Holocaust, Independence, Nakba

It is difficult to consider these three words together for so often they divide two peoples who inhabit the same Holy Land under demanding circumstances. But it is through the examination and acceptance of these words that Israelis and Palestinians can begin to understand each other and walk forward together on a path that leads to peace. A recent editorial in Haaretz hints at the value in Mahmoud Abbas’s pronouncement in both English and Arabic that the Holocaust was the “single greatest tragedy in modern-day history.” At almost the same time Mohammed Dajani, a Professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem and founder of Wasatia, (a moderate Palestinian political movement), took 27 Palestinian college students to visit Auschwitz and caused a huge stir that resulted in his university renouncing the trip and his being branded as a traitor in a variety of Palestinian publications as many consider the Holocaust as the rational for international recognition of the State of Israel.

Nakba Day, a day marked to remember “The Catastrophe,” of Palestinian dispersion, (the forced and unforced expulsion of roughly 700,000 Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages), that occurred during and after the 1948 War between Israeli and Arab forces to overturn or formalize the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948 as an outcome of the approval on November 29, 1947 of the United Nation General Assembly vote in favor of a Partition Plan, (that the Jewish Agency approved and the Arab League denied). For Israelis the annual celebration; Yom Ha’atzmaut- Independence Day arrives on the date corresponding to the Jewish calendar. In March 2011 the Israeli Knesset passed the so-called Nakba Law which states that; “any body that is funded by the state, or a public institute that is supported by the state, will be barred from allocating money to activity that involves the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people; the negation of the state’s democratic character; support for armed struggle, or terror acts by an enemy or a terror organization against the state of Israel; incitement to racism, violence and terror and dishonoring the national flag or the national symbol.”

There is no easy way to remember the Shoah and its 6 million victims or to deal with the tragedy that was inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the millions of their descendants who make up a Palestinian Diaspora that seeks a “right of return” that would terminate the modern state of Israel. There is the constant sturm und drang between the warring factions of Israelis and Palestinians bent on telling their story in their way and judiciously isolating it from the story of the other which invokes their own victim-hood as a counter argument against the validity of either without a full appreciation and acknowledgement of both stories. There is no easy way, but a way must be found all the same to recognize each as a step in the long road to reconciliation and a formula that responds to the reality of great and gross loss of life and livelihood and home and the death of millions even as the battle for peace between Israelis and Palestinians continues unabated. It is 2014 and the world has grown tired of the civil war between two peoples which divides a Holy Land that was made holy by the proclamation of the G-d of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims alike. They reside as both inhabitants and strangers in a land that can only become “the promised land” for all when each seeks justice for the other.

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.