So-called PA  "refugee camp "
So-called PA "refugee camp "Flash 90

May 15 is marked by Palestinian Arabs and probably a substantial percentage of Israeli Arabs as Nakba Day, the day of catastrophe.

The catastrophe in this telling is the declaration of the State of Israel in the wake of the culmination of the British Mandate. The Nakba was also the supposed “expulsion”[1]of Arabs from their homes and villages, which became a permanent reality after the defeat of the invading Arab armies by the defense forces of the new nation of Israel.

One might ask why should this day be marked? Is it just a recognition of a historical event, or is it more likely a mourning for the existential reality of the State of Israel?

PalestinianArabs are right to be marking the reality of the Nakba, but it is not the one that they are referencing. The continuing Nakba of the Palestinians is their cynical manipulation by Israel’s Arab neighbors as a way to make ever present, ever emotional and ever relevant their enduring hatred of the Jewish State.

Palestinian Arab refugees are the historical exception to the global fact that all refugees from prior conflicts have been resettled. One can examine the great national conflicts of the 20th century and note that all the many displacements have resulted in resettlements, except for the Palestinians.

They have been made the sacrificial offerings of the desire of Israel’s neighbors’ implacable hatred to keep the fires of animosity stoked and red hot.

What a waste of human potential! What a loss to the host countries who could have benefited from the talents of these refugees in building up their own societies.
What a waste of human potential! What a loss to the host countries who could have benefited from the talents of these refugees in building up their own societies.

The contrast of the Palestinians still stewing in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and the story of the Jews expelled from Arab countries is both diametric and revealing.

The Jews from Arab countries, including the longest standing exilic Jewish community in the world – in Iraq – stands as a testimony to the mission of Israel to be the refuge and haven for any and all Jews everywhere.

This resettlement was not easy, to say the least. The challenges were both logistical and societal. There were resentments that sadly continue to this day. However, the task was accomplished and Israel is immeasurably improved and strengthened by the great Mizrachi Migration.

Not so in the Arab world. The famous hospitality of Arabs to visitors was completely abandoned when it came time to be hospitable, welcoming and brotherly to the arriving Palestinian Arabs.

However much they have been intermediated by UNRWA, Palestinian refugee camps are a great indictment and blot against the Arab world for its callous use of individuals to be political cannon fodder.

It is indeed ironic that Arabs within Israel would see today as a catastrophe as well. Arabs in Israel need only survey the state of things in the nations that surround them to see how well they have done, how much they have benefited for being Israelis.

Is their situation ideal? Hardly. There is room for improvement, and assuming Arabs’ collegial interest in being part of the ongoing saga of Israel, there is a growing desire among Jews to integrate them into the warp and woof of Israeli society.

As it is, Arabs enjoy full civil and religious rights. They have extensive access to the best education and the most respected careers. They enjoy untrammeled access to Jewish towns and cities without offering reciprocal accessibility to Jews in their own villages.

If being an Arab in Israel is a catastrophe, one is hard pressed to imagine what a success would look like.

The sad reality is that quality of life – a good one in the case of Israeli Arabs and a poor one in the case of Palestinian Arabs – does not trump ideological considerations. Those Israeli Arabs who ignore the blessings of their Israeli citizenship while actively hoping for its demise define ingratitude.

The Palestinian Arabs who refuse to demand better conditions in their host countries are willing participants in a futile endeavor.

The common thread linking all of the various Nakba sensibilities is the simple refusal to accept that there is and will continue to be a State of Israel. This refusal makes it nigh unto impossible to have any sympathy for the self-inflicted wound of the continuing Nakba.

At the end of the day, people have the wherewithal to embrace reality and to move on with their lives. Woe to those who willingly refuse to do so.

Douglas Altabef is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected].

[1] Many Arabs left the battle zones as they were promised by enemy forces that they would get the Jews' homes once the war ended. Others were expelled from their homes due to the fighitng.