As Israelis, and Jews around the world, celebrate the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Jewish state, Palestinian Arabs and their supporters protest the very existence of Israel, in what they call Nakba Day (Arabic for ‘catastrophe’).
On Nakba Day, in cities across Australia, on the other side of the world from Israel/Palestine, there were protests against Israel’s existence. On the streets of Sydney, the organisers, speakers and the 700-odd protesters refused to accept the existence of Israel. Instead they persistently called for an end to the “70-year Zionist occupation of Palestine”. They demanded that not only the relatively small number of 1948 Palestinian refugees who are still living be permitted to move into Israel but also their five million descendants, and all future descendants, ad infinitum. The protest in Sydney featured several prominent speakers.
Ramzy Baroud, a US-Arab journalist and author, gave a short lacklustre speech where he reiterated that the “Right of Return” (not just for refugees but also their descendants) is a “perpetual fight for justice”. Like Azzam Pasha (the Arab League’s first secretary-general) and Hajj Amin al Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and friend of Hitler) before him, he considers destroying Jewish self-determination as justice, rather than having two states for two peoples.
Sara Saleh, an Arab-Australian poet and writer, and on the Board of Get-Up, spoke on the theme of “Remembering is Resisting” and “the unlawful occupation of 70 years” ie asserting that Israel itself has no right to exist. “We must remember” she stated, “We are the sons and daughters of the Nakba. We remember”. However, she mentioned no memory before 1948, as though Palestinian identity is tied exclusively to the re-establishment of Israel, and nothing before.
We Jews also remember. We remember over 3,500 years of Jewish life in the Land of Israel, including 1500 years of unbroken Jewish life in ancient Israel and Judea, the Holy Temples of Jerusalem, the Judges, the High Priests, the Hebrew Kings, their royal palaces courts and scribes, the Jewish ritual baths and water courses which still survive from antiquity, the great battles fought by Hebrew armies in the land, their triumphs and defeats, and above all the Jewish civilisation, thought and culture which poured out of the land for three millennia. We remember the prophets and rabbis, the mystics of the kabbalah in Safed, our tribal lands, and the grains and fruits of the land of Israel. And we remember more recently rising from the ashes of the Holocaust and building the miracle of today’s Israel out of what had been a quiet back-water of the Ottoman Empire.
As is increasingly usual at anti-Israel events, an Aboriginal speaker was featured. Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, an Aboriginal woman, spoke in solidarity with what she perceived was another indigenous people, namely the Palestinians. She clearly did not know or realize that Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel, not the Palestinian Arabs, most of whose families arrived only in the last 800 years. The Arabs are indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula where they developed their language and culture and religion before embarking on their military invasions of the Middle East and North Africa in the 7th century, one of the longest-standing imperialist conquests in history. By her reckoning, the indigenous Jews there are to be denied their right to self-determination and deemed to be foreign invaders.
David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP, a regular speaker at anti-Israel protests, claimed he was “standing for peace, justice and liberty” yet did not acknowledge that he was being selective, that he was not standing for peace, justice and liberty for all peoples universally, but only for some people, and certainly not for the Jews.
One huge banner summed up this up very well: “Abolish Israel. No state is the solution”, conveniently ignoring that “abolishing” Israel would mean either the expulsion and/or murder of the six million Israeli Jews who now live there, most of them native-born.
A homemade placard perniciously turned Jews into genocidal Nazis and minimised the Holocaust with its words: “They, Israel & USA have no conscience, no honour, no pride. They curse Hitler day & night, but they have surpassed Hitler in brutality!” Another placard had a red Jewish star dripping with blood, and the words “Stop War. Free Palestine”. The flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, with its Nazi-like symbol and colours, was flown. Two Hezbollah banners were attached to a Palestinian flag, and handed back to academic Tim Anderson at the end of the march.
The regular chanting of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Intifadah, intifadah” drove home the demonstrators’ aim to destroy Israel and to do so violently. Seventy years after the re-establishment of Israel, Palestinian Arabs and their supporters still prioritise destroying Israel over establishing an Arab state in Palestine alongside Israel.
The real tragedy and catastrophe of Nakba Day is that Palestinian Arabs and their supporters are not also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state alongside Israel. But for the ongoing foolishness of the Palestinian elites, all the bloodshed and pain that has been meted out in the Arab-Israel conflict to both Jews and Arabs could have been avoided, and the Arabs of Palestine could have had their own sovereign and free State, just as the Jews of Palestine were able to achieve.
While ever the desire to destroy Jewish sovereignty is the primary goal of the Palestinian national movement, the Palestinian Arabs will not have the peace, justice or liberty that both Jews and Arabs seek. Hatred and murderous desires never ends well for anyone. The only just and workable resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict remains two states – one Arab, one Jewish – in the territory west of the Jordan River, each recognising and respecting the other’s right to exist, as the UN originally envisaged.
In the wise words of Einat Wilf, former Labour Member of the Knesset: “If the war is ever to end with true peace, the Palestinians as well as the Arab and Islamic world at large have to come to accept the Jewish people as an indigenous people who have come home and who have an equal and legitimate right to their ancestral land.”
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry