Nakba 2: The Victory of a Democracy

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.


Israeli flags over Latrun Tank Museum,
scene of important battles in the Israeli War of Independence
(photo: First.One.Through)

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.


Related First.One.Through articles:

A Flower in Terra Barbarus

The Undemocratic Nature of Fire and Water in the Middle East

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

Stabbing the Palestinian “Right of Return”

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Joint Prayer: The Cave of the Patriarchs and the Temple Mount

This weekend, thousands of Jews from around Israel and other parts of the world came to the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city of Hebron. The annual tradition of visiting the city on this weekend goes back many years, as it coincides with the reading in the Torah of Abraham buying land to bury his wife Sarah, the “first mother” of the Jewish people.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is considered the burial place of almost all of the “founding fathers and mothers” of Judaism 3700 years ago: Abraham; Isaac; Jacob; Sarah; Rebecca and Leah. As such, it is considered the second most holy site in Judaism (on par with Medina for Muslims).

Roughly 2,000 years ago, a monumental structure was built on top of the cave, attributed to the Jewish King Herod. Over the following centuries, many people conquered the city of Hebron. About 800 years ago, the Muslim Mamlukes took over the city and declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs to be a mosque and forbade Jews from coming beyond the seventh step of the structure.

caveofpatriarchs
The Cave of Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron

When the Ottomans ruled Hebron from 1517 to 1917, there was relative peace between the Arabs and Jews in the city (even though the Jews were forbidden from entering their holy site). However, in 1929, Arabs rioted against their Jewish neighbors after incitement from the Grand Mufti in Jerusalem. During those few days in August, 67 Jews were killed, hundreds were injured, and the British (who then controlled the mandate of Palestine) forced all of the Jews to leave their city.

In 1967, in response to the Jordanian (and Palestinian) attack on Israel, Israel captured Judea and Samaria, including the city of Hebron. When Israel took control of their holy site, it opened the shrine for prayer for both Jews and Muslims. Today, there are discreet times set aside for each religion to use the site for prayer.


In 2014, the discussion about opening the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – Judaism’s holiest site – to non-Muslim prayer has again been raised due to the shooting of Jewish activist Yehuda Glick who fought for that basic right. The acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was outraged at the suggestion and described such approach as amounting to a “religious war“, as the al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount, is Islam’s third holiest site. While Glick and many other activists never suggested praying at or near the mosque, but on other parts of the 35 acre platform, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless agreed to keep the status quo ban on Jewish prayer on the mount.

On the tenth anniversary of Yaser Arafat’s (fungus be upon him) death, Abbas stated: “The leaders of Israel are making a grave mistake by thinking that history can move backward and that they could impose facts on the ground by dividing the Aksa Mosque in time and space, as they did with the Ibrahimi Mosque [Cave of the Patriarchs] in Hebron.

In Hebron, Israeli action at the Cave of the Patriarchs opened the way for both Muslims and Jews to share holy sites in the holy land. The Temple Mount could similarly become a place of tolerance and prayer.

 


Sources:

Pilgrimage to Hebron: http://unitedwithisrael.org/thousands-flocked-to-hebron/

Cave of Patriarchs: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/machpelah.html

1929 Hebron massacre: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/hebron29.html

Jordanian and Palestinian 1967 attack on Israel (from King of Jordan’s site): http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/his_periods3.html

Abbas claim of religious war: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/11/abbas-israel-jerusalem-holy-site

Palestinian Authority TV on call to “purify” Jerusalem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1gIetnpxH0

Abbas against any change in allowing Jews on Temple Mount: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jailed-Barghouti-to-Palestinians-Continue-armed-resistance-against-Israel-381454

FirstOneThrough article on tolerance at the Temple: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/tolerance-at-the-temple/