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Independence and Nakba

article by Avraham Burg

Tel Aviv university students mark the Nakba

Tel Aviv university students mark the Nakba Daniel Bar-On

On the Eve of Israeli Independence Day, which for the Palestinians marks the bitter anniversary of the expulsion of many of them from the lands which they inhabited before 1948, we publish this article by the former Knesset president and Speaker Avraham Burg, who urges people to seize the occasion of this celebration to deal with both the memories of the Israelis and the ones of the Israeli Palestinians, one along the other
Burg opens his statements by reminding us that

Israel’s Independence Day is also Nakba Day. This is inescapable. The reality of Israeliness can’t help but incorporate not only the Jewish story but the Palestinian story as well (Nakba, or “the catastrophe,” is the Palestinians’ term for what happened to them when the state was founded in 1948).
Space limitations prevent a full consideration here of the complex interrelations between Independence and Nakba. But the pivotal question today is not, “Who’s to blame?” or “Who started it?” or “Who didn’t do enough?” The pivotal question is a thoroughly practical one: Can the Nakba and Independence coexist in the same space?

If the answer of the Jewish-Israeli public
- he goes on reasoning - 
is that the two are mutually exclusive, it follows that we should revoke the clauses in Israel’s Declaration of Independence that mandate equality for all: “The State of Israel … will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants … will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions …"

On the contrary,
If the answer to the question is that the two cannot coexist, Israel becomes the state of all its Jews, with all that this implies. Jewish, yes, but a lot less democratic; much more ethnic, far less civic.

But he remains open to the possibility that
perhaps, despite everything, a positive answer is possible – one that allows for a joint, mutually respectful existence, which esteems and accommodates both narratives, the one happy, the other sorrowful, side by side.

And to overcome the attitude based on which "my trauma or nothing", he explains:
I don’t believe that the wheels of history can be turned back. Yesterday’s wrong cannot be amended by creating a new wrong today. But where amends can be made, why not? Ever since Israel’s inception, the condition of the Palestinian refugees has been utilized as one of the state’s most powerful arguments for its case.

“Look at the difference,” Israeli propagandists have maintained. “Whereas we took in our millions of refugees from the Arab countries, housed and rehabilitated them for the greater glory of the State of Israel, they – the Arabs – never lifted a finger in aid of their refugees. To this day they dwell in wretched camps, eternal clients of UNRWA, incessantly multiplying, downtrodden and neglected.”

The writer is a former MK, speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Jewish Agency.The writer is a former MK, speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Jewish Agency. To read the full story and learn more about the stories of small Israeli and Palestinian villages, read the article in the box. 

5 May 2014

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Remember the past in order to build a future

The International Committee of the Armenian Righteous. Memory is the Future was founded by Piero Kuciukian in order to commemorate those who went against the genocide of 1915. The title emphasises the function of the memory, which is not a nostalgic look back in history, but a a clear sense of the past to build a future without making old mistakes.
The memory has many solutions and presents conflicting results, either positive or negative depending on how it is treated. Reflections on the previous events help us to understand the present, which means to search for the coordinates that allow us to interpret new situations with awareness of the dangers or opportunities that are triggered by certain mechanisms such as cultural, social and individual. The experience of the genocides of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of totalitarianism, resulted in the devastating world war, the balance of power during the Cold War, provide very precise indications on the geopolitical hegemony and humanitarian frifts to be avoided, while the example of the Righteous, their varied efforts on behalf of the persecuted, the demand for freedom, independence of thought and the instance of the defense of human dignity, are to be taken to avoid the pitfalls of arrogance, denial of truth, the rejection of diversity, closing the other, unilateral decision.

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