‘Naqba Day’: To Create Better Future, Palestinians Must Overcome Destructive Past
Marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s rebirth with violence does nothing to hasten the formation of a Palestinian state
There is something tragically instructive about the Palestinians’ destructive behavior last Friday, when for the second time in consecutive weeks rioters set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the only point of entry for goods traveling between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Notably, the raging protesters targeted the fuel and gas pipelines that service the enclave, seemingly without any thought to the prevailing acute shortage of power that limits the amount of electricity per household to just hours per day.
Despite being ruled by genocidal Hamas, the Israeli government permits the transfer on a daily basis of massive amounts of assistance into the territory—ranging from food to medical supplies to construction materials—all of which is paid for by international organizations. One Israeli official who over the weekend toured Kerem Shalom told local media that the entire delegation was therefore “astonished” by the destruction, adding that Palestinians are “bringing a disaster upon themselves.”
In this respect, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the crossing closed until such time that the estimated millions of dollars in damages are repaired. Explaining the decision to cut-off the flow of supplies, the IDF released a statement asserting that, “Israel and many countries around the world work to deliver goods…to Gaza’s citizens, initiatives which are prevented by the Hamas terror organization’s actions.”
One could not be faulted for assuming that, in light of their living standards, Gazans might want to avoid vandalizing the sole conduit for the resources they claim to so desperately need. Moreover, one might expect civilians who did not partake in the rampage to express a modicum of anger at those who did, in addition to their primary backer and instigator Hamas, which seems as hell-bent on keeping its own people down as it is on exterminating Israel.
These two realities are, in fact, intricately inter-connected, the former giving rise to the humanitarian conditions used by the terror group to “justify” its ongoing effort to destroy the Jewish state, which, in turn, invariably manifests in recurrent confrontations, each one ending in even greater Palestinian suffering.
And then the vicious cycle repeats itself.
“Hamas is trying to divert attention from the fact that it is a complete failure in terms of its ten-year rule of Gaza,” Emmanuel Navon, Professor in International Relations at Tel Aviv University, stressed to The Media Line. “It is always trying to incite against an outside enemy that it claims is responsible for all of the problems of the population. This is essentially how all autocratic governments function.
“Even though it is a completely unrealistic strategy,” he expounded, “Hamas will continue to invest in building tunnels and obtaining weapons instead of helping its own people. They will continue to send women and children to the border to get killed for public relations purposes, when, in fact, Gaza could be turned into a prosperous area.”
Indeed, Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar recently told a group of Palestinian youth that May 14—the date of the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem—and May 15—Naqba Day, when the Palestinians mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s rebirth in 1948—will be “two crucial days in Palestinian history.” Not, mind you, because Hamas and the PA will be reconciling after a decade-long division; nor will this week mark the beginning of any serious negotiating process with Israel that could realistically end with the actualization of Palestinian statehood. Rather, Sinwar’s notion of momentous is the call by both the Gaza and West Bank governments for total anarchy, which will predictably lead to more death and destruction without doing anything to advance the Palestinian cause.
Nevertheless, Ahmad Majdalani, who serves on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, pre-emptively laid the blame for any outbreak of violence squarely on the shoulders of Israel. “The Israelis do everything to prevent these marches from taking place,” he affirmed to The Media Line, adding that “the demonstrations are extremely important because they send the message to the entire international community about the circumstances in the Palestinian territories, and also show a commitment to peaceful measures.
“The PLO is not urging its people to go out and die,” Majdalani conveyed, “but rather for Palestinians to express their minds.” Then, in an apparent contradiction, the official concluded by describing the murderous Palestinian uprising from 2000-2003, known as the Second Intifada, “as a public resistance that had a huge impact globally and also on Israeli society.”
According to Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and currently a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “the ultimate objective of the protests is to promote the narrative that the Palestinians are the victims of everybody—of the United States, of the West in general, of colonialism and imperialism and first and foremost of Zionism, which must therefore be brought to an end.
“However, the establishment of Israel was not a calamity and actually could have been used by the Palestinians to have a much better life,” he elaborated to The Media Line. “Israel is ready to cooperate and have Gaza flourish, which was the purpose of the unilateral withdrawal from the enclave [in 2005]. The greenhouses were left to help the Palestinians, but the first thing they did was destroy them.”
While it is true that Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and would be expected to forcefully quash any popular uprising there, so too was the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran a dangerous endeavor that nonetheless brought millions of citizens out onto the streets in protest of the Ayatollahs’ tyranny. Likewise, the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations that swept across the Middle East in 2011—primarily in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria—were wrought with peril, as unarmed civilians sought to overthrow heavy-handed dictators.
By contrast, the Palestinians do not appear to have any collective impulse to mobilize against their rival leaderships, which have indoctrinated their respective publics with a rabid anti-Israelism in order to insulate the political class by attributing blame exclusively to the “occupation.” And whereas Israel is partially responsible for the Palestinians’ predicament, it should be apparent that Hamas’ allocation of funds almost entirely to military purposes—as opposed to building civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and waste management facilities—coupled with the Palestinian Authority’s kleptocratic tendencies and inability to lay the institutional foundations for statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords a quarter of a century ago, has together served to push the Palestinians further away from their ostensible goal of independence.
“The Palestinians need to decide internally whether they are willing to overcome their divisions and problems or be doomed to a chaotic situation,” Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, asserted to The Media Line. “So long as they continue to fan the flames of hatred against Israel and are unprepared to change, they will be unable to create a state.”
A people that is not self-aware enough to appreciate that there is an element of truth to this cannot move forward, as doing so requires coming to terms with the past by also acknowledging self-inflicted historical “catastrophes”—whether they be the PA’s rejection on numerous occasions of comprehensive peace proposals and current refusal to engage in renewed talks; or three devastating Hamas-initiated wars against Israel over the last decade. For the Palestinians to breathe new life into their national project necessitates the collective acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of these decisions and actions. Only then will they be able to assume agency over a transformative process that has as its aim building a prosperous future—side-by-side with Israel, like it or not.