Israel Shouldn’t Get Its Hopes Up about Iraq

In 2018, multiple delegations of prominent Iraqis—including both Shiites and Sunnis—made sub-rosa visits to Israel; some Iraqi parliamentarians were apparently among them. News of the visits, which only became public a few weeks ago, sparked outrage in Iraq, and the speaker of the country’s parliament called for a formal investigation to identify and punish any officials who had contact with the Jewish state. To Edy Cohen, this reaction, together with prior experience, should be a warning to Jerusalem in its pursuit of ties with Baghdad:

Iraq is a failed state. Though one of the world’s most richly endowed countries in terms of natural resources, it is unable to provide its residents with such elementary needs as electricity and drinking water. Iraqis are sick and tired of their miserable existence. They are loath to see their oil and other natural treasures plundered by Iran, which has come to dominate Iraq through its proxy Shiite militias ever since Saddam’s downfall. Eager to free themselves of Iranian domination at any price, Iraqis are now asking for Israel’s military assistance in return for empty promises of peace. Unfortunately, Israel is allocating substantial resources toward this hopeless end.

There are [also] tens of thousands of Iraqi migrants in Europe who are unable to return to their homeland. They hope Israel will help remove the Iranians from Iraq and promise peace when they return home and take control of the government. And so Iraq joins the list of Arab actors that seek Israeli aid in return for hollow promises of a future peace, paying the same kind of lip service paid by the Lebanese Christians in the 1980s and most recently by the Syrian opposition.

Peace with Iraq is still light years away. In October 2017, the Iraqi parliament passed a law prohibiting the raising of the Israeli flag in the country and punishing violators with jail time. As adamant as Israeli policymakers claim to be about learning from past experiences, they should at the very least read the present situation correctly.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat