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.



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