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Peace begins with Israel ending the Nakba

Israel/Palestine
on 47 Comments

On Monday, the Trump administration broke with more than 70 years of official US policy and the position of the international community by moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As if to rub salt in their wounds, it was be inaugurated the day before Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (the Catastrophe), when nearly a million Palestinians were displaced and became refugees during Israel’s establishment. In Israel, the Nakba is not only ignored, it is outright denied or even justified. Yet if there is to be peace in this region – and I think it is possible – it begins with acknowledging the Nakba, understanding it, and working to reverse it.

Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, which saw the transformation of half of Palestine’s population into stateless refugees, is not a mere historic event: it has persisted unabated until today.  Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled from or denied re-entry when they traveled outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, inside Israel’s recognized borders, its policy of “Judaizing” the south and north of the country often result in a quiet transfer of Palestinians through expropriation of land and demolition of villages, as is occurring in Umm al-Hiran today, where an entire Palestinian community is being destroyed so a town for Jewish Israelis can be built in its place.

Today more than six million Palestinians are homeless due to the 1948 Nakba and its subsequent chapters. Failing to acknowledge their rights will not only lead to continued instability in the region but also prevents any lasting peace. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump is encouraging Israel to accelerate its dispossession of Palestinians in the city and elsewhere.

Only by revisiting the events of 1948 can one understand the essence of the conflict in Israel and Palestine, as well as the reasons for the failure to solve it. Even if there are still today, despite the clear archival evidence, people who refuse to acknowledge Israel’s responsibility for the catastrophe – the demolition of half of Palestine’s towns and villages and the exodus of 750,000 people – no one denies that the refugees were not allowed to return (in clear violation of the UN decisions and the international law).

The reasons for the expulsion and for the refusal to allow repatriation are the same. From the very onset of the Zionist project in Palestine, the main obstacle for the establishment of the Jewish state was the native population of Palestine. This still remains the problem for Israelis who regard themselves as Zionists, whether they are liberals, socialists or nationalists. The various political groups in Israel differ on the tactics of how to overcome the demographic reality of an Arab Palestinian country. They nonetheless concur on viewing the native Palestinians as a demographic existential threat simply because they are not Jewish.

The Palestinian leadership since the 1980s was willing to compromise on the territorial configuration of Israel, but could never, and will never, lend its consent to the overall Judaization of its homeland. Israeli laws that forbid Palestinians in Israel from commemorating the Nakba, Israeli demands that the Palestinians agree to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State,” – despite the fact that more than 20% of its population is Palestinian – are an insult added to an injury.  Israel is an established fact, but so are the circumstances of its establishment on the ruins of Palestine. For Palestinians territorial compromise does not include a license for a global amnesia or the acceptance of Israeli historical fabrications.

The Nakba defines many of the Palestinians who have been totally excluded by the “peace process”. This is particularly true about the younger generations. Whether in Israel, in the refugee camps or in the exile communities around the world, through cyberspace and actual meetings, these young Palestinians are creating a new vision for Palestine. While it is still not complete or articulated as a political program, it has a striking pair of messages:  a solution for Palestine has to include all Palestinians and cover all historical Palestine, and it has to rectify the worst consequence of the Nakba by implementing the Right of Return.

The Great Return march in Gaza, which was initiated and led by young people, has generated much excitement and enthusiasm. Many others are engaged in oral history projects, interviewing their grandparents and elders about the horrors of 1948, building models of villages and neighborhoods that were destroyed and imagining how the reconstructed ones would look like after they are finally allowed to return home.

American peacemakers, whether cynical or genuine in their efforts, have consistently failed to understand the essence of the conflict in Palestine. If they ever want to solve it, they need to revisit the dispossession of Palestinians that occurred in 1948 and understand its significance and the fact that 70 years later, Israel continues to systematically displace Palestinians from their homes.

