Today is the 15 May, one day after the Gregorian calendar date for Israel’s Independence Day. Today, Palestinians and anti-Israel activists will commemorate the ‘Nakba’, or Catastrophe.
Why the 15th May? Let me take a brief journey through history to find out if there are more suitable dates that should have been chosen. For example, just 11 days after the handshake between Arafat and Rabin in September 1993, Yigal Vaknin was murdered by a Hamas terrorist. Imagine, if during the Oslo peace process, violence had not exploded on the Israeli streets. For this reason perhaps September 21st would provide a good alternative date to commemorate.
Alternative dates for commemorating catastrophe
30th October? In 1991, Israelis and the Palestinians took their first steps towards direct negotiations. Over Israeli objections, the PLO dispatched an unofficial “advisory delegation,” and the peace process doomed itself by placing terrorists in the driving seat. Surely this is a date to regret?
September 1st? 1967 and The Khartoum Resolution. A resolution containing the “Three No’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it. As we approach 50 years since the Six Day War, perhaps this type of intransigence and belligerence is best symbolic of the enduring catastrophe.
Maybe we can look further back, into the period following the end of the initial Arab / Israeli war? April 3rd 1949. On this day Jordan and Israel signed the armistice agreement. As the Egyptian agreement had already been signed in February, all of Gaza and the West Bank were now officially in Arab hands. The State of Palestine could have come into existence at this very point in history. It didn’t of course. Surely a crucial part of the catastrophe?
November 30th? Partition 1947. We can pick this date, not because of the partition itself, but because the Arabs rejected it. Or it can be used to shine a light on the violence that followed the adoption of Resolution 181. In response to the offer of partition, an Arab gang from Jaffa ambushed two buses killing seven Jews. The initial shots of a civil war they chose to fight. A war that was to devastate parts of Arab Palestinian society.
Yet another spurned opportunity. As the Jews declared independence, the Arabs cast their lot with the local Arab nations in the mistaken belief they would be rid of Jews completely. The result was catastrophe. But why do the Palestinians choose to commemorate May 15? The narrative of ‘Nakba’ did not begin on May 15th, nor was there any special event that occurred on on May 15th. The reason they chose May 15th is because the focus is on Israel. Not on the Palestinians, nor on the bad choices they have made, nor even on the catastrophic events of 1948, but on Israel, on the Jews. They commemorate May 15 because for them the disaster was on May 14, the creation of the state of Israel. The disaster is what the Jews built.
And still it goes on. How many mistakes. How many bad choices. Event after event, year after year. Choosing to focus on fighting Israel. Over a century of mistakes and still they seem unable to stop fighting and to start focusing on building something positive for themselves. Still choosing to drown in a swamp of hate. This is the true catastrophe. For this reason, despite stiff opposition, May 15th is still the most symbolic date of all.