…Initiatives by the extreme left to turn Nakba Day into a joint memorial day for all of Israel’s citizens are…doomed.

Israel is not a binational state, and with all due liberalism and humanism, it is hard to treat victory and defeat in the same way.

What can be demanded of the Jewish majority is that it show respect for the mourning of the Palestinians.

But this has been made difficult by the way the Palestinian narrative has until now presented the Nakba, and Israeli liberals must be intellectually honest enough to deal with that issue.

First, the very concept of Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe or disaster – as though the events of 1948 were a natural disaster rather than the result of human action – blurs the historical context of the events.

The so-called Nakba was not a natural disaster. It was the outcome of military and political defeat resulting from political decisions for which specific people were responsible.

Second, in the Arab world in general, and among the Palestinians in particular, there is great reluctance to confront the Holocaust. Nevertheless, one sometimes hears comparisons between the Nakba and the Holocaust.

But the very comparison is morally obtuse: What happened to the Palestinians from 1947 to 1948 was the result of a war in which they were defeated, while the Holocaust was the planned, methodical mass murder of civilians.

The 6 million Jews of Europe who were killed in the Holocaust had not gone to war against Germany.

German Jews were in fact good German patriots, and many of the Jews of Eastern Europe saw German culture as the apex of European civilization.

Third, and this is the most important point: The Palestinian discourse does not address the fact that Arab political decisions are what brought the terrible disaster down on the Palestinians.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles and books in Arabic about the war of 1948, and there are expert analyses of the reasons for the Arabs’ military failure.

But to this day there is no willingness to deal with a simple fact: The decision to go to war against the UN resolution to partition Mandatory Palestine was a terrible political and moral mistake on the part of the Arab world.

If the Palestinians and the Arab countries had accepted the partition plan, the Arab state of Falastin would have been established in 1948 and there would have been no refugee problem.

It was not the establishment of the State of Israel that created the refugee problem, but rather the fact that the Arabs went to war against the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine.

Israelis seeking reconciliation may be permitted to ask the Arab side to face these issues. Just as it is impossible to detach the deportation of 12 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after 1945 from Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939, so it is impossible to ignore the moral dimension of the Arab decision to go to war against the idea of partition.

When you go to war and lose, there are consequences, even if the winners must still be held responsible for their own actions.

If we are indeed heading toward a two-state solution, some self-criticism should be expected from the Arab side, something like what S. Yizhar’s book “The Story of Hirbet Hizah,” about the expulsion of Arab villagers by an Israel Defense Forces unit acting under orders, symbolized for the Israeli discourse.

That would make it much easier for Israelis to share Palestinian pain.

The democratic winds beginning to blow in the Arab world should raise the hope that one of the next steps after Tahrir Square will be the development of a critical discourse – the beginning of liberation, not only from autocratic regimes, but also from the inability to take a good hard look in the mirror.


  1. There is a deeper issue here, concerning the concept of a "narrative", because we’re being asked to accept the Palestinian Arab "narrative" as having a validity on a par with our own history. The return of the Jewish People to this land is rooted in a historically-documented identification with the Land of Israel and the historical administration of this land, which has been referred to by the West as "Palestine" for the past 2,000 years only on account of conquest and occupation by the Romans. The Arab "narrative" seeks to weaken and refute our historical claim to this land. A "narrative", however, is neither historical fact nor even an interpretation of historical fact. The term "narrative" is a euphemism for a politically-motivated rewriting of history, and as such it is false and dishonest. In this case, the Arab "narrative" attributes a national identity and national rights to the Palestinian Arabs that predates the Jewish return to this land. Historically, however, no such Arab national identity or Arab national rights ever existed. This is easily verified by an examination of the historical and archaeological record. The applicable instruments of international law — including the Treaty of Sevres (1920) and the Mandate for Palestine (1922) — clearly establish that the national rights to the region known as "Palestine" are vested exclusively in the Jewish People. The fallacy of the Arab "Palestinian narrative" is seen in the well-known fact that prior to the 1960s the term "Palestinian" was universally understood to refer to the Jews of this region, not to the Arabs. It is therefore a mistake to give any legitimacy to the Arab "Palestinian narrative". It’s one thing to respect the civil and religious rights of Arabs as individuals, in keeping with the principles of ethics and law. It is something entirely different, however, to extend this to include recognizing Arab national rights to our land. We can be sympathetic to Arabs as individuals, but we are under no ethical or moral compunction to recognize any sort of collective suffering of the so-called Palestinian Arabs. As Prof. Avineri points out, the Arab suffering was entirely self-inflicted. The Arabs, however, steadfastly refuse to accept any responsibility or criticism. Today’s appeals to liberalism, democracy, and guilt feelings on behalf of the Arab "Palestinian narrative" are merely deceitful attempts to foist off their responsibility onto us. I strongly disagree with Prof. Avineri, in that we do not owe the Palestinian Arabs any respect whatsoever for their mourning. They not only brought their own suffering upon themselves but they also spitefully inflicted suffering on us. To sympathize with them for their collective suffering only indulges the Arabs in their contempt for us and encourages them to continue their violence against us.


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