The iCatastrophe of al-Nakba Reporting

“The Mummy,” “The Mummy’s Hand,” “The Mummy’s Tomb” and other variations on the theme were examples of 1930’s-’40s schlock horror films. What the oft-revived, repeatedly terrorizing Mummy was to Hollywood, Palestinian invocations of “al-nakba”— “the catastrophe” of Arab dispossession by Israel’s founding—are to news media.


That’s not to say nineteenth and twentieth century Egyptologists discovered no ancient mummies, or that Arabs did not flee the territory that became Israel in 1948. It is, rather, to insist on the obvious: Resurrected mummies did not stalk mid-century America strangling hapless townsfolk. And the overwhelming majority of Arab refugees were dispossessed as a result of Arab actions, their nakba their own responsibility. Even more, Arab aggression contributed to another catastrophe, that inflicted on European Jews.


CAMERA has made these points more than once, most recently in “A False ‘Admission’ Begets Washington Post False Coverage (April 3, 2014, paragraphs 37 – 41). No matter, as day follows night so do attempts by Palestinian Arabs and anti-Zionists to trump Israeli Independence Day with “Nakba Day.” The latest is a free application for iPhones “made available last week by Zochrot, a pro-Palestinian Israeli group based in Tel Aviv,” according to The Washington Post (“App records Palestinian ‘catastrophe’”, May 15).


The Post article, by the newspaper’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and assistant Ruth Eglash, provides more background and balance than a New York Times item on the same subject. “Letter from the Middle East: Navigating Lost Villages in Israel,” May 13), by The Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Jodi Rudoren, reads like a promotional blurb.


A shiny distraction called ‘the Palestinian narrative’


The Post’s article begins “this is the month of clashing narratives in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Last week, Israel held a remembrance day for its war dead and celebrated 66 years of statehood. On Thursday, the Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or the catastrophe, marking the flight and expulsion of an estimated 700,000 Palestinian from Israel more than six decades ago.”


Most Israelis, The Post notes, ignore nakba day, and Palestinian Arabs give little heed to Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day). “But nowadays, Nakba commemorations by Palestinian citizens of Israel are becoming more public and more assertive. And they come with a modern twist, such as a mobile app that pinpoints in Hebrew, Arabic and English the location of more than 500 Palestinian villages emptied, overrun or abandoned in the 1948 war.”


Leave aside the implicit contradiction of “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” which sounds like “Mexican citizens of the United States,” or “American citizens of France.” Israeli Arabs may feel kinship with Palestinian Arabs, but citizenship they share with Israeli Jews. If a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” results from future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, its citizens will be Palestinian. Israeli Arabs will still be Arab citizens of Israel. That is, they’ll remain Israelis.


Meanwhile, “users of iNakba can log on and add photographs and video. There are plans to provide detailed text to the app.


“ ‘We expect an angry response,’ [Raneen] Jeries [a Zochrot coordinator], said, because the iNakba app is designed to both inform and provoke.”


The Post also quotes Israeli Arab Knesset [parliament] member Haneen Zoabi as rebuking a Jewish colleague over Israel’s status as a Jewish state: “You can dream, but not at my expense. Your dream clashed with my reality, and you don’t see it.” 


What an ‘iIsrael’ app would say


No doubt Jeries would find provocative an “iIsrael” app that deconstructs the nakba. “iIsrael” could show Zoabi’s “reality” to be a self-inflicted nightmare. Such an app should remind users that, to borrow The Post’s language, narratives can clash all they want but actual history is unkind to the Palestinian Arabs’ self-exculpating tale of woe. For example:


* Jewish development of Palestine drew large number of Arabs into mandate lands, which concerned both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Much of the population growth in many of those vanished Arab villages occurred opportunistically in the decades just before 1948.


* Arab opposition to Jewish immigration—especially the murderous rebellion by Palestinian Arabs from 1936 to 1939—helped induce Great Britain virtually to close the door on Mandatory Palestine, the only place in the world willing to take, and created to receive, large numbers of Jewish immigrants. By helping trap European Jewry during the rise of Nazism, Arabs in the Near East in general and Palestinian Arabs in particular contributed to the immense catastrophe, the Holocaust, inflicted on the Jews.


* Arabs caused the war in 1948. Absent Arab aggression, there would have been no Palestinian Arab refugees, no dispossession, no nakba. In 1947, Arab states and Palestinian Arab leadership had rejected the U.N. partition p
lan calling for an Arab and a Jewish country to follow the end of the British Mandate for Palestine.


* An “iIsrael” app would further point out that despite the San Remo Treaty (1920) and League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate (1922), awarded to Great Britain to help facilitate reestablishment of the Jewish national home in Palestine, the British unilaterally created Transjordan (now Jordan) on three-quarters of mandate lands (1921). And they barred Jewish settlement in that part of Palestine “until practicable.” Nevertheless, rather than accept a second Arab state in Palestine, anti-Jewish Palestinian, Syrian and other Arab “irregulars” launched attacks beginning in ’47. The invasion of the new state of Israel in 1948 by the armies of five Arab countries followed—and between 420,000 and 650,000 Arabs fled. (The lower estimate was made by U.N. officials on the scene at the time; the higher figure is the difference between the last British and first Israeli census. Multiple registrations by refugees at more than one station or camp may have inflated the figures.)


* Also on “iIsrael” would be the information that more than 6,000 Israelis, one percent of the population, were killed in Israel’s 1948 – 1949 War of Independence. More than 800,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries during this period and in the years following, leaving behind property estimated to have been worth several times that lost by Arabs who fled Israel. Nearly 600,000 of these Jewish refugees settled in Israel. These deaths, expulsions and dispossessions were further catastrophes Arabs inflicted on Jews.   


* Since 1948 most Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership have refused to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Middle East. They perpetuated not so much an Arab-Israeli conflict but rather the Arab conflict with Israel. They refused to resettle their refugees, in contrast to the Jewish state. Reiterating their one-sided, self-justifying nakba tale the Arabs embittered the relatively few remaining refugees and their much-multiplied descendants (Palestinian Arabs are the only group of international refugees allowed to bequeath their status). And they promised an eventual “return” that would destroy Israel. This is the nakba Arab leadership and groups like Zochrot continue to inflict on Arabs and Jews. 


If, as has been the case at the end of other bitter conflicts late in the twentieth and early in the twenty-first centuries, a “truth commission” accompanies some future Arab-Israeli settlement, Arabs—especially Palestinians—will have much to acknowledge, much that harmed Israelis and themselves. Untangling themselves from “the Palestinian narrative” and nakba distortions and fabrications must be the start. Until then, nakba invocations reinforce an incessant propaganda campaign, of which “iNakba” is a part. The campaign is meant to switch the identities of aggressor and victim to undermine the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. The mendacity of “iNakba,” or the authenticity of “iIsrael”?


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