The world has been long educated by Palestinian Arabs about the “Nakba”, the “disaster.” It was during 1948-9 when the newly established country of Israel withstood the onslaught of five Arab armies to not only survive, but to accumulate additional territory. All of that land was considered by the Arabs to be “Arab Land,” and Israel’s victory was not only an affront to their sensibilities as the rightful owners of the land, but was exacerbated by the fact that Israel did not allow the Arabs that left the region during the war – which they themselves had started – to return to their houses.
The Palestinian Nakba of 1948-9 was the founding of a Jewish State that the Arabs considered without merit, and the status of 711,000 Arabs who lost their homes to such foreign transplant. Adding insult to their situation was Egypt taking over Gaza without giving the local population citizenship. The Arabs on the west bank of the Jordan River at least got Jordanian citizenship.
In solidarity with their Arab brothers, over the following years the Arab countries from the MENA region evicted 1 million Jews from their midst, performing an ethnic cleansing of Jews for thousands of miles. Many of those Jews moved to Israel, to become citizens alongside the 160,000 Arabs who were already granted Israeli citizenship.
The Palestinian Nakba would repeat in 1967.
Once again the surrounding Arab armies poised to destroy the Jewish State.
- “The problem before the Arab countries is not whether the port of Eilat should be blockaded or how to blockade it – but how totally to exterminate the state of Israel for all time.” – President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, May 25, 1967
- “The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.” – Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Al-Assad (later President)
- “Those [Israelis] who survive will remain in Palestine. I estimate that none of them will survive.” – PLO Chairman Ahmed Shukhairy
However, once again Israel would defeat those that were ready to annihilate them. Once again the Israelis would take over more land. And once again the local Arab population would cry out to the world that they were the victims, and ask the world to isolate the Jewish State.
Nakba #2 left more of the local Arab population under Israeli authority. The Arabs in Gaza, Sinai, “West Bank”, and even the Golan Heights were no longer under Arab control or authoritarian rule. They were now subject to a democracy; and a Jewish one at that.
The Arabs claim that Nakba #1 had its roots in the western powers of Britain, France, Italy and Japan carving up the Ottoman Empire to fit their global ambitions. Those democracies chopped up “Arab land” (note that the Ottomans are not Arab) into fiefdoms and added an alien Jewish democracy squarely into the middle of it. To this day, Palestinian leadership asks Britain for an apology for the actions of 100 years ago, and Iranian leadership declares that the region needs to “cut out the cancer of Israel.”
Nakba #2 of June 1967 continued to spread the foreign democracy into the Middle East, but only in part. Israel only annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem and gave everyone – Jews and non-Jews – in the area full rights. However, Israel declined to annex the other regions in the hope of trading portions of the land for peace. In 1979 it traded Sinai (which was never part of the Palestine Mandate) with Egypt for peace. It abandoned Gaza for war. And it negotiates with the Palestinian Authority about the future of the land east of the Green Line (EGL).
The short windows of Israeli control failed to instill long-term democratic values into the areas. Sinai is just another part of Egypt that is quickly removing the removing its Christian minority. Gaza is run by the terrorist group Hamas that is backed by the local radical Islamist population. And Area A of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has control, is managed by a corrupt regime that refuses to hold elections.
The newborn democracy survived an Arab onslaught in 1948, and the fledgling democracy would not be annihilated by the forces of hate and intolerance in 1967. While countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran still threaten to destroy the region’s only democracy, others have since given up on the pledge. Still, regrettably, Israel’s lessons of tolerance and democracy seem to be a hard tradition to instill in its neighbors.
For the Palestinians, the Nakba is that the foreign democracy still exists in their midst. For the western world, the disaster is that the Arabs in the region still cannot tolerate democracy.
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