Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spare a thought for the other ‘nakba’

Spare a thought for the other ‘nakba’
Lyn Julius
Times of Israel blog
May 12, 2012

The news that student groups on Tel Aviv University campus will be commemorating the Palestinian “nakba” this week with a special ceremony should come as no surprise. Why shouldn’t they join the thousands of youngsters around the world protesting the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth and the creation of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees? Palestine is one of the great global “radical chic” causes.

None of these indignant protestors will spare a thought for the other “nakba” — the Jewish one. For, while 700,000 refugees fled in one direction — from Palestine — over 850,000 fled in the other — from Arab countries.

The cause of the flight of the Palestinians in 1948 was war — a war their side launched. In the Arab countries, the cause of the Jewish flight was ethnic cleansing. If Israel had had a deliberate policy to drive out the Arab population, Arabs would not constitute 20 percent of Israel’s population today, nor would they be occupying prominent positions in government and the judiciary.

In Arab countries, by contrast, the Jewish population is down from a million to about 4,000. The Arab Spring is taking a further toll on the Jewish remnants in Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco. A drastic reduction of over 99 percent cannot be explained away as “Jews leaving their homes of their own free will.”

Where their suffering is acknowledged, and not swept under the rug, “the Jews only have themselves to blame,” goes the argument. Riots, executions, internment and abuse were justifiable payback for the “usurpation of Palestine.” (In Tunisia and Morocco, a gentler form of exclusion and harassment ushered the Jews toward the exit.)

All those exercised by the destruction of 400 Palestinian villages in Israel should spare a thought for the Jewish life, culture and civilization erased from almost every city and town in the Middle East and North Africa. According to the World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries, Jews lost not only homes, schools, shops, markets, synagogues and cemeteries, but deeded land and property equivalent to five times the size of Israel itself.

The “understandable backlash” theory exonerates the scapegoating of innocent civilians as “enemy aliens” hundreds of miles from the battlefield. To claim that before Zionism Jews and Muslims coexisted in harmony masks another inconvenient truth. Anti-Semitism in Arab countries did not suddenly spring up as a reaction to Zionism; it predated the establishment of Israel by centuries. Under Muslim rule, Jewish life was precarious and often dispensable, depending on the ruler of the day. The dhimmi rules, humiliating the Jews but sparing their lives in exchange for payment of a poll tax, may have appeared tolerant in the 9th century. Today they appear arbitrary and racist.

Furthermore, the “understandable backlash” theory collapses under the weight of evidence that the Arab League drew up a plan to persecute their Jews in 1947 — before it declared war, and just two years after the slaughter of six million Jews in Nazi camps had come to light. The brutal truth is that Arab states conspired to get rid of and defraud their Jews. In other words, the Arab regimes imposed a set of “Nuremberg Laws“ on their own Jewish citizens. The result was ethnic cleansing and dispossession.

In 1948, five Arab states launched a double jihad on the Jews: they lost the military war on the Jews of Israel, but comfortably won the “civil war” against the defenseless Jews of Arab lands. What the keffiyeh-clad youngsters demonstrating on university campuses at Nakba Week events are really doing is deploring the Arab failure to wipe out the Jews entirely from the region. How progressive is that?

It is no accident that the fascism that precipitated both jihads will not tolerate Christians and other non-Muslims, heretical sects, and anyone else who doesn’t fit the Islamist “one nation, one people, one religion” straightjacket.

Impressionable students and their professors are taken in by the lie that Jews came to steal land belonging to the natives. The refugees of the Jewish “nakba” are living proof that Jews are not colonial interlopers, but indigenous to the region, members of communities that in many cases predated Islam by centuries. The fact that some 50 percent of the Jewish population of Israel descends from these refugees is a powerful statistic.

Moreover, the anti-Semitism that Arab-born Jews suffered is key to understanding the Arab world’s deep religious and cultural resistance to the idea of a Jewish state. For 14 centuries Jews lived under Muslim rule as dhimmis – inferior subjects — surrendering their right to self-defense to Muslims. For all its shortcomings, Israel has delivered these Jews from the yoke of Arab-Islamist supremacy.

In all conscience, every liberal ought to see the self-determination of a small, indigenous Middle Eastern people – the Jews – as a progressive cause. Instead, students and their teachers supporting the Palestinian campaign against Israel – deceptively cloaked in the language of human rights — have become unwitting agents for ethno-religious fascism.


Palestine's Self-Inflicted Wound
Alan Dershowitz
May 17, 2007

I just returned from a visit from several university campuses during which I spoke about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. On these and other campuses anti-Israel students commemorate the Palestinian Nakba. They call this the Day of Catastrophe on which the Palestinians were deprived of their homeland and were made refugees from their birthplace. They compare their catastrophe to the Holocaust. Perhaps out of deference to the suffering of the Palestinian people, Pro-Israel students generally say nothing in response to these Nakba commemorations. The impression is thus created that everyone agrees that this was indeed a catastrophe inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians. The time has come to reply to this canard and to place it in its historical context.

The Nakba was indeed a catastrophe, but it was a self-inflicted wound. The Palestinian Nakba was a direct result of the refusal of the Palestinian and Arab leadership to accept the two state solution offered by the United Nations in 1947-48. The UN divided what remained of Palestine, after Trans-Jordan was carved out of it, into two states of roughly equal size (The Israelis got slightly more actual land, but the Palestinians got considerably more arable land). Israel would control territories in which Jews were a majority, while the Palestinians would control territories in which Arabs were a majority. Israel accepted the partition and declared statehood. Palestinians rejected statehood and attacked Israel with the help of all the surrounding Arab countries. In the process of defending their new state, Israel lost 1% of its population (1 out of every 100 Israelis were killed.) In the ensuing war- a war declared to be genocidal by Israel's enemies- 700,000 Palestinians left their homes, some voluntarily, some at the urging of Palestinian leaders and some forced out by the Israeli military. None of these people would have had to leave Israel had the Palestinians and other Arabs been willing to accept the two state solution. It was indeed a catastrophe for all sides, but the catastrophe was caused by the Palestinians and Arabs.

In the aftermath of the war, Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. There were no United Nations condemnations of these occupations though they were brutal and denied the Palestinians autonomy and sovereignty. Only when Israel occupied these lands, following a defensive war against Egypt and Jordan, did the occupation become a source of international concern.

This is the reality. This is the historical truth. And the world should understand that this particular catastrophe, as distinguished from others like the Holocaust, could easily have been prevented had the Palestinians wanted their own state more than they wanted to see the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.

The Germans don't celebrate the catastrophe resulting from their invasion of Poland. Japanese do not celebrate their catastrophe resulting from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Why do Palestinians celebrate their catastrophe resulting from the Arab attack against Israel?

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