Mitchell Bard on Nakba
Myth: Israel unjustly responded with violence to the Palestinian protests of Nakba day.
On May 15, 2011, Palestinians across the Middle East commemorated the 63rd anniversary of "al-Nakba," marking the "the catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. Violent protests sprang up across Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as along Israel's borders with Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Many commentators were quick to suggest that the demonstrations were a Palestinian extension of the "Arab Spring." Fox News, for example, declared there was "little doubt" the protests "were inspired by the extraordinary Arab Spring" while UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, said he was "shocked" by Israel's use of "disproportionate, deadly force" in response to people tearing down parts of Israel's border fence and illegally storming into the country. 552
Israel is accustomed to condemnations from those who believe the country has no right to defend its citizens or borders. In this instance, the IDF was confronted with a violent mob that invaded its sovereign territory. These were not peaceful protestors seeking democratic rights like those in Egypt and elsewhere, they were provocateurs sent to instigate violence and to distract attention from the brutal repression of the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah encouraged Lebanese Palestinians by telling them, "you will liberate your lands ... the fate of [Israel] is demise and no borders will protect it." 553
Bypassing UNIFIL and UNDOF, the international peacekeeping forces stationed specifically to contain violence on Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria respectively, the invaders dismantled Israeli fences, illegally infiltrated Israeli territory and attacked IDF soldiers.554 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel "is determined to protect its borders and sovereignty" and should not be held to a higher standard of action than other countries.555 In a formal letter of complaint to the UN, Israeli ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben said the IDF operated with "maximum restraint in confronting the significant threat and ... the explosive potential" for violence.556 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly made clear that "Israel's right to defend itself is not negotiable" and in reaction to the violent protests State Department spokesman Mark Toner reiterated the United States' stance that "Israel has the right to defend its borders." 557
Palestinians are understandably bitter about their history over these last six decades, but, had the Palestinians and the Arab states accepted the partition resolution in 1947, the State of Palestine would be celebrating its 63rd birthday along with Israel. We are often told that what the Palestinians object to today is the "occupation" of the territories Israel captured in 1967. If that is true, then why isn't their Nakba Day celebrated each June on the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War? The reason is that the Palestinians consider the creation of Israel the original sin, and their focus on that event is indicative of a refusal, even today, to reconcile themselves with the Jewish State. This was reflected in the statement by Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who assured protestors that this year will mark the "end of the Zionist project in Palestine." 558
While Fatah and Hamas have many disagreements, they both agree on the Nakba, so it should come as no surprise that Israeli's would find it difficult to be optimistic about the prospect of negotiating a two-state solution with a united Fatah-Hamas government that believes their country has no right to exist.
552 Reuters, "UN Condemns Israeli Fire at Lebanon Border Protest", Jerusalem Post, (May 16, 2011).
553 Ariel Zirulnick, "Nakba Protests Bring Arab Spring to Israel's Doorstep", The Christian Science Monitor, (May 16, 2011).
554 Lenny Ben David, "One If By Land, and Two If By Sea", I*Consult, (May 16, 2011).
555 "Prime Minister's Response to Events in North", IMRA, (May 15, 2011).
556 "Letters of Complaint Regarding Demonstrations on Israel's Borders", Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (May 16, 2011).
557 Jennifer Rubin, "Foggy Bottom's Hazy Rhetoric on Israeli Border Incursions", Washington Post, (May 17, 2011).
558 Associated Press, "Hamas Leader on Nakba Day: The Zionist Project Must End", HaAretz, (May 15, 2011).