On May 14, the annual day for commemorating the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians with the establishment of the state of Israel, Ha'aretz announced the proposal of a new law in Israel banning all commemorations of the Nakba. The law was proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu, the political party of Israel's Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. The proposed legislation threatens three years imprisonment for anyone who commemorates the Nakba. (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085588.html)
Yisrael Beiteinu's party spokesman is quoted as saying that the law intends "to strengthen unity in the state of Israel." That statement, and this proposed law, should set off anti-fascism alarms. In the name of "unity," here is a proposal to criminalize acts of memory, collective identity, and cultural and political expression. In the name of Israel's majority group, this proposal seeks to criminalize memory and memory-makers, effectively criminalizing the group-identity of Israel's largest minority population. The very existence of a culture relies on its memory, which comprises the stories a culture tells about itself. This law would threaten the existence of Palestinians as a remembering, culture-producing, history-bearing people, and would prevent the possibility of Israel becoming a truly pluralistic society where every group's history can be told. And by forbidding the remembering of the Nakba, the law aims to erase the 1948 dispossession of Palestinians - including the
destruction of more than 400 villages, multiple massacres and the creation of more than 700,00 refugees, and the confiscation of thousands of acres of land - even as this same political party's platform threatens another form of dispossession, that is, removing citizenship from Palestinian citizens (http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2009/02/growing-trend-toward-fascism.html).
Reports of the proposed law say it will punish anyone who commemorates the Nakba, not just Palestinians. In this way, the proposed law signals other recent developments in Israel, whereby Israeli Jews are being targeted in campaigns aiming to silence their protest, similar to ways in which Palestinians - both inside of Israel and in the occupied Territories - are also targeted for silencing. (For more on this targeting and the recent persecution of the Israeli Jewish group New Profile, see here: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2009/05/rela-mazali-israels-war-against-youth.html).
The threat to imprison anyone who commemorates the Nakba is also a reminder that everyone engaged with the state of Israel has an obligation to know and remember the Nakba. A good source for information and commemoration is the Israeli organization "Zochrot," which offers extensive education on the Nakba, both on their website (http://www.zochrot.org/index.php?lang=english) and in actual tours of Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948. Zochrot's "links" page also offers many different sources of information, maps, and testimonies on the Nakba (http://www.zochrot.org/index.php?id=379). Norma Musih of Zochrot writes, "Awareness and recognition of the Nakba by Jewish-Israeli people, and taking responsibility for this tragedy, are essential to ending the struggle and starting a process of reconciliation between the people of Palestine-Israel." (http://www.zochrot.org/index.php?id=642) As an American Jew, I think it's just as important for Americans, and for Jews, to recognize the tragedy
of the Nakba, so that we, too, can understand what Palestinians have suffered and what is at stake for them in this conflict.
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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