Israel’s foundation myths

Joseph Dana writes:

On May 15, five days after Israel’s Independence Day, Palestinians rallied around the Nakba—the Arabic word for catastrophe, used to mark the displacement of as many as 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. It was a bid to reiterate their opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and control of the Gaza Strip. For the first time in years, every Israeli newspaper carried the word “Nakba” on its front page, albeit not in reference to the historical event but to demonstrations that consumed the West Bank and Israel’s border towns. The episode highlighted an important truth: Sooner or later, Israel will be forced to incorporate the Palestinian Nakba narrative into the larger Israeli societal discourse. There can be a Zionist narrative of 1948 that includes the tragic and violent Palestinian experience of displacement—but it must be predicated on the acceptance of the Nakba in Israeli society.

My first experience with the history of the Nakba came as a young Jewish Studies student at the University of Maryland. One graduate seminar I attended was led by Benny Morris, the prominent Israeli historian responsible for revolutionizing his country’s historiography pertaining to the founding period. The subject of the seminar was 1948, and the course material—army reports from the field, personal letters, radio transcripts—came directly from Morris’ influential first book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, published in 1988.

Early on in the seminar, I asked Morris, a short man with a fiery personality, if it was difficult to be a post-Zionist—an adherent of a movement that strives to replace Israel’s Zionist identity with a liberal cosmopolitan one—in Israel. He responded, almost snapping at me, that he was not a post-Zionist and never had been. As I would see in the seminar, Morris had exposed one of Israel’s darkest chapters without abandoning a strong allegiance to Zionism.

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2 thoughts on “Israel’s foundation myths

  1. Laurie K

    One of the uglist components of this history is Palestines’s request in 1947 to be heard before the International Court of Justice. The General Assembly rejected this appeal by a motion of 21 to 20. To be denied due process in this manner , should exempt the Palestinians from any obligation for fairness and/or law. They have been shown none. Instead, the thief and the victim are supposed to talk it over and achieve resolution.

  2. Mirza Ferdous Alam

    Nakba or catastrophe is the appropriate word to express the misery of the inhabitants of land of Palestine during and after the birth of state of Israel in 1948. Israel’s creation has produced a steady humiliation of the indigenous people on historic land of Palestine; the Arab Muslims, Arab Christians and others living side by side for generations. The destiny of Palestinians became agonizingly painful due to an oppressive military occupation by Israel that involves fundamental denials of rights and persistent violations of international humanitarian law.

    How did it happen?

    The declaration of legitimacy of Zionism rests on the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the UN General Assembly’s partition plan resolution of 1947. The significance of Balfour declaration was the willingness of the then British Government to create a Jewish state in the land known to the world as Palestine. Did Britain have the right to create a place for Jewish state in Palestine?

    During the late forties, the territory of Palestine was neither owned nor controlled by Great Britain; rather it was under effective control of the Ottoman Empire. The British Government had the willingness to set up the homeland for Jews in order to earn some sort of leverage on them to be used later on for Imperial purposes. With the promulgation of the Balfour declaration, the Jews could claim that their demand for homeland on Palestinian land was recognized by a major power and the Zionist Enterprise is legitimate. But the legality Britain conveyed by implication was entirely bogus, not genuine. How can Britain create a home land for Jews on some one else’s land by kicking out the inhabitants; the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews.

    The notion that Israel got its birth certificate and legitimacy by the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947 is nothing but pure propaganda nonsense.

    The question is, whether the UN without the consent of the majority of the people of Palestine can have the right to decide to partition Palestine or assign any part of its territory to a minority of alien immigrants in order for them to establish a state of their own.

    The UN General Assembly did pass a resolution to partition by the narrowest of margins, and only after a rigged vote. Thus the two states, Palestine for Arabs and Israel for the Jews, with Jerusalem not part to any body came into being by default. The General Assembly resolution was only a non-binding proposal – meaning that it could have no effect, would not become binding, until and unless it was approved by the Security Council. Why USA and Britain did not opt for a binding resolution, still remains a mystery! Israel came into being mainly as a consequence of Zionist terrorism and pre planned ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, this was also the truth behind the birth of state of Israel.

    Apart from the legal aspects, the Biblical “promised land” for the Jews has no bearings on the matter because the Jews from all over the world, who “returned” in answer to Zionism’s call had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews.

    I cannot agree more with Lurie K that Palestinians have been denied justice persistently and ” instead, the thief and the victim are supposed to talk it over and achieve resolution”.

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