Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Nakba

Please read my previous post before reading this.

What the Palestinians call the Nakba seems like a good place to start. After all most of the world now believes that the Palestinians grievances begin when they fled their homes in 1948 as a result of the five Arab nations invading Israel after it declared independence from Britain. Of course losing one's home is a tragedy. My own grandfather, along with his parents, brothers, and sisters were forced to flee their home and possessions as the anti Jewish pogroms swept through Ukraine in the first years of the twentieth century. They were the lucky ones. They made it to the United States. Many thousands of others were slaughtered. Surely that was a tragedy.

And can we really talk about "the tragedy" without considering the Holocaust? Forget for a moment the six million Jews who lost their lives. Consider the hundreds of thousands of survivors who had lost everything. They were no longer citizens of any country and had virtually no where to go. Perhaps you remember hearing about how the United States refused to accept Jewish refugees. Because most surviving Jews had fled eastward and were now in Poland or Russia, the United states was afraid maybe they were communists and would not accept them. (1.) In the end there was only one place that would accept Jews, and that of course was Israel.

But what really happened that created this tragedy for the Palestinians? Current media portrayals would have you believe the Israelis were "colonists" who moved in and displaced the resident Arabs. And by the way I'm calling them Arabs here because they did not start calling themselves Palestinians until after this. The truth is that Arabs and Jews had been living together somewhat peaceably for generations, and they could have continued to do so. But instead when Israel declared its independence from Britain in 1948, it's five neighboring Arab countries invaded. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, with Saudi Arabia sending troops to fight with Egypt. Note here, Israel did not declare war on the native Arabs (who became the Palestinian refugees). They declared war on Israel and lost. There are consequences to picking the wrong side in a war. The Nakba was the Arab world refusing to grant the Jews (who at this point were mostly refugees from Europe) a tiny home in their ancient homeland.

But did it have to be this way? Many Arabs decided not to flee and instead became citizens of Israel. In fact today Arabs make up 21% of Israel's population. That's 2,080,000 Arabs living side by side with Jews in the land they have shared for millennia. There was never any reason for the Palestinians Nakba. The Jews were not out to steal their homes and expel them. They were sold a lie by their leaders just as they have been ever since.

But while we're on the subject of nakba, and Jews and Arabs living side by side, did you know there were Jews living in these other Arab and North African countries as well? Almost a million of them were forced to flee their homes and give up their possessions when they were expelled after the 1948 war. (2.)  Do you suppose they may have considered this a tragedy?  But they were fortunate. Israel took them in and they were able to start a new life. So what about the Palestinian refugees. Surely the Arab countries that started the war that made them refugees would now take them in? But of course they didn't, and haven't to this day. As I am writing this Egypt is still guarding its border with Gaza and will shoot any Palestinian trying to flee the current war (which they also started). Look at this map and see the tiny spec that is Israel compared to the vast expanse of Arab countries. This tiny spec has welcomed refugees from all over the world, including all of the Arab countries and even 164,400 from Ethiopia, while that vast expanse of Arab countries can't find a home for the Palestinian refugees they claim to care so much about?

So yes, the fact that thousands of Palestinian Arabs lost their homes in the 1948 war their fellow Arabs waged upon Israel was a tragedy. Nothing new here. The history of the world is tightly wound around the plight of displaced populations having to survive their tragedy. Certainly this is the history of the Jewish people. But it's what came next which has been the real tragedy of the Palestinians, and I'll delve into that in my next post.



Fast forward to 2024

It's New Years Eve 2023. My last post was just after Joe Biden was elected president in November of 2020. I guess I've been happy enough with the way things were progressing that I haven't felt the need to write anything. I suppose were many things I could have written about.

I could have written something about Ukraine. My grandfather's family came to this country from Ukraine, so at one level you could say I'm of Ukrainian descent. Did my great grandfather consider himself Ukrainian? Possibly the same way Jews in this country consider ourselves American. But it didn't matter, because to the other people living there at the time they were just Jews. And so when the pogroms swept though they were forced to leave their home and whatever they couldn't carry and fee to America. So I have mixed feelings about Ukraine. Whatever distant family I might have had left in that country were surely killed by the nazis with whom the Ukrainians were collaborators. And now they have a Jewish leader who is the darling of the free world. Maybe he's a distant relative? I'd love to hear how his family survived. But I didn't write about any of this stuff although maybe a little bit on Facebook. What I did remark about Russia's war on Ukraine is how well things worked out for Joe Biden. He gets to wage a proxy war on Russia without having to commit any American lives. And what a boon for our war industry. You know all those billions in aid to Ukraine never leaves the country right? It goes straight to our Masters of War that build the jet planes and all the bombs, and tanks and guns. In fact what we've been doing is supplying Ukraine with our older weapons stockpile and using the money to build new stuff for our own military. My friends thought I was being cynical for expressing this sentiment, and of course I do sympathize with Ukraine, but the facts are the facts.

And then came Oct 7, 2023 and much in the world changed. For myself and other American Jews we realized no matter how much we thought of ourselves as just Americans, most everyone else thought of us as just Jews. It's been somewhat of a shocking wake up call. We recall how the Jews in 1930s Germany may have thought of themselves as ordinary Germans. Can we honestly feel safe in this country with Trump still walking free and preaching the same hate as Hitler did? Can we rely on our friends and neighbors to stand up for us? I still hope so.

And yet I see good friends posting stuff on social media that tells me they really do not understand the situation in Israel, or the history leading up to it. Yes of course most liberals are going to take the side of the people they perceive to be the oppressed underdogs. I'm certainly not going to hold this against them. And I'm not going to retreat into the "us against the world" mentality I see some of my other Jewish friends doing. We can see enemies all around us, or we can see that some of our friends just don't have the full story. So I'm going to use my next blog posts to try and fill in some of the missing pieces that I hope will help some of my friends have a better understanding of why things are they way they are in Israel. This will be nothing new, and most of it is in the media almost daily, but perhaps I'll be able to say it in a way that will reach the people that really need to hear it.