By: Jeff Mendelsohn
May 25, 2022, The Times of Israel
Efforts to undermine Israel took a new, and troubling, turn as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and six anti-Israel colleagues – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, Marie Newman, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush – introduced a resolution to have the United States Congress formally recognize “the Nakba” and to support a Palestinian “right of return” to sovereign Israel. The resolution not only misstates and misleads, but also demonstrates how backward-looking these self-proclaimed “progressives” are when it actually comes to achieving Middle East peace.
“The Nakba” has unfortunately become another weapon in the decades-long war against Israel.
Rather than helping further advance the recent agreements between Israel and Arab states that have served as significant steps on the path toward sustained peace and prosperity in the Middle East, Congresswoman Tlaib and her “Blame Israel Caucus” remain myopically focused on undermining, demonizing and isolating Israel.
The Nakba traditionally refers to the events of 1947-49, about which much has been written and debated, that left some 700,000+ Palestinians displaced from their homes, villages abandoned or destroyed during the war, and a society turned upside down. Meaning “the catastrophe,” it has become the emblem of anti-Zionism that seeks to undo the shocking loss of the Arabs to the Jews in 1948 that led to the survival of the state of Israel.
While efforts to address the history and plight of Palestinian refugees are important, context around how we landed in the current situation is sorely lacking in Rep. Tlaib’s resolution. In reading it, you would never know that the partition plan was the result of years of diplomatic negotiations to resolve the competing claims of Jews and Arabs in Palestine, that the Jews accepted the partition even though they felt cheated whereas the Arabs and their many state backers rejected partition because no Jewish state anywhere in Palestine was acceptable to them.
You would never know that Arabs in Palestine and elsewhere called for the use of violence and strikes to protest the adoption of the partition resolution, or that a brewing civil war was triggered when Arab gunmen ambushed two civilian busses leaving multiple Jewish casualties.
You would never know that, upon Israel’s declaring independence on May 14, with petitions for peace and cooperation of their Arab neighbors, multiple Arab armies attacked Israel on all sides with the stated goal of wiping the new state of Israel out of existence. And you would never know that the Palestinians and Arab states rejected UN Resolution 194, cited affirmatively in the Tlaib resolution, and refused to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel that might have led to a speedy solution to the refugee issue.
The true catastrophe for the Palestinians is the perpetuation of the conflict, something they must look to their own leaders to answer. Bassam Eid, a Palestinian Israeli human rights activist and journalist, wrote recently in an article about the marking of “Nakba Day” on May 15 – established in 1998 by Yasser Arafat to counteract Israel’s 50th anniversary celebrations – that the “Palestinian leadership has weaponized the memory of displacement and transformed it into an ideology of genocide.” The problem with Nakba Day, Eid argues, is that it perpetuates a culture of grievance that fosters further conflict rather than resolution. He understands that “the Nakba” is about the displacement of Palestinians in the 1948 period but that ultimately the “catastrophe” in the Palestinian mind is Israel’s very existence, the success of the Jews in establishing a state in 1948. He says, “The fetishization of Israel’s very existence as a catastrophe is a distortion that wounds our children and leads them to war and suicide bombing.”
The Nakba would not have happened if the Arab leadership had chosen to pursue a path of peace, and its consequences would have been lessened had they not turned Palestinian refugees into fodder for an ongoing war against Israel. After decades of Palestinian terrorism against Jews and Israelis, after launching repeated wars against Israel, after rejecting legitimate peace offers repeatedly, all that Tlaib and her band of anti-Israel warriors can muster is a resolution that demonizes Israel, looking to undo the past rather than build the future.
The Arab decision to oppose partition, to fight any Jewish presence in the region, and to launch a war against the Jews to prevent and later undo the creation of Israel is what led to the devastating consequences for Palestinian Arabs. The call for a right of return – giving the refugees of 1948 and any of their now reportedly 7 million descendants the option to move to and become citizens of Israel – is of course a recipe for the demographic overthrow of the Jewish state. As explained thoroughly and eloquently by Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz in War of Return, no such right exists under international law and the perpetuation of the idea of return only guarantees that the conflict will continue.
While many Arab countries have recently normalized relations with Israel, acknowledging Israel’s right to exist and exploring cultural and economic partnerships that build a true foundation for peace, Rep. Tlaib and her anti-Israel colleagues are trying to take us backward. They are turning a blind eye to the actual positive developments toward peace on the ground in the region. The diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties established between Arab countries and Israel are demonstrating that a real future anchored in peace, security, and mutual prosperity is possible. Instead of building upon these concrete steps toward peace, Cong. Tlaib unsurprisingly chooses yet again to perpetuate the “culture of grievance” and the “myth of return” that serve only to extend the conflict by emboldening Palestinians to continue to refuse any offer of peace or compromise while instead seeking to undo the creation of Israel.