With the collapse of the two-state solution, addressing the Nakba and events of 1948 should become the focus of a peace agenda. This is the original sin of the conflict in Israel/Palestine and it must be dealt with in an honest and just manner if we are ever to move forward.

And we should let this young generation lead us on that path. For them, rectifying what happened in 1948 and subsequently is an issue of human and civil rights and not of retribution, and their vision of the future is of a place where normal human life can be resumed, where it was denied for the last seventy years.

About Ilan Pappé

Professor Ilan Pappé is the Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies in University of Exeter and the author of 15 books among them The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007), A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2006), The War on Gaza (with Noam Chomsky) (2010) and his latest book in 2014 The Idea of Israel.

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47 Responses

  1. mondonut
    May 17, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Nicely stated, but this is the same old, same old Palestinian prescription for peace.

    Israel must take down it borders, the Jewish people must admit to not being a people, they must accept being a minority, they must forfeit any right to self determination and they must allow for Israel itself to be completely dissembled. Israel is supposed to surrender.

    Cue the replies of “of course” and whats wrong with that”.

    • Maghlawatan
      May 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

      When Israel decided to occupy the West BanK and Gaza in 1967 it set in motion the process by which Zionist Jews would become a minority in Eretz Israel Hashlemah.
      Apartheid will destroy Israel. There has to be a better alternative.

      • mondonut
        May 17, 2018, 11:34 pm

        Your kind “concern” for Israel is noted.

      • Maghlawatan
        May 18, 2018, 9:33 am

        It’s a system thing, nut. It doesn’t matter how I feel about Israel.

      • Mooser
        May 18, 2018, 1:31 pm

        ” by which Zionist Jews would become a minority in Eretz Israel Hashlemah.”

        Jews, a minority? My god, the first time that happens, we’re sunk. We’ll never be able to exist as a minority.

    • echinococcus
      May 18, 2018, 12:08 am

      But of course, Nut.
      Palestine must be given back yo its owners, the Palestinan people. No ifs and buts.
      And what’s wrong with that?
      Try to make a case that stands before you write nonsense.

    • RoHa
      May 18, 2018, 3:18 am

      “they must forfeit any right to self determination”

      They would have the same right to self determination as all the other citizens of the new state.

      “and they must allow for Israel itself to be completely dissembled.”

      They must allow Israel itself to be disassembled.

      (No “for”, and “dissemble” means “conceal or disguise one’s true feelings or beliefs.”)

      And since the current state of Israel is a Bad Thing, disassembling it would be a good start to building a better state.

      • Mooser
        May 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

        “disassembling it would be a good start to building a better state.”

        But we must grant him this, until they do “they must allow for Israel itself to be completely dissembled”. It’s a necessity.

      • RoHa
        May 18, 2018, 10:46 pm

        Dissembling is standard practice for Zionists.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        May 19, 2018, 9:12 am

        The right word is ‘dismantle’.

    • eljay
      May 18, 2018, 9:38 am

      || mon donut: … Israel must take down it borders, the Jewish people must admit to not being a people, they must accept being a minority, they must forfeit any right to self determination and they must allow for Israel itself to be completely dissembled. … ||

      Jews are ordinary people – citizens of homelands all over the world – who have chosen to hold the religion-based identity of Jewish. People are free to self-determine as Jewish, but that freedom does not comprise a right to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”.

      I believe that:
      – Israel should continue to exist as a secular and democratic state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally;
      – it should exist alongside a secular and democratic state of and for all of its Palestinian citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; and
      – the fate of both states (e.g., to remain independent or to unify) should be determined democratically by their respective populations.

      Naturally, to Zionists justice, accountability and equality are anti-Semitic and anyone who supports those ideals is motivated solely by “Jew-hatred”.

    • LHunter
      May 19, 2018, 6:51 pm

      Has mondonut gone mondosmart?

  2. Kay24
    May 17, 2018, 7:37 pm

    All that bloodshed for what? 60 civilians plus a little baby died because the only democracy in the ME decided to massacre them for protesting their suffering, their losses, and the loss of lives. No religion will condone this massacre.

