In Arabic, we have a very expressive saying that goes like this: “The camel never sees the bend of his own neck.” We use it when referring to someone who points out the faults of others when they have the very own fault. As one could imagine, this saying is used in abundance and not only in reference to individuals but to whole states.
While we have all been guilty of this shortcoming at some time or another, in this instance the “camel” is Israel. Last week, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed the “Nakba Law” which ultimately punishes anyone in Israel who holds events on the country’s “Independence Day” as a day of catastrophe (Nakba) or mourning. Anyone who holds these types of events –” in this case, Palestinians living inside Israel, can be made to pay exorbitant fines. The law also applies to any activity that “denies that Israel is a Jewish state as well as the country’s democratic character” or which supports armed struggle against Israel.
Just as a reminder, the Nakba is how Palestinians refer to the period in which Israel was created. While Israeli Jews celebrate the birth of their new homeland, the Palestinians mourn the loss of their loved ones, their homes, their land and their flight into exile. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and over 800,000 Palestinians fled the fighting and massacres perpetrated by Jewish gangs in the months leading up to May 15, 1948, never to return. Over 400 Palestinian villages were razed to the ground to make way for the newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Europe. Palestinians who left their homes, thinking it was a temporary alternative to being slain in their own beds, would end up in squalid refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries and in the West Bank and Gaza, never to return. Sixty-plus years later, refugees, their descendants and Palestinians still living in Israel whose original villages and homes were destroyed or usurped still commemorate that day by remembering the ongoing injustice that history has never rectified.
This seems reasonable within the freedoms provided by a “democratic state”. It also seems reasonable in light of Israel’s rampant attacks against anyone who questions the plight of Jews throughout history, namely those it likes to call “Holocaust deniers”. Surely, Israel would not want to be viewed in a light similar to those it so ardently criticizes?
Still, here we are. Israel has just passed a law that denies an entire people’s history. The Nakba has been stricken from textbooks offered to Palestinians inside Israel because, according to one Israeli official, “No state could be expected to portray its own foundation as a catastrophe.”
It is ridiculous to deny that horrible things happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany. There are hard facts that prove these atrocities really occurred. Besides, if it were not for the recognition of the Holocaust, there would be no compensation or justice for its victims.
The same should be applied to Palestinians. A great injustice was done to them in 1948, one which has never been recognized by Israel or rectified in any way. Remembering the disaster of 1948, the suffering it caused and the ongoing pain it still inflicts on all Palestinians in varying degrees is a way of honoring those who lost their lives and their homes. It is also a way of reminding the world that there is a gaping hole in the so-called democracy of Israel; that this country would love to erase the Palestinian narrative of 1948 and replace it with the sole Israeli Zionist narrative of Israel’s creation.
Israel should have learned by now how wrong it is to deny a people’s history. It is no more right to deny the Palestinians’ narrative of what happened in 1948 than it is to deny that millions of Jews perished in WWII. There is ample evidence that the Holocaust occurred. Let us not allow Israel to deny a catastrophe it created with its own hands. The evidence is right under our noses.