Yesterday marked Nakba day which was commemorated in and out of Israel. The Nakba, which means, "the day of the catastrophe"- marks the catastrophe: the creation of the State of Israel and the accompanied displacement of Palestinians from their homes. Crucial to this displacement is the question of "how were the Palestinians displaced"- historical evidence supports any which way you want to argue as historians themselves still bicker over how many were forcibly displaced by Jewish soldiers, and how many willingly left. (or to complicate it: how many were ethnically cleansed, how many were killed, how many left in order to aid the Arab armies against the Jews, how many were urged by Arab leaders to help Arab armies clear land, how many were nervous because of the war, and how many left because it seemed cool at the time.... you get the point.)
For days leading up to Nakba day, Israel had been anticipating something would happen: especially in light of a grassroots movement, aka a facebook group, which urged Palestinians to begin the third Intifada on Nakba day this year. So what happened in Israel? Violent protests at border crossings, molotov cocktails thrown at Mount Scopus, a suspected terrorist attack in Tel Aviv (That left one dead and 19 injured) and most significant of all, Palestinians crossing into Israel from Syria and Lebanon, where Israel defended its soveirgnty and borders by firing into the crowds. A lot happened yesterday. My friends who live on Mount Scopus told me that the Saturday night and all of Sunday was noisy with small bombs, gunshots, helicopters, and fireworks. They said some east Jerusalem streets were filled with garbage cans and car tires on fire. So, yes a lot happened, but a lot also didn't happen. What is clear the day after is that yesterday did not mark the beginning of the third intifada, despite the violence, protests and illegal entry into Israel.
Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz yesterday that Israeli Jews should begin to commemorate the Nakba. He argues that celebrating the heroic side of Israeli history isnt enough- we also have to understand the other narrative, the dark side. This dark side includes the displacement of Palestinians from their homes- regardless if there is justification or not. Yet the Nakba isn't simply about displacement, it's about legitimacy of land and state. It gets to the core of the legitimacy of the State of Israel as a Jewish entity. Palestinians are not just marking their displacement, they are mourning Israel's creation. Nakba protesters like to bring their old keys to demonstrations, the keys of their old homes in their villages that no longer exist. Those homes have long ago been drowned by history. There is a lake there now, and we cannot live underwater unless we drain the lake itself.
Yet, I don't think that Levy is too far off. Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are stuck in their own world. Jewish Israelis celebrate Indepedance day. Palestinians commemorate Nakba day. In reality, they are both the same day. In reality we don't have two different days, or two different stories, but two very intertwined people and stories. And in some way Zionism too is tainted, in less we can understand the pain and the history of the other alongside our own.
Therefore there needs to be a sort of give and take. Israelis need to understand the history of their land, both good and bad. We can never come to understand their fight, unless we understand our shared history. Of course, the other end is that Palestinians need to come to understand there is another people that live here, and that we also have legitimacy. We also have a difficult past, and sought to return to our homeland, through legitimate means and world support. They cannot return to their homes, for they will ruin ours. But together we can build new homes in a new state alongside our state.
Photograph: East Jerusalem on Nakba day. Photo By Ellie Dayan.