    Rabbi Shapiro Reacts to Jerusalem Announcement

    https://www.facebook.com/torahjews/videos/1552062438217914/?hc_ref=ARQp4qoRsWH034kHQmKQKLdP8wFTE1KLCWqEwAQME_165axbPB9G67-h1FCBF73jQvg

    • mondonut
      May 17, 2018, 11:35 pm

      Israel did not massacre a little baby. That is a disgusting lie and you know it.

      • CigarGod
        May 18, 2018, 9:34 am

        You are so right…mondonut.
        We don’t know how many babies have died yet.
        But, we do have good numbers from 2014.
        50 days of Israel massacre left us with 504 dead babies.

      • Maghlawatan
        May 18, 2018, 9:42 am

        Why is it so important to hasbarise the dead baby?

      • echinococcus
        May 18, 2018, 12:49 pm

        An 8-month infant is a little baby. Ask your dictionary or thesaurus.
        The same thesaurus will also provide you with enough terms to apply to people who defend criminals against humanity –for a stipend or out of genocidal ideology.

      • pjdude
        May 20, 2018, 9:21 am

        so your saying its someone else’s teargas that killed that baby?

  3. Yonah Fredman
    May 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    In essence Israeli Zionists when they are optimistic regarding the future reconciliation, see the first step one of negotiating a peace treaty, a cease fire under the name of mutual recognition. (reconciliation will follow, but first comes negotiation.)
    this peace treaty will make somewhere between zero and meager concessions to the losses the Palestinians suffered in 1948 and will make somewhere between 93 to 96% of the concessions regarding the conquest of 1967.

    Ilan Pappe is proposing a real reconciliation. But the time is not near for real reconciliation, so he is in fact telling the “optimistic” Israeli Zionists- your way won’t work, only reconciliation and not negotiation is the essence.

    A word or two about Gaza. If I was a Gazan Palestinian I would yearn for my hometown barely 30 miles away. I would not consider Gaza my hometown, but whatever town is on the list in the photo. There are two ways to accomplish that: Ilan Pappe’s way or some kind of a war, some change in balance of forces that goes to war and defeats Israel (not on television, but on the tarmac of Lod Airport ). Ilan Pappe’s way is not near and the other way, well I was surprised by the sudden change of mind of deKlerk, I was surprised by the fall of the Berlin Wall, so maybe I’ll be surprised again.

    Since Israel’s withdrawal in 05, there have been two major attacks by Israel killing somewhere near five thousand. Israel is trying to squeeze Hamas and get it to yell “Uncle!” I can’t believe that will happen. Therefore I favor Israel dealing with Hamas. This is not the thought of Bibi and Lieberman. I think for Lieberman it is heartfelt. I think Bibi is too addicted to getting reelected to ever attempt anything revolutionary, even if in his heart he sees the lack of strategy as harmful in the long run, but he is a short run kind of guy, from here to the next election.

    The alienation of the Democratic Party from Zionism is something that I’ve been predicting since Jesse Jackson in 88. we have passed through a bit of history since then, both in America and in Israel. I think the grass roots of the democratic party will be naturally opposed to Israel and there will be a struggle between the older generation of donors and the new generation of activists and the activists will win. how long that will take is anyone’s guess.

    i assume nasrallah will not attack israel this summer, but i wonder what iran will do in reaction to Israel’s assertion of the long arm of tzahal kicks iran out of syria. seems to me from my corner of america/brooklyn, that the pressure on iran will cause a bifurcation between practicality and emotional self satisfaction in the regime and if emotional self satisfaction wins the day, there could be a war, but it seems that the imams are quite practical so i am betting on practicality.

    i think hamas is under tremendous pressure, but they would go underground before giving up their weapons to fatah and that’s why i am in favor of dealing with them, rather than pressing the population like is happening. I feel there is a demand for a next act (from Hamas or from the anti Zionist front) and I don’t see what it could be.

