Yesterday, Palestinians and their sympathizers commemorated “Nakba Day,” whose name—the Arabic word for “catastrophe”—refers to the creation of the state of Israel. But if 1948 was a catastrophe for Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homes, asks Bassam Eid, was it not also a catastrophe for the Jews expelled from Jerusalem and the West Bank—not to mention those expelled from Arab lands? Eid urges Palestinians to abandon these annual commemorations:
The Arab world has seen more displacement than almost any other region, as modern refugee populations from Iraq and Syria can attest. Although my family is Muslim, I was born in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, then under Jordanian control. In 1966, when I was eight years old, the Jordanian government moved my family north of Jerusalem to the Shuafat refugee camp. It was the government of Jordan, not the government of Israel, that made me a refugee.
The difference between a Palestinian culture taught to celebrate grievance and an Israeli culture that idealizes freedom is stark. The Christian minority population, for example, has plummeted in Palestinian Authority-controlled territory. In Bethlehem, it has dropped from 84 percent to 22 percent in the last decade alone. Meanwhile, a party with Islamic foundations has a critical role in Israel’s current government, and Israel’s Supreme Court recently appointed its first Muslim justice, Khaled Kabub.
Palestinians should celebrate our rich heritage and, like our Jewish cousins, grieve our losses. But now is the time for negotiated reconciliation, not the perpetuation of generation-old victimhood. Nakba Day is part of the victimhood problem, not part of the forward-looking solution. Reconciliation happens only when both sides take a step back and acknowledge joint suffering. Nakba Day does the reverse. Whereas Israel has three times offered Palestinians peace, dignity and independence, Yasir Arafat launched—and Mahmoud Abbas has failed to contain—the violent public culture of the 2000-2005 second intifada, for which the 1998 establishment of Nakba Day can be understood as a build-up.