Yom HaAtzmaut . . . Or Yawm an-Nakba?


2018-04-19 – Today was Yom HaAtzmaut—Israeli Independence Day (on the Hebrew calendar—May 14 on the English calendar). It marks the 70th anniversary of the formal founding of the State of Israel. The day after is commemorated by Palestinian’s as Yawm an-Nakba—Day of the Catastrophe.

Yom HaAtzmaut . . . Or Yawm an-Nakba?

Partisans on both sides say that it’s one or the other. To Israeli, it is a day of jubilation. To Palestinians it is a day of mourning. I say that it is both.

And so I am proposing that we commemorate both.

This may sound odd, but it really isn’t. For thousands of years, we Jews have paused our Passover celebration of the ancient exodus from Egypt to spill out wine in recognition of the suffering borne by the Egyptians. We need a similar recognition today.

What is missing in the recurring wars (both of words and of weapons) that plague the Israeli and Palestinian peoples is a recognition of the suffering of ordinary people. It is not just one side that suffers, but both. The leaders of both sides press their intransigent claims, but it is the ordinary people who bear the price.

Steve, you say, why should we recognized the suffering of our enemy when our enemy doesn’t recognize the suffering of our people?

The question could go both ways. The leaders of all sides are culpable. And please know that I am no longer open to claims that my side is only 20% culpable and the other side is 80% culpable. And don’t say this is false equivalence. There is never equivalence. Once side is always more to blame, except for one thing: Both sides have been 100% failures when it comes to ending the war between them. And it’s gone on for 70 years. It’s time to try a new approach. The old one isn’t working.

And yes, this goes for both sides. Anyone who commemorates only the Nakba without recognizing the suffering of the Jewish people is a collaborator—with the folks who celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut without acknowledging the pain of the Palestinians. Enemies always collaborate with each other in the prolongation of war.

Is this a magic bullet? Is this the way the Israel and Palestine will become havens for peace? No. But without some compassion on both sides, war will be permanent. And it will be the ordinary people on both sides who will suffer.

* * *

UPDATE, 2018-04-20 – A sad story is told in the New York Times today by Roger Cohen in his article “The Insanity at the Gaza Fence.”

It has come to this: The enemies of Zionism are now the Zionist leaders. The enemies of Palestinian statehood are now the Palestinian leadership.  They are partners in prolonging the suffering of their peoples.

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