    • Mooser
      May 18, 2018, 12:06 pm

      “i think hamas is under tremendous pressure, but they would go underground before giving up their weapons “

      “Their weapons”? Which weapons are those, “yonah”? The ones they wielded to such great effect during the March?

      “yonah”, was a single shot fired in return at the Israelis? Maybe an RPG? Missiles launched?

      • Citizen
        May 18, 2018, 11:04 pm

        Such a cartoon war; they snipped a few inches of barbed wire, burnt some tires, and sent over a couple of burning kites. The American leadership says “Israel has a right to defend itself.” And Trump moves the embassy while the American main news media never mentions that in international law and by UN SC resolution Israel’s annexation of any part of Jerusalem is illegal. Lewis Carol absurdities.

      • LHunter
        May 19, 2018, 6:55 pm

        Are you for forgetting the weapons of mass destruction launched by the Palestinians – or as we call them Kites

  4. Maghlawatan
    May 18, 2018, 3:04 am

    Israeli society is insane. The treatment of Gaza is part of it. Behind it all is the fear of the settler. Israel is right in the middle of a huge Muslim region. Jewish Israelis are afraid of Muslims. Israel will not aim for peace because it is afraid of the Palestinians shafting Israel.
    Because Israeli society is not rational it cannot analyse systemic problems rationally.

  5. Liz
    May 18, 2018, 8:53 am

    Brilliant piece by the brilliant Pappe.

  6. Maghlawatan
    May 18, 2018, 9:34 am

    Israel isn’t interested in peace. But there are several interesting dynamics that are slowly destabilising it. So there is not going to be any happily ever after.

  7. Maghlawatan
    May 18, 2018, 9:39 am

    Israel reminds me of Freisler, the Nazi judge. The attempt to create an alternative reality, beyond what decent people would consider appropriate. Maybe it sounds ok in Hebrew. It is bullshit in English. Because it always comes back to people and how you treat them. Freisler was killed by an American bomb in 1945.

    • Citizen
      May 18, 2018, 11:13 pm

      Yes, Freisler–he had the White Rose kids in his ridiculous red clown robed courtroom. And then they were murdered by his judicial order. And yes, the American bomb caved in the ceiling on his head. That’s what it will take.

  8. echinococcus
    May 18, 2018, 4:04 pm

    American peacemakers, whether cynical or genuine in their efforts, have consistently failed to understand the essence of the conflict in Palestine. If they ever want to solve it…

    “If”. Professor, the only value recognized in the States is money and there is plenty of it around to buy any “peacemaker”. Why would they want to solve it… except by the Zionist-approved, originally all-American method of genocide of the indigenous owners?

    • Citizen
      May 18, 2018, 11:16 pm

      Maybe some day PBS will do a good history lesson on the Nakba….oh, I forgot…the big donors rule there, not the US taxpayers…

      • Kathleen
        May 19, 2018, 4:12 am

        Yes indeed

  9. Kathleen
    May 19, 2018, 4:10 am

    “With the collapse of the two-state solution, addressing the Nakba and events of 1948 should become the focus of a peace agenda. This is the original sin of the conflict in Israel/Palestine and it must be dealt with in an honest and just manner if we are ever to move forward.”

    An honest, sane acknowledgment of the “original sin” (Nakba) makes so much sense if those involved really want peace and a just society. However if the majority of Jews in Israel and elsewhere see nothing wrong with the occupation, theft of lands and lives, persistent violence and humiliation perpetrated on Palestinians by Israel then there really is no hope. When the majority want all of Palestine and part of Syria. There is no hope for an honest reconciliation.

    Of all the people on the planet one would think Jews would understand the need for sincere and honest acknowledgement of horrific crimes committed against them. WWII death camps systematic genocide. How world wide acknowledgment of those war crimes, conviction of those who participated in those crimes, compensation for some personal losses never brings back those murdered, can never really right those monstrous crimes but the honest and brutal acknowledgement of those crimes opens up a part of one’s soul to possible healing.

    I really respect Ilan Pappe’s efforts to document the facts having to do with the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine). I respect his continued effort to dig down to some of the core issues, to push the envelope in regard to the potential of the human spirit to acknowledge, heal and try to move forward .

    You don’t need to be an expert, a historian a political analyst to know what is coming next for Israel if they do not acknowledge and try to right the crimes they have committed against the Palestinians. They will become even more isolated, solidify their apartheid status and be called out on it via boycotts, sanctions and divestment.

  10. Emet
    May 20, 2018, 12:25 am

    Pappe tells us that from the 1980’s the Palestinians miraculously decided to compromise. Well, yoope yeh. Pappe, like many other ignorant leftist upstarts, has no real understanding that the conflict is now a religious conflict. It was not in 1948, and Pappe skillfully avoids placing blame on the Arabs for not accepting the 1947 Partition Plan, that the Jewish leadership at the time was. That plan would have given the Palestinians way more than what they are asking for today, or should I say, asking for in the meantime. Sorry Pappe, you cannot bring back all those who have died because the Palestinians believed their Arab and Muslim brothers were on the way to annihilate the Jewish people. You are a sad man Pappe.

    • Mooser
      May 21, 2018, 12:55 pm

      ” has no real understanding that the conflict is now a religious conflict”

      Oh gosh, I see what you mean, “Emet”. When a Palestinian is killed that’s one thing, but when an Israeli is slightly injured, they’re hurting a Jew!
      Yup, you said it, a religious conflict.

    • eljay
      May 21, 2018, 6:26 pm

      || Emet: … Pappe skillfully avoids placing blame on the Arabs for not accepting the 1947 Partition Plan, that the Jewish leadership at the time was. That plan would have given the Palestinians way more than what they are asking for today … ||

      …but much less than the 100% of their geographic homeland to which – as its indigenous inhabitants – they were entitled.

      || … You are a sad man Pappe. ||

      And you’re just another supremacist hypocrite.

  11. Ossinev
    May 20, 2018, 12:53 pm

    @Emet
    “It was not in 1948, and Pappe skillfully avoids placing blame on the Arabs for not accepting the 1947 Partition Plan, that the Jewish leadership at the time was. That plan would have given the Palestinians way more than what they are asking for today, or should I say, asking for in the meantime.”

    Presumably you are sat at your computer writing your comments in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Now Emet imagine a group of strange foreign people armed to the teeth sponsored and supported by a group of rich and powerful foreigners coming into your home and taking over the home but in order in the interim not to risk embarassing or turning off the support of these backers telling you that you can retain a couple of the rooms in your home amounting to say around a quarter although their plan is to evict you and your family in due course. Oh and the justification for what they are doing according to them is in a book of fiction.

    Well Emet I guess following your logic that you would simply say no problem feel free happy to accommodate . In fact you probably would say to them hey I love theft and thieves the more violent the better this is so much fun I`ll just lie back and let it all happen.

    Pappe far from being sad is brave proud and honest and unlike you would resist the theft of his home and fight to protect his home and his family as did the native indigenous owners of the land of Palestine.

  12. Emet
    May 20, 2018, 5:04 pm

    Ossinev, no point in even trying with you. If you had to know the facts you would be so embarrassed by your comments. It’s ignorant people like you who perpetuate hate and conflict. You have no idea how far off from the truth you are. As far as Peppe is concerned, he is hated and despised in the country of his birth. He could never return there so he sucks up to those who love to hear a Jew berate another.

  13. Ossinev
    May 21, 2018, 9:25 am

    @Emet
    Confirmed then as Annie says you love theft and thieves and presumably would happily hand over your home and your lands to them without any form of resistance or protest.

