Noga Kadman’s landmark book, Erased from Space and Consciousness (2011), has just been published in English. For Rashid Khalidi, celebrated Palestinian historian “This remarkable book examines how the issue of the Palestinian villages whose inhabitants were expelled in 1948 has evolved in Israeli consciousness … [and] has been largely eliminated from the imaginary of most Israelis.”
To celebrate this publication we are reprinting an article, based on the Hebrew edition, that first appeared in +972 in 2011.
While both Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, have consistently tried to produce a single clear argument about Israel’s founding and the Palestinian Nakba, what actually happened in 1947 and why is much less clear-cut says Uri Avnery, who was there.
In the early days, theere was not, for most, a conflict between being a liberal and being a zionist. Hopes that a Jewish home could be created that was run on the principles of democracy and universal human rights were high. That hope has long since gone. The zionism triumphed, forcing out the liberal and making liberal zionism an oxymoron. Ran Greenstein traces the history.
The Nakba should be taught on the curriculum of all Israel’s schools – how else are Israelis to understand their Palestinian neighbours says an editorial in Haaretz. Shlomo Avineri opposes the idea of the Nakba as the Palestinian founding myth – the event was not a catastrophe and was anyway self-inflicted. Shmuel Amir reviews and take issue.
Jonathan Freedland is well-known and admired in the UK left for his sharp commentary on all matters except Israel says Ben White in a sharp critique . Freedland likens the Jews settling in Israel as ‘the right of the drowning man’. The drowning have no ‘rights’, only needs which others may – or may not – be obligated to respond to. Plus some powerful photos from UNWRA archive.
Zochrot – “Remembering” – is an Israeli organisation, whose activists include Jews and Palestinians. It is dedicated to educating Israeli Jews about their history i.e. the Palestinian dispossession on which the state is founded. Next week it launches an I-Nakba phone app which will allow users to locate any Arab village that was abandoned during the 1948 war on an interactive map, learn about its history (including, in many cases, the Jewish presence that replaced it), and add photos, comments and data.
Ian Black reports for the Guardian
Lydda was a thriving Arab city in Palestine. In the summer of 1948 it was captured with maximum violence – against significant resistance – by the IDF. The population of c70,000 was either killed or driven out. Some of their houses were smashed, the rest emptied in a rampage of looting by Israelis. The city of Lydda became Lod and the surviving people of Lydda became permanent refugees. Report of article by Avi Shavit.
The very word ‘return’ attached to the word ‘Palestinian’ has been unspeakable and unthinkable – except as a nightmare – amongst all fearful defenders of the Israeli state. For a start, it means that someone once had a home in the place to which they will return. Which in turn means acknowledging the nakba. Yet at a Zochrot conference 2 weeks ago, Palestinians and Israelis discussed it sensibly, without exaggeration or hysteria, and worked out how this most precious of demands by Palestinians could actually be implemented.
So powerful has been the Israeli story of its own creation and acquisition of Palestinian land that testimony from Palestinians has had little effect. But formal documents in the state archive provided evidence for the ‘new historians’ to convince many Israelis of the untruth of the official story. Since then the archive has been closed – except for one file accidentally left out. This has now been been found to show the pressure young academics felt to ‘prove’ that Palestinians left on the advice of their own leaders, and how aware Ben-Gurion was of the role of Jewish militias in seizing the land.
Most Israelis are not as extreme as Im Tirtzu who protest against any commemoration of the nakba. The preferred position is of studied indifference. Anything more means either openly deciding for or against Im Tirtzu’s totalitarian zionism, or openly acknowledging that a great wrong continues to be done, in the name of Israel. Here, one member struggles with the one thing he thinks he knows about Palestinians – their holocaust denial. Perhaps he should know out about the refusal of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) to make saving European Jews their priority.
Official documents made public this week confirm the accounts of the ‘new historians’ – that British protection was withdrawn from the Palestinians by 1948 allowing militant Zionists – feared to have great influence in the US – to seize Palestinian land and force the Nakba. New fact: British officials were preoccupied with which high-status car they could transport back to London.
As Israel’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day roll past again some reflection is in order. Combatants for Peace and the Forum of Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Parents organise a joint meeting on the eve of Remembrance Day, Uri Avnery reports. And Tony Karon writes about 65 years of Israeli independence – only it was 60 years when he wrote it, but who’s counting? Karon: “without justice for the Palestinians, Israel is no closer now than it was 60 years ago to being able to live in a genuine peace with its neighbors…”
Zvi Bar’el writes: “The nakba terrifies Israel. We cannot forgive the Arabs for exiling themselves from Palestine, for destroying their own villages, for becoming refugees and for causing the cleansing of the War of Independence. Neither can we forgive them for the fact that many of them remained in Israel, destroying its aspiration to be a pure Jewish state, not only a state for Jews… We may one day have “peaceful coexistence” with the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza. With the Arabs of Israel, it will take much more. We need sincere reconciliation.”
The port town of Jaffa has one of the oldest and most cosmopolitan histories on the Mediterranean, home to Arab and European Christians, Muslims, Sephardi Jews. In 1948 it was attacked by both the Stern gang and Irgun and most Arabs fled. The Palestinian population is now on the edges, with few amenities and unable to get permits to build new homes. It is popular with Israel’s wealthy elite.
Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian-American writer, is impressed by Benny Brunner’s film on the 1948 Israeli theft of Palestinian books, but not impressed by the film-maker’s criticism of Palestinians for not making an effort to reclaim their books. She says leftist Israelis are too ready to tell Palestinians what form their struggle and story should take. She raises disquieting questions about ‘normalisation’.
The history of Muslim intellectual work is long and distinguished. When Israeli soldiers looted Palestinian homes in 1948 they found a treasure trove on the shelves of educated former residents — and promptly stole the books, about 40,000 of them. Some have been located in Israel’s National Library, some have disappeared into private ownership and trade. Dalia Hatuqa on a documentary about this little-known pillage.
Benny Morris was a ‘new historian’ who rejected the Zionist foundation narrative with his account of the forced expulsion of Palestinians. Since then, he has re-positioned himself within the camp which sees all Palestinians as being, like the Israeli right, determined to take over the whole land. Interviews LA Times, YUP.
Hannah Arendt and Primo Levi are amongst the great thinkers to pinpoint the centrality of historical truth to honest politics. Here we post a report on memories of the Nakba by Israelis who perpetrated it and 2nd, news of rallies held by Palestinians to commemorate the killing of 13 Israeli Palestinians by the IDF in 2000 during the Second (more violent) Intifada and their demand for accountability.
Areej Sabbagh-Khoury, an Israeli specialist in Israeli-Palestinian relations, argues that Palestinians’ stronger sense of who they are in relation to Israel’s power and their own history of disposession, centring on the Nakba, is the new factor which has caused the recent acts of the Israeli state specifically aimed at silencing the Palestinan voice.
It is against Israel’s law to ‘remember’ the Naqba – but how can it be forgotten when Palestine is the living block to Israel realising its ambition – possession of the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Uri Avnery takes the long view.