‘Nakba now’ I don’t mean to say that they will have a catastrophe or anything like that, I just want to burst the balloon of the lie of the Palestinian Nakba.” He notes that many on the Left have adopted a discourse on the importance of recognizing the Nakba, and he wants to oppose this by way of caricatures.

One can argue about the quality of their humor, and in our opinion at least one of the cartoons is tainted by anti-Semitism, but one thing is clear from the exhibition: it recognizes the centrality of the discourse about the Nakba in Israel. In this sense it is an own goal. What they attribute to the left in terms of adopting the discourse about the Nakba is actually embodied in the presentation of their exhibition. The “Peace Now” of our times, a red flag in front of Israeli nationalists, are the leftists who are now working to recognize the Nakba.

In 2012, after the above-mentioned ceremony at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Adi Ophir wrote:

“If a major distinguishing feature of the difference between the radical left and the moderate left in the 1980s and 1990s was the refusal [to serve in] the territories, today it is found in their position on the question of the Nakba. You bear great responsibility for this sublimation of the discourse. Even left-wing activists who still cling to the vision of two states and oppose the return of refugees to the ’48 territories, arrive at their views after ‘passing through’ the Nakba. Their perspective is formulated ‘despite the Nakba.’ For them, accepting the results of the Nakba safeguards the Israeli regime as ‘Jewish and democratic’, which means that they connect their political preference to the question of rule and understand that their position as members of the Left obligates them to touch on the question of the regime and the open wound of its establishment. The Nakba is not just a chapter in ‘their’ story that is pointless to deal with, but rather a problem that requires a conclusion.”

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the two population groups organizing Zionist events under the heading of the Nakba, close to Nakba Day, are not from the historic Israeli center of Mapai and Labor. Ultimately it is those groups that created the Nakba and it will probably be hardest for them to recognize their historical responsibility for it. The political right and Arab Jews are at least ‘liberated’ from the burden of historical guilt and they therefore may lead the way to a change in the recognition of the Nakba and, who knows, perhaps recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Because the key that they still carry — symbolic or real — is also the key to a future of peace in the country.

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio and Dr. Eléonore Merza Bronstein are founders of the De-Colonizer organization.

 

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    1. Fact: The Jewish Nakba was bigger than the Palestinian Nakba, both in terms of people dispaced and assets lost
      Fact: The Palestinian Mufti al-Husseini did advance a campaign of incitement, as the Palestinian Authority still does.
      So what is your response, Bronstein? Do you deny the Jewish Nakba?

      Reply to Comment
      • Tom P.

        I think the point is we don’t need to engage in “victim olympics.” The suffering of Jews from Arab countries doesn’t cancel out the suffering of Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        So what do you want, Bataween?

        Do you want all the descendants of the “Jewish Nakba” to return to the Arab states from which they came, thus making more than enough room for the Palestinian refugees to return back to their homes in what is now Israel?

        OK, seems fair enough to me, though I have to point out that the end result will be an Israel where the Jews are a very, very distinct minority.

        Bu, sure, if that’s what you want…..

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          What a nonsense from someone who claims to be seeking fairness and justice.

          Israel has absorbed and resettled Jewish refugees. The Arabs should absorb and resettle their Arab brothers. What’s the problem there?

          Obviously you want Jews to return to Arab countries so that you can continue your racist system of Dhimmitude and pogroms against them and loot their property and slaughter them at will. It ain’t gonna happen again, hypocrite.

          Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            BigCat: “What a nonsense from someone who claims to be seeking fairness and justice.”

            Oh, I agree. All this talk of a “Jewish Nakba” has nothing to do with “seeking fairness and justice”.

            Nothing whatsoever.

            It is just Another Obstacle that Netanyahu has plucked from his butt, and he did so because the only thing he is “seeking” is to “obstruct justice”.

            See, we can agree on something.

            BigCat: “Israel has absorbed and resettled Jewish refugees.”

