The Nakba – wrought
by the founding of Israel
and corresponding roughly to Israeli Independence Day – is the purported national
“catastrophe” for the Palestinian Arabs. They had been commemorating the
60th Nakba for some days prior, but Thursday was the official
day when thousands marched – in Judea and Samaria,
in Gaza and in Lebanon. Sirens were sounded
and clouds of black balloons, signifying mourning, were released.
rallying close to the Gaza crossings
became rowdy, IDF troops – who were watching in anticipation of threatened
trouble – released tear gas and shot live bullets in the air.
The true nakba
(catastrophe) is the failure of the Palestinian Arab community to accept Israel’s existence
as a Jewish state, and to make peace.
When Mahmoud Abbas addressed
a Nakba rally in the course of the commemorations, he spoke, ostensibly, on
behalf of peace: “After 60 years, I say again that our hands are extended for
peace, that is our strategic choice.”
This sounds promising,
until you examine his words and associated actions more closely.
For Abbas also
“Israel has failed in wiping out the memory of the Nakba
from the minds of successive Palestinian generations. They [Israel] thought
that perhaps the elderly would forget. But today we see that neither the
elderly nor the young have forgotten. Everyone remembers the Nakba.”
The reason they
haven't forgotten the Nakba, of course, is because of the policies
promoted by UNRWA for 60 years. The UN High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) – which cares for all refugees in the world except Palestinians – sustains
a policy of helping refugees get on with their lives fully. This sometimes means settling them in a new
country if they cannot return home.
But UNRWA has declared
for all of these years that Palestinians who fled Israel at the time of her founding
are to be considered refugees – even if they have acquired new citizenship
and have succeeded in their lives in other ways – until they and their
children and grandchildren “return” to Israel. For 60 years, the
Palestinian “refugees” have been kept in legal and emotional limbo and told
that their inability to get on with their lives is Israel's fault.
It is most certainly
the case that “return” was not promoted for peaceful purposes: It was conceptualized,
quite openly, as a way to destroy Israel from within. Today, if
the 4.5 million Palestinian Arabs who call themselves refugees, a vast number
of whom have been radicalized, were to enter Israel, it would finish the nation
as a Jewish state.
And so, if Abbas talks
Nakba even as he talks peace, what is it that he truly has in
He challenges Israel to halt the growth of settlements and all
building in eastern Jerusalem,
which he says destroys the hope of peace. The implication, as he speaks
thus, is that if Israel
were to withdraw to the Green Line there could be peace.
But the Nakba
mourns the founding of the state WITHIN the Green Line. Yet, he doesn't
say that it's time to release this mourning and to enter a new day, with
building of a state at Israel's
side. He promotes the Nakba.
And here is the
clincher: He, along with
other Palestinians at the rally on Thursday, signed a document that pledges him
to continuing the “struggle” until all of the refugees have been permitted
There is a wealth of
material that provides evidence that Abbas is not a partner for peace.
But every now and then some incident arises that makes the case so blatantly,
so strongly, that no other documentation is needed.
Abbas' signing of this
pledge is such an incident. He is not promoting a two-state solution, but rather
the destruction as a Jewish state. What is more, the term “struggle” is a
euphemism for terrorism and violence. He is not even promoting the return
of all refugees via peaceful means.
It is important to
realize that, although it is likely that Abbas truly does favor “return,”
he would have no option other than to support it in any event. The Palestinian political discourse is being
set by Hamas – that discourse has radicalized over the last few years
with the growing influence of Hamas. If Abbas values his life (quite
literally), he cannot promote compromise on this issue.
A somewhat desperate President
Bush came to Israel on
Wednesday with a new plan: Israel should
agree to borders that would provide the Palestinian Authority with a contiguous
state (meaning that many settlements would be dismantled). If these borders were satisfactory to Abbas, he
would then be encouraged to modify his stance on refugees, which is considered
the “hot” issue.
Abbas's actions expose
the nonsense inherent in this plan. In
fact, Abbas’s actions demonstrate the futility of imagining that a genuine
peace can be forged between Israel
and the Palestinians, either now or for some time to come.