GERAK opinion on Nakba 2023: The Right Side of History

May 15, 2023, marks 75 years since the “Nakba”, or the catastrophe – the establishment of the state of Israel in the region of Palestine in what was formerly widely known as the Arab world. 

The Nakba involved the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as the news began to filter through that some village communities were being mowed down by Jewish paramilitary groups. 

Palestinians even from the time of the impending collapse of the Ottoman Sultanate and the beginning of the British mandate had been agitating for a homeland. 

Through British diplomatic duplicity, territorial sovereignty was given to a people who had no roots in Palestine, the Askhenazi Jewry. 

Palestinian and Arab resistance, including armed resistance to the establishment of what was always going to be a Jewish state in their midst, seems to have been on the right of history. 

There was no way that a Jewish state, formed in the manner of Crusader states of the pre-modern age, was going to live in peace with its Arab neighbours. 

This was the true tragedy – that Muslim, Christian and Jewish locals had to pick sides in an attempt to expiate the sins of Europe’s horrific treatment of its pre-World War II Jewish citizens with the blood of a Palestinian holocaust. 

The ensuing situation is today a locked down Gaza strip – nicknamed the world’s largest open-air prison – and a West Bank map that is dotted by numerous Israeli settlements, populated by recent arrivals of non-Hebrew speakers from places as far afield as Russia. 

This is apartheid, as the international human rights NGO, Amnesty International, testifies. 

This is settler-colonialism. 

Millions of Palestinian refugees now live outside the borders of their homeland. 

It is a homeland constricted by military checkpoints of an alien nation in the West Bank and restrictions on ancient sites of worship sacred to both Muslim and Christian communities.

Resistance is found neighbourhood by neighbourhood, mosque by church by cemetery, to prevent the erasure of multiculturalism in Jerusalem, which was, even under the terms of the unfair UN mandate given to Israel, to remain a city under international administration. 

The history of Israel reads like a litany of impunity for crimes against the Palestinians, having been saved from UN Security Council censure and enforcement by dozens of vetoes cast by the United States. 

Were the diplomatic initiatives championed by the latter, such as the infamous ‘road map’ of the 2000s and the ‘two state-solution’, nothing more than a smokescreen for the continued occupation of Palestinian lands? 

It has been left to the Palestinians to figure this out on their own. 

They have been betrayed both by the Americans and by the Europeans. The German politician who is the current head of the European Commission recently talked about Israel’s heroic efforts to ‘make the desert bloom’ while wishing ‘happy birthday’ during a ceremony commemorating the establishment of the Jewish state. 

The phrase is of course unoriginal. Israel has been saying this for years to get the world to believe that Palestine was terra nullius before the establishment of its reign of terror. 

The Palestinians have also been betrayed on numerous occasions by Arab states themselves through scandalous initiatives such as the Abraham Accords.

Palestinians have gotten used to the idea that they are pretty much alone and abandoned by the international and regional powers. 

They have organised themselves into several intifada or uprisings over decades, defend their homes, neighbourhoods and sacred places vigorously in spite of the bombs that rain down on their cities. 

It is true that some of these efforts of the Palestinians have caused damage to civilian property and the rockets that Hamas launches from Gaza into Israel are indiscriminate, bereft of the precision-guided ordinance that Israel uses to target Palestinian civilian infrastructure. 

There have also been clear instances of terrorism by individual Palestinians in the past through suicide bombings and other efforts of resistance that sometimes wantonly end up targeting Jewish civilians, including children. 

While such actions are to be unequivocally condemned and treated as nothing other than murder, we must remember that the realities of the Occupation beginning from the Nakba of 1948 are nothing less than a war of aggression to which a people is entitled to resist, albeit within the boundaries of the customs and laws of war.

The Palestinian resistance therefore continues to inspire support for the rejection of Israel and the rejection of apartheid. 

It is a war against the right to be racist through the establishment of a racist State and the indoctrination of individuals into racist beliefs. 

It is for this reason that the promulgation of the working definition of antisemitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has been outrightly rejected by many groups in solidarity with the Palestinians. 

While they criticise and outrightly reject Antisemitism, they reject the overwhelming association of antisemitism with criticism of the State of Israel detailed in the examples provided by the IHRA working definition. 

It is in this sense disappointing that the European Union, certain UN Special Rapporteurs, political parties, and even universities continue to adopt IHRA as their guiding principle in combating antisemitism. 

Fortunately, this is not the case with a host of populations, organisations, individuals, and even corporations. 

They have boycotted the operations of the Jewish state and those agents, whether public or private, closely associated with it. 

Several corporations and artists have also ceased their activities in either the occupied West Bank or in Israel itself. Others have called on both Muslims and Christians to rethink their planned pilgrimages to the ‘Holy Land’ in view of the incessant attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosques and desecration of Christian graveyards. 

After three quarters of a century, it is about time that we stand on the right side of history!

GERAK Exco15 May 2023

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