Photo: Hagai Nativ
Martin Sherman
Photo: Hagai Nativ

Nakba nonsense

Nakba commemoration unrelated to exercise of legitimate individual freedom

Adherence to the doctrine of democratic governance is not a suicide pact. Neither is it obligation to self-destruct by means of terminal stupidity. Belief in democratic principles does not require one to forego the distinction between friend and foe, between ally and adversary. Sadly this something of which many Israeli MKs - including Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan of the Likud - seem to have lost sight, in their opposition to the proposed law prohibiting public commemoration of the 1948 Arab defeat– a.k.a. the Nakba


The attempt by Israeli Arabs to institutionalize public commemoration of the Nakba has nothing to do with the exercise of legitimate individual freedom of expression in a healthy and vibrant democracy. For as much as it is a ceremonial manifestation of mourning over the consequences of Arab defeat, it is also - ipso fact - a ceremonial manifestation of disappointment at Jewish survival. These two aspects are inseparable sides of the same coin. It is in essence a collective declaration of regret and sorrow that the Jews were not wiped out as a national entity.


Much nonsense has been written recently by Nakba apologists. For commemoration of the Arab "disaster" is not analogous to individuals or groups protesting some (real or imagined) evil or defect in their society which should be removed or repaired. It is not a demand to right a wrong that society or the state inflicts on particular categories of citizens. Rather, it is an implied rejection -in toto - by an entire community of the state and society in which it resides, a collective refusal to come to terms with their very existence, with their intrinsic nature, and with the most elemental foundations upon which they are based.


Let us make no mistake: The demand for the commemoration of the Nakba is not motivated by a desire to mark any sense of personal loss but by a sentiment of national loss; not by a feeling of grief on a private level but by identification with tragedy at a national level; and not by a desire restore losses at an individual level but for restitution of honor at a national level. And the only way to address this grievance is by the obliteration - or at least the negation - of the Jewish nation-state.


Clamor for commemoration  

It must not be forgotten that anyone who was personally touched by the events that comprised the Nakba would today be close to 70 at the very least. They certainly do not make up the bulk of those demanding public lament of the Arab military debacle. The clamor for commemoration does not arise from dispossessed, deprived refugees but fully enfranchised citizens who are neither impoverished, nor persecuted or homeless - as the ample homesteads found in abundance throughout most Arab villages in Israel clearly testify. Indeed, had there been no Nakba, the personal socio-economic conditions of most Israeli Arabs would in all likelihood be far worse than it is today - as comparison with of the surrounding Arab countries, not endowed with extravagant oil reserves, such as Syria, Jordan and Egypt, will irrefutably show.


These facts demonstrate how ludicrously inappropriate the examples provided by some Israeli public figures who have endeavored to argue in favor of permitting public Nakba memorial ceremonies. One of the more inane of these attempts was made recently by Yair Lapid in a piece entitled"The Right to Hate." His major argument was an inapt attempt to liken the act of burning the American flag by an obscure (an arguably eccentric) individual, which was sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, to widespread organized political activism aimed at negating the founding values of the State, lamenting the defeat of its enemies and perpetuating the adversarial narrative of "Return.". Unwittingly, Lapid lets slip that he see Israel's Arabs on a par with neo-Nazi skinheads and frenzied mobs in Gaza. He writes:


If someone doubts our right to exist – be it on the hills of Umm al-Fahem or in Munich’s beer halls, in Gaza’s crowded streets or in the thick woods of Babi Yar – it’s their problem.


He thus blithely blurs the distinction between Israeli citizens allegedly loyal to the state, and its most rabid enemies. Proponents of the law could hardly ask for a stronger endorsement.


Transgressors should not be imprisoned

And when he asks "Since when do we need Arab approval?" he betrays just how much he misunderstands the issue and how badly he misses the point. The proposed law preventing Nakba commemoration is not about acquiring Arab approval but preventing Arab incitement.


For in quoting the previously mentioned US Supreme Court decision, Lapid conveniently omits to mention that one of central considerations was that the court concluded that the flag burning in this case did not cause or threaten to cause a breach of the peace. Can he honestly say that this is so in the case Nakba memorial ceremonies? Can he honestly assure us that the chances that such events will lead to "breaches of the peace" are negligible? That political agitators will not exploit such occasions to keep an open wound festering and to prevent it healing with the passage of time?


Indeed, Lapid would do well refer to another ruling of the US Supreme court, which although passed in 1919 still is considered a central pillar in current judicial thinking in the US: "…the character of every act depends on the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre and causing a panic. . . ..When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right." (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr)


There is clearly something deeply flawed in a society that permits a significant segment within it to express grief at the success of that society's success to prevail over its enemies' intent to destroy it. That is why the proposed law is not infringement of democratic rights but a refreshing reflection of national sanity and santé


However, on one matter the opponents of the law have got it right: Transgressors should not be imprisoned. Rather, they should be stripped of their Israeli citizenship - at least in cases of repeated offenders. Indeed, this should not be a problem - for why should they object to being relieved of membership of a collective they obviously find so obnoxious and objectionable that its very existence is deemed a "catastrophe"?


פרסום ראשון: 06.08.09, 00:53
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