Today is the anniversary of the 'Nakba' (Setback).
Which anniversary and which Nakba? First, there was the 1948 Nakba in Palestine. Then, we had too many setbacks, some of which were evident like the Palestinian Nakba in 1967. There is also the Iraqi Nakba, caused by both the Iraqi and American presidents. On the other hand, there are the hidden setbacks in every other country.
There is the setback of terrorism.
There is the setback of illiteracy.
There is the setback of absence of democracy.
There is the setback of the fragility of the rule of law (I am not going to say the collapse of the rule of law because it has never been established).
There is the setback of the absence of women's rights.
There is the setback of the absence of accountability and transparency.
Each is a setback for which we are all responsible.
Neither Zionism nor Colonialism is responsible. We are responsible. Our responsibility is even doubled, since we still insist on holding the 'other' responsible for our failure. This means that we will keep failing.
I write every day, but I never wrote about the anniversary of the Nakba. And, I do not wish to write about it today. I have already said what I wanted to say in the few previous lines. I would like to proceed with an article on Israel on the 58th anniversary of its existence. The article was written by the writer and historian, Tony Judt, in Haaretz on May 5, 2006. It contains better ideas than our emotions on the anniversary of the Nakba. I will briefly translate some parts of the long valuable article:
"By the age of 58 a country - like a man - should have achieved a certain maturity. But the State of Israel remains curiously immature. The social transformations of the country - and its many economic achievements - have not brought the political wisdom that usually accompanies age.
"But that, Israeli readers will tell me, is the prejudiced view of the outsider. They will say that theirs is simply an independent little state doing what it has always done: looking after its own interests in an inhospitable part of the globe. Why should embattled Israel even acknowledge such foreign criticism, much less act upon it? They - gentiles, Muslims, leftists - have reasons of their own for disliking Israel. They - Europeans, Arabs, fascists - have always singled out Israel for special criticism. Their motives are timeless. They haven't changed. Why should Israel change?
"But they have changed. And it is this change, which has passed largely unrecognized within Israel, to which I want to draw attention here. Before 1967, the State of Israel may have been tiny and embattled, but it was not typically hated: certainly not in the West.
I remember well, in the spring of 1967, how the balance of student opinion at Cambridge University was overwhelmingly pro-Israel in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War."
But today, everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967, and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state's very own Nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country's shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, "targeted assassinations," and the separation wall - all these norms of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today, they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish. This means that Israel's behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the way the world views Israel.
Today, only a small minority of outsiders see Israelis as victims. The true victims, it is now widely accepted, are the Palestinians. Indeed, the Palestinians have now displaced Jews as the symbol of a persecuted minority: vulnerable, humiliated and stateless. In this sense, Israel elicits scant sympathy even when its own citizens suffer. Dead Israelis - like the occasional assassinations of white South Africans in the apartheid era, or British colonists hacked to death by native insurgents - are typically perceived abroad, not as the victims of terrorism, but as the collateral damage of their own government's mistaken policies.
The long cultivated persecution mania - "everyone's out to get us" - is no longer accepted as a pretext. At a recent international meeting, I heard one speaker, echoing Helmut Schmidt's famous remark about the Soviet Union being an "Upper Volta with missiles," by describing Israel as "Serbia with missiles."
Israel remains the same, but the world - as I noted above - has changed. Even the Holocaust can no longer be used as an excuse for Israel's behavior. During the Cold War, Israeli governments could still play on the guilt of Germans and other Europeans. Today, the Holocaust is history. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint, and then saying to the world, "Remember Auschwitz".
In short, Israel, in the world's eyes, is an ordinary state, but one that behaves in abnormal ways. It is strong, very strong, but its behavior is making everyone else vulnerable. And so, shorn of all other justifications for its behavior, Israel and its supporters now fall back on the oldest pretext of all: Israel is a Jewish state and that is why people criticize it. This - the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic - is regarded in Israel and the United States as Israel's trump card. If it has been played more insistently and aggressively in recent years, the reason is that it is now the only card left. But, there is the danger that, by playing this game, Israel's fears will materialize. The Jewish state's irresponsible behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. For tens of millions of people in the world today, Israel is indeed the state of all the Jews.
The recent essay on "The Israel Lobby", by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, is a straw in the wind - an indication of the likely direction of future domestic debate in the US about the country's peculiar ties with Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt are prominent senior academics with impeccable conservative credentials. It is true that 10 years ago, they would not - and probably could not - have published this essay at all.
From one perspective, Israel's future is bleak. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has lethal weapons - very lethal weapons. But can it do with them, except make more enemies? Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence. The US won't always be there. Weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa.
That's true, but neither the German Democratic Republic or white South African have had Israel's history. The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob is still around, and His Covenant with Abraham is the only reason the Jewish people have come through to this day.
Anyone can mock that all they want, but the restoration of Israel (with the renewal of the Hebrew language) after 2000 years of diaspora is unique in human history. Go figure....