The Nakba is alive for both Jews and Arabs


Let’s set aside for a moment the discourse about human rights and the debate about natural rights, because no salvation will come from them. Moreover, they will never lead to a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, they pour oil on the flames and encourage people to continue wallowing in the mud. In the never-ending fire, the growing occupation with the issue of the Nakba (“catastrophe,” the Palestinians’ term for what happened to them when Israel was founded in 1948 ) proves more than anything that it is a living event, among both the Arabs and the Jews. This country’s emotion-laden past is a dangerous swamp. Those who choose to go back to the past to remain there find themselves up to the neck in the mud of bygone years.

It must be stated openly: All the disasters connected with this country are shared by the Jews and the Arabs. They are shared because they make all of us lose sleep over them and have an influence on the way of life of all the people, regardless of religion, race or sex.

It is worthwhile to understand the root of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. Because the disaster of this land, or, to be more exact, of those who inhabit it, Jews as well as Arabs, stems from the wide abyss between the two opposing concepts of the charged term “homeland.”

The Jewish Zionist conceives of the entire land as his homeland in which he can move from place to place, settle down and live. On the other hand, the Palestinian thinks of the specific village, the specific tree and well that no longer exist. In other words, the Jewish Zionist is not attached to a certain private plot of land while the Arab is too attached to a certain restricted piece of land.

To illustrate the difference between these two conceptions of homeland, let’s look at Hebrew and Arabic poetry. The poet Aharon Shabtai, for example, expresses his familiarity with the homeland in every grain of sand from Dan to until Eilat: “In every grain, from Dan until Eilat, the homeland stretches/ and I cannot be found in any place except in the homeland/ If someone asks me: ‘Where are you?’ I shall reply: ‘In the homeland’/ and let’s assume he takes a sledgehammer and hits me on the head/ and some Tom, Dick or Harry comes and asks:/ ‘Where is that stupid man you killed?’/ the response will necessarily be: ‘Even now he is in his homeland’/ because Aharon, because Aharon, because Aharon is only in the homeland.” (From “Artzenu [Our Land] – Poems, 1987-2002.” ) Contrary to this broad concept, there exists the Palestinians’ limited concept. The most outstanding expression of it is given by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet: “I am from there and I have memories/ I have a mother/ And a house with lots of windows/ I learned all the words and I pulled them apart to put together one word/ it is homeland.” However Darwish’s “homeland” is not a political homeland, it is not Gaza or Ramallah – as he said once, “Neither Dan nor Eilat,” but a very small and limited place: “I love to go/ to a village that did not hang my last night on its cypresses.” Darwish’s homeland is merely a small village in Galilee: “I shall throw a great number of roses before I arrive at one rose in Galilee.” This is how the national poet reveals the substance of the homeland in Palestinian consciousness.

When he returned to Ranallah in the wake of the Oslo Accords, Darwish declared in a May 1996 interview with The New York Times that he wants to ask for Israeli citizenship. And he added: “I shall accept any document that will give me the right to be there.” That is how the Palestinian “national” poet sums up his yearning and the substance of the homeland. The two opposing concepts of the term “homeland” are the root of the tragedy. On the one hand, the Jewish Zionist concept, which is a broad approach that spreads over the face of the land, an explosion which is growing and is expansive. On the other hand, the Arab Palestinian way of thinking, which is restricted and introverted, and which collapses backward into a black hole.

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