    “You have no idea how far off the truth you are “.
    Fascinated by this comment please do explain/tell. I`m a grown up and can assure you I can cope with the “embarrassment”.
    Examples / explanations and especially the facts that I don`t know again would be appreciated. Simply chucking these simplistic ad hominems into a dialogue IMHO reflects a reluctance or more likely an inability to engage in dialogue or face facts.

    Put more bluntly you sound as if you are terrified of the truth.

  14. LostinAlaska
    May 22, 2018, 2:26 am

    These were more than 100 Palestinian lives wasted. What did Palestinians gain with these peaceful protests except sorrow? Do they think Israel will suddenly get an attack of decency and civilized behavior?

    What Palestinians need is their George Washington who will energize them, motivate them, arm them, train them, then lead them through a war of independence. Until then, Palestinians must bide their time.

    • echinococcus
      May 22, 2018, 11:18 am

      What did Palestinians gain with these peaceful protests except sorrow?

      1. More respect from American and similar liberaloids for whom “nonviolent” suicide is the supreme good by itself

      2. To be considered as even weaker than they are by the ZionUS, of whom we know the grammar: anyone who doesn’t hurt us physically sets himself up for even more contempt and more violent treatment next time.

      If peoples under German occupation in the Nazi era had done as the liberals told them, their offspring would not “be speaking German” as the American joke goes, they would not exist. The basic principle was, thankfully, to fight instead of listening to liberaloid sympathizers with the enemy. My uncle’s first take-home lesson at the resistance training was: never die without taking at least one of the bastards with you.

      The more you listen to the idolaters of “non-violence” for its own sake, the more you get dictation from the enemy.

    • Mooser
      May 22, 2018, 12:15 pm

      “What Palestinians need is their George Washington who will energize them, motivate them, arm them, train them, then lead them through a war of independence.”

      Okay, but before the Palestinians fight their “war of independence” where would you suggest they do their motivating, arming and training? Some place where the Israelis can’t interfere until the Palestinians are ready.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 22, 2018, 12:38 pm

        in the tunnels of course! what would we do without the ‘what palestinians need to end their genocide’ comments. just get motivated palestine, you can do it!

    • eljay
      May 22, 2018, 1:06 pm

      || LostinAlaska: … What Palestinians need is their George Washington … ||

      One who will not – like the Palestinians’ Gandhis – wind up in jail, in exile or dead.

  15. gamal
    May 22, 2018, 10:07 am

    “What Palestinians need is their George Washington who will energize them”

    how inapt, but actually that was Zohra Driffs issue how to wake a somnolent people being crushed and exterminated from their despairing apathy, not always in a manner consonant with civility.

    do you know Badawi al Jabal and the origin of his work Holy Flames, its quite a story better than cherry trees and redcoats, no one needs anymore G.W’s.

    • echinococcus
      May 22, 2018, 10:56 am

      Gamal,
      To ex-pupils of the US school system, Washington means what others see in Guevara, Abdelkader, Mau-Mau, Ben Bella, etc.
      Inapt but true.

      • gamal
        May 22, 2018, 12:43 pm

        yes I know don’t they believe he emerged from a top hat with the constitution engraved on two gold plates, and then lied about the fruit tree and was lynched but was redeemed and arose in Tijuana riding with Emiliano Zapata, a fascinating people the Yanks, but no wonder they’re confused.

  16. Nathan
    May 22, 2018, 9:04 pm

    Ilan Pappe speaks of “acknowledging the Nakba, understanding it, and working to reverse it”. Surely, our author could be more specific and actually define what he has in mind vis-a-vis “reversing the Nakba”. Is there some reason that one cannot state explicitly in a Mondoweiss article that Israel must cease to exist?

    Dr Pappe believes that the State of Israel shouldn’t exist, and so (obviously) “reversing the Nakba” means exactly that. It’s strange that he doesn’t state in an anti-Israel blog what exactly he has in mind. Actually, when reading the various articles on this website, no one actually says in so many words that the end-game is the undoing of Israel. It would be interesting to hear some insight as to why this is the policy of many anti-Israel publications.

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