Why calamities persist, 66 years after the Palestinian ‘Nakba’
Further Arab calamities followed Nakba because no practical solutions were developed to confront the military, economic and political corruption of 1948
I was planning to discuss how it is best for people not to elevate themselves and judge those with different opinions. Around the May 15 anniversary of the Nakba – the 1948 ‘catastrophe’ in which the creation of Israel displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – how can I possibly discuss anything else?
When a writer addresses the anniversary of an event – especially one that occurred 66 years ago – they do not really add anything news-wise, unless he exposes a new piece of information.
This new piece of information doesn't necessarily have to be dangerous or extremely important but what matters is that it wasn’t known before.
Unfortunately, this is not within my capabilities. However this won’t prevent me from digging into the archives in order to rediscover what’s become known. Who knows, maybe I’ll confirm that Palestine’s Nakba is the product of an Arab reality which the West made use of for the purpose of having an ally it can trust in a strategic area. The West made use of this reality by cunningly planning and scheming with political and military figures committed to the Zionist project. It did not just do that to achieve the “Jews’ dream of a national home”, but to also pave the way towards achieving the Israelis’ aspirations beyond the land of Palestine – which became known as the “State of Israel” on the evening of May 14, 1948.
Arab calamities followed Palestine’s Nakba because no practical solutions were developed to confront the military, economic and political corruption of 1948Bakir Oweida
Digging into the past does not only refresh the memory. It may also introduce a new interesting angle for researchers, even if it surprises them or stirs some sort of mockery. For example, some say that before Arthur Balfour’s famous promise on November 2, 1917, there were attempts to establish the state of Israel in parts of Uganda or Argentina. It recently emerged that a Russian Jew even suggested the establishment of a Jewish state in al-Ahsa in Saudi Arabia.
Such attempts are surprising because they were mere exaggerations. They also spark the ridicule of any serious researcher because they place the idea of Israel outside its major context which is the Zionist movement. The latter is what developed a clear aim as documented in the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in August 1897 – 20 years before Balfour’s promise.
The Basel conference clearly said that the aim was to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine and that the means to do so is to activate Jewish migration. A quote attributed to the conference’s founder Theodor Herzl summarizes it perfectly: In brief, Herzl reportedly said that the Jewish State was established at his conference.
This means that any Jewish search to launch the Zionist scheme outside Palestine contradicts the plan. If this did happen, then its only aim was to gain time. For what do Buenos Aires and Jerusalem have in common? How does the legend of the mighty Samson fit with Uganda’s history or geography? Briefly speaking, Palestine is not a land like any other. It’s a major historical part of people’s relation with religion. A religious justification was required to establish a state for the Jews, and Palestine was the only country that fit the requirement.
Despite that, and even 66 years later, it’s being revealed that there were possibilities of establishing Israel in countries other than Palestine. But are such discoveries useful? I don’t think so. I think it’s more useful for Arabs, and mainly Palestinians, to try and understand why the Palestinian Nakba produced Arab and Muslim calamities and why calamities continue to happen.
When reading excerpts on the 1948 War, one is surprised how Arab forces collapsed while confronting groups adopting guerrilla tactics – groups like the Haganah, Irgun, Lehi (Stern Gang) and the Palmach. However, you’d be surprised how the Jordanian army succeeded at keeping the West Bank and Jerusalem and how the Egyptian army imposed its presence on the Gaza Strip and merged it into the United Arab Republic. Then take a look at what happened 20 years later. You’d see the calamities resulting for the Six-Day War of June 1967. That war brought calamities that made Arab countries’ situation worse than it was two decades before. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were under the sovereignty of two Arab states, so wasn’t it possible to declare a Palestinian state with its capital as Jerusalem? Yes. It was possible to do so but there was no will. Perhaps some would also say that international will wouldn’t have allowed this to happen just like it wouldn’t currently allow establishing an independent Palestinian state. However, I think all this aims to justify a dereliction that nothing could ever justify.
What also spark ridicule are the statements of some Israelis that Jordan is the Palestinian state. These statements are either made out of blind intolerance or intended ignorance. There is no need to respond. It’s enough that veteran Israeli politicians who seriously tried to market the idea of the “alternative homeland” realized the futility of their attempts following their 1967 victory and quit exploiting this idea when settling accounts linked to the Palestinian cause.
Further Arab calamities followed Palestine’s Nakba because no practical or scientific solutions were developed to confront the military, economic and political corruption of the 1948 reality. It is due to this failure that Islamic extremism grew as an ideology, and was later translated on the ground. It began with Takfir wal Hijra carrying out assassinations. Among other groups and operations, there were al-Jamaa al-Islamiya massacres in Algeria. Extremism continued until the present day, as al-Qaeda and its branches carried out terror attacks in Nairobi (1998), Washington and New York (2001), Indonesia (2002), Madrid (2004) and London (2007). There is Syria, Libya and Iraq. And we finally have Boko Haram’s crimes in Nigeria. Where to from here? I’ll leave that answer to you.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 15, 2014.
Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com