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Yom HaNakba

It’s Yom HaNakba today. Oops, there goes any government funding for this blog*! The Israeli government appears to think that the so-called Nakba Law can help suppress the idea that the establishment of the State of Israel is not a cause for celebration by the Palestinian population. Apparently, only Palestinians prepared to celebrate Israel’s independence by dancing the hora and singing HaTikva are worthy of equal rights as citizens of the country. Oh no, another mistake – even that would probably not entitle them to full rights – after all, in the Arab education system, they already have to study Jewish history, the Bible, honor the different Memorial Days and celebrate Independence Day – but that by no means entitles them to equal funding.

I personally wrestle with the question of what to do with Nakba Day. There seems to be a tendency for joint Jewish-Arab organizations to organize activities commemorating the Nakba on Israeli Independence Day. I, however, want to celebrate Israel’s independence on Independence Day.  This year, for the first time, I attended an alternative Memorial Day ceremony on the eve of Yom HaZikaron, which commemorated all the victims of the ongoing violence of this conflict. It was organized by Combatants for Peace, an important organization which challenges the dominant Israeli narrative.

One thing we could all do today is sign the petition (or here in Hebrew) calling on the Israel Land Authority to stop the bidding process and the plan to market plots for construction in the village of Lifta – the last remaining ruins of a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem destroyed in 1948. They plan to sell plots to private developers who will turn it into an up-market new Jewish neighborhood, wiping out the last traces of the Palestinians who were forced to leave in 1948 and never allowed to return. We could also go there for a family picnic one day soon, and take the chance to look around what remains of the once thriving village.

MK Ahmed Tibi said on the radio this morning that the point of Nakba Day is to voice the Palestinian narrative. The point of the Nakba Law seems to be to silence the Palestinian narrative. Some of our MK’s, perhaps even a majority, judging by the fact that the law was passed, seem to think that we can legislate the Palestinian narrative away. That boat has already sailed. Although clearly the passing of the Nakba law is a blow to democracy, we can also choose to see it as a positive sign – the fact is, that the Palestinian narrative is out there, is being voiced loud and clear, and no amount of legislation is going to make it disappear. We may find it painful to listen to that narrative, we may disagree about some historical claims, but it is our duty to face up to the fact that the establishment of the State of Israel caused suffering and loss to the Palestinian people. If we can’t even acknowledge that much, there really is no hope of reaching agreement.

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*The Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ is the name given to the establishment of the State of Israel by the Palestinian people. They therefore mark the date, May 15th, the Gregorian anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, as a day of mourning. This new law, passed by the Knesset in March, will allow the State to cut the funding or fine any organization that opposes the Jewish and democratic nature of the State, or that expresses feelings of mourning related toIsrael’s Independence Day or the Nakba.

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