            Well, hmmm, that’s pretty much where the proponents of a “Jewish Nakba” begin to have an evidentiary problem, insofar as all of those “Jews” automatically became “Israelis” the moment they stepped foot inside “Israel”.

            So were they really “refugees from other countries”, or were they turning up inside Israel because they wanted to “live the Zionist Dream”?

            BigCat: “The Arabs should absorb and resettle their Arab brothers. What’s the problem there?”

            Well, the problem is this: those Palestinian refugees were foisted upon those Arab countries by the illegal acts of the Haganah, and therefore those Arab countries are under no obligation – legal, moral, or whatever – to “remedy” something that Israel is responsible for.

            Israel is responsible for the problem, so Israel should remedy the problem.

            BigCat: “Obviously you want Jews to return to Arab countries so that you can continue your racist system of Dhimmitude and pogroms against them and loot their property and slaughter them at will.”

            No, not at all. I’m trying to point out the illogic of this “Jewish Nakba” nonsense, and suggest to its proponents that maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, they haven’t quite thought through the consequences of their own “logic”.

            But, hey, I’ve never pegged you as a deep thinker.

            BigCat: “It ain’t gonna happen again, hypocrite.”

            No s**t, hey? Of course it isn’t going to happen, precisely because Israel has spent the last 60-odd years showing Not The Slightest Interest in championing the rights of those who suffered from that so-called “Jewish Nabka”.

            The reason why is obvious: claiming that those Jews were forced to flee to Israel runs counter to the Zionist narrative that they arrived because they wanted to take part in the fulfilment of the Zionist Dream.

            This current obsession with a “Jewish Nakba” is the very epitome of cynicism, and the only people who are fooled by it are those who have a motive to act like a fool.

            You, for example, or Ginger.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            “Israel is responsible for the problem, so Israel should remedy the problem.”

            Rubbish. The sole responsibility lies on Arabs who refused to create an Arab state in Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        B: “Fact: The Jewish Nakba was bigger than the Palestinian Nakba, both in terms of people dispaced and assets lost”

        Not too sure how you come to that conclusion, since not every Mizrahi Jew ended up in Israel because he was “catastrophed” there.

        According to Israel’s own creation myth there were an awful lot of them who ended up in Israel because – du’oh! – they were “progressing towards Jerusalem”.

        Care to give me the mix, Bataween? Coz’ it most certainly wasn’t 100%

        B: “Fact: The Palestinian Mufti al-Husseini did advance a campaign of incitement, as the Palestinian Authority still does.”

        And how, exactly, was a Palestinian Mufti supposed to have put the frighteners on the Yemini Jews? Or the Jews of Iraq? Or those in Libya?

        Think about it.
        Think about it.
        Think about it.

        A Yemeni Jew gets worried about the homicidal intentions of a Mufti in Palestine, and so he packs his suitcase and….. heads to Palestine.

        And that sounds plausible to you, does it?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Joel cantor

      Indeed, remebrance of the Jewish Nakba ie expulsion of 1 million Mizrachi Jews is now becoming mainstream.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Resource: The Ongoing Nakba Education Center.

      http://www.ongoingnakba.org/en/

      Forgetting just doesn’t work.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel Cantor

        I agree with Bruce. Forgetting the Jewish Nakba will not work.

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, Right

          “Forgetting the Jewish Nakba will not work.”

          So why did Israel so steadfastly “forget” it for over 50 years?

          And how is Netanyahu’s sudden “remembrance” of it now supposed to “work”?

          Reply to Comment
          • Joel Cantor

            Because in comparison to the Shoah, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of 1 million Mizrachi Jews (and butchering several hundred or a thousand or two) was a “minor” event. But leaving out the Jewish Nakba from Israel’s history has given a chance to PLO terrorists to seize the initiative in the historical narrative.

            Time for Israel to remember the JEWISH NAKBA. I believe may 15th should be set aside as a Day of Remberance.

            Reply to Comment