Jewish World Update Nov/Dec 2023
The Distorted ‘Nakba’ Narrative
by Lyn Julius
(JNS)—Israeli Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli recently objected to the German government allowing comparisons between the Nazis’ industrialized murder of 6 million Jews in World War II and the displacement of Arabs during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
Chikli’s complaint concerns a government-funded event in Potsdam, Germany, at which a German journalist allegedly made the comparison. Apparently, it has become trendy to equate the Holocaust to the 1948 war the Palestinians call nakba—Arabic for “catastrophe.”
The seven Arab League countries launched the 1948 war by attacking Israel, resulting in the expulsion of every last Jew in eastern Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. League members then declared war on their own Jewish citizens, whom they branded “the Jewish minority of Palestine.” This attack resulted in the near-total destruction of ancient Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
What angered Chikli the most was that the Potsdam event was officially sponsored by public institutions as part of a series that included lectures titled “Understanding the Pain of Others: The Holocaust and the Nakba,” “Hijacking the Memory of the Holocaust for the Benefit of Dehumanization in Palestine,” and “Zionism Can Also Motivate Antisemitism.”
This year, coinciding with Israel’s 75th anniversary, campaigners for the Palestinian cause have moved the nakba from the margins to the mainstream. For the first time, the United Nations held a “Nakba Day” commemoration at its New York City headquarters. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sporting a symbolic key affixed to his lapel, demanded permission to return to his native Safed, which is inside Israel proper.
Syrian journalist and historian Constantine Zureik coined the term nakba in 1948, defining the “catastrophe” as the Arab defeat in the 1948 war—that is, the Arab failure to destroy Israel.
Since then, introspection and self-criticism have been in short supply among Israel’s enemies. They have rewritten history to imply that Israel pursued a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing against the Arabs, even though 160,000 Arabs still remained in the Jewish state.
The nakba narrative attempts to create a Palestinian “catastrophe” that, as Abbas said last year, is equivalent to 50 Holocausts. Mimicking laws against Holocaust denial, Abbas even declared “nakba denial” a criminal offense.
In short, the nakba narrative appropriates Jewish history to transform the Palestinians into the new Jews. It follows that their Jewish oppressors are the new Nazis.
The only way to correct the injustice of the nakba, the Palestinians claim, is to implement the “right of return” for refugees and their descendants. This “right” is appropriated from Israel’s Law of Return. When he announced the first “Nakba Day” in 1998, former Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat hijacked Zionist language, calling for his people to be allowed to “return” from their “diaspora” to their land.
Since the definition of a Palestinian refugee has been expanded to include four generations, more than 5 million people now claim a “right of return” to Israel proper. If implemented, this act would transform Israel into the 23rd Arab state.
Chikli pointed out that during World War II, the Palestinian leadership under Haj Amin al-Husseini enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis. But even though he is the son of Jewish refugees from Tunisia, Chikli neglected to make the only valid nakba comparison: between the Palestinian nakba and the Jewish nakba.
The latter was the expulsion of 870,000 Mizrahi Jews from Arab and Muslim countries. The two nakbas took place around the same time and in roughly similar numbers. In effect, they constituted a population exchange.
Israel was the only nation that would accept most Mizrahi Jews. They and their descendants constitute more than half of Israeli Jews today. Mizrahi Jews do not have the ability, legal right, or desire to return to the countries that ejected them.
Unless Israel makes a forceful, proactive effort to publicize the real facts, the distorted nakba narrative will continue to turn hearts and minds against Israel.
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