These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Yom Ha’atzmaut and the Nakbar

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Michael Sager

67 years ago, May 15th 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the independent state of Israel. There were 600,000 Jews.

There should have been more.  But 6 million were killed by the Nazis.  Many of these could have been saved.  But the British closed the gates, fearing Palestinian Arab violence if Jews were let into Palestine.

There were 250,000 Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust in Europe (my wife and parents in law amongst them). After the war many of those attempted to come to Israel – and because of fear of Arab violence they were put by the British for a second time in concentration camps in Cyprus.

Why? The Peel commission of 1937 had responded to violence by Arabs in Palestine by reneging on its mandate to establish a Jewish home. The British government then severely limited Jewish immigration.

The Peel commission was in response to the incitement by the leader of the Palestinian Arabs, Haj el-Husseini. Later he spent the war in Berlin planning concentration camps with the Nazis for the Jews of Palestine.

67 years ago, May 15th 1948, 600,000 Israeli Jews faced a second Holocaust. There were 16,500 Haganah troops. Half were support services. Only 60% had weapons. They had no airplanes, tanks, armored cars, or boats. The invading Arab armies fielded 20,000 combat troops.  They had 75 planes, 40 tanks, 300 armored cars.

Palestinian Arab leader and aid to Haj el-Husseini’s, Ahmed Shukeiry, later founder of the PLO, boasted in 1948 that the aim of the Arab invasion was ‘the elimination of the Jewish State.’

By the end of the war, 6,000 Israeli Jews were dead (1%) of the population and 15,000 wounded (2.5%). This would be equivalent to 3.1 million and 7.7 million Americans today.

It was not a Jewish attack on the Arabs of Palestine. Rather, the Arab and Palestinian leaders sought to eliminate the Jews. But: the Galilee, the coastal plains and the Negev became Israel, Egypt took Gaza, and Jordan took the hills, the Jordan Valley and Old Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leaders, who sought a genocide, lost everything. Especially they lost their own people. To quote Benny Morris from his book ‘1948’.  ‘Palestinian society fell apart ……One day when the Palestinians face up to their past and produce serious historiography, they will probe these parameters of responsibility and weakness to the full.’

67 years ago, May 15th 1948, was a heroic point in Jewish history. A successful defence against annihilation. One that started the reversal of 2,000 years of tragic history. As significant as Pesach, the Maccabbees, and Purim.  A miracle, if you believe in God’s presence in this world.

The Palestinian Nakbar narrative is false and destructive. It is pure victimhood without context. It claims that an innocent people were destroyed by a nameless evil. It caused 115 Israeli deaths last year, 23,320 to date: from Arab wars, and from Palestinian terrorist attacks and suicide bombers. Palestinian leaders, starting with Haj el-Husseini, and continuing through Arafat to Abbas and Mashal, still hold their own people hostage to deadly fantasies. We see the tragedy of their people now in Yarmouk and Gaza.

I support any Palestinians who acknowledge the immorality and stupidity of their leadership’s action. When the Palestinian leadership face up to their responsibilities for the continuing Nakbar, I will empathize with their tragedy. When there is a free, democratic country of Palestine that lives peacefully with Israel, I will be pleased to celebrate their independence day.

America celebrates 4th July – and what about the 1831 Trail of Tears of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole and Choctaw nations?  And Australia Day – and what about the Tasmanian Black War that massacred Aboriginal people? Why should not Israel, like other countries, fully celebrate its independence without guilt?

To conflate Yom Ha’atzmaut with the Nakbar narrative is impossible. So for me, Yom Ha’atzmaut is a 100% Israeli celebration.