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Jewish Journal

Remembering the ‘nakba’

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 5, 2008 | 3:52 pm

Mondoweiss has been fascinated lately with the term “nakba,” an Arabic word that means “catastrophe” and refers to the creation of Israel, including its appearance in mainstream American journalism like The New Yorker and New York Times. This got me wondering: How often has this term appeared in The Jewish Journal?

The answer, since our online archive began 10 years ago, is 14 (three more if you include the alternative spelling). This piece from 1998—the 50th anniversary of Israel’s modern statehood and before the Second Intifada—was the most interesting.

The Nakba is an event burned into the memory of all Palestinians. In a low-key way, with lectures and exhibits, they are commemorating it in some cities of Gaza and the West Bank. It is a somber, bitter commemoration, in starkest contrast to the celebrations Israel has in mind.

The 600,000 Palestinian refugees of 1948 left about 100,000 Arabs behind—those who did not flee. These 100,000have grown to nearly 1 million today—Israel’s Arab citizens, who,ever since the intifada, have become more open and defiant about their identification with their former countrymen—in many cases their blood relatives—now living in the territories. As American Jews say of their relationship with Israelis, so Israeli Arabs say of their relationship with the Palestinians: “We are one.”

That leaves the question: When Israel’s Jews are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of their country,what will Israel’s Arabs be doing?

Mourning the displacement of their Palestinian brethren and protesting the 50 years of discrimination they’ve suffered themselves, say Arab members of the Knesset and other leaders of the community.

As Israel has its committee to plan the anniversary celebrations, Israeli Arab leaders have set up a preparations committee of their own. During the panel’s meeting this week, members considered declaring Israel’s Independence Day, May 15,as “The 50th Anniversary of the Palestinian Calamity.” Proposals were made to treat it as a day of mourning, and to publish a “Black Book"that listed the Arab villages which emptied out and vanished during the war.

No coordinated plan has been adopted, but,clearly, Israeli Arabs see their country’s 50th anniversary as a day of anger and grief. “What exactly does Israel want me to celebrate?“said Knesset Member Taleb a-Sanaa, who recommended that Israeli Arabs mark the day with “a minute of silence in memory of all the Palestinians killed between 1948 and today.”

The Palestinian refugee crisis remains a tragic affair. So, too, was the Jewish exodus—quick and slow—from Arab countries after the Arab-Israeli War.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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