Monday, June 1, 2009
The 'Nakba' of the 'Nakba' celebrations
It won’t surprise many of you to hear that there aren’t very many things about which I don’t have an opinion. Usually a strong one.
But one controversial issue has been hotly debated around here, and try as I might, I can’t come up with a strong position on either side.
At issue are the annual ‘Nakba’ celebrations held by Israeli Arabs on May 15, the day after Israeli Independence Day. In Arabic, ‘nakba’ means ‘catastrophe’. So as Jews and their friends the world over celebrate the birth of the Jewish State, Arabs observe the day of Israel’s creation as a ‘catastrophe’.
What do the Arabs do? They hold public events to mourn the creation of the State of Israel, like the one above, taken in Ramallah, home of arch terrorist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Yasser Arafat. They fly black flags, they hold rallies, they march, protest and in general carry on in ways designed to let you – and most especially television audiences the world over - know how miserable they are.
Which is offensive, no question about that. It’s especially stupid because for 100% of them, if they are so miserable here, can move a few miles in any direction and live in the country they came from, with the family members who still live there. If Israeli Arabs are so miserable here, there’s no reason at all for them to stay.
But of course the truth is – as many if not most of them acknowledge in private – they live far better under Israeli government than they would in any Arab state. They have not only a higher standard of living, access to better work, education and health care, but they also enjoy far more democratic freedoms under the Israel they hate than they would in the repressive Arab countries from whence they came.
Still. Observing the ‘nakba’ is something they do – part of the plan to destroy Israel, which, as noted, makes no sense at all. (But then lots of things over here make no sense….)
So this year, MK Alex Miller of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home) party introduced legislation to make public events mourning the creation of the State of Israel illegal. Individuals would be able to mourn privately, if they wished, but protests, marches and other public events would be outlawed, with three years in prison as the punishment, should they violate the law.
Miller makes good sense, I have to admit that. Those who mourn Israel's creation should not do so while benefiting from the state's existence, he says. If they need to mourn, they can go elsewhere and do it. “Whoever wants to support the enemy and mourn the creation of the state of Israel is invited to do so with our neighbors in Gaza.”
Now that strikes me as a very good idea, indeed. Let them go there to mourn, and then just stay. Sounds good to me.
Miller makes another excellent point: Increasingly, the protests are becoming violent and are used as an excuse to attack Jews and Jewish institutions. “Over the past several years we're also witness to annual violent events and riots in the framework of 'Nakba day protests,” he says, and of course we all know who pays for the damage, the police protection and all other costs involved in such anti-State activity.
Miller’s bill was debated in the Knesset and was ultimately defeated, although the fight may not be over forever.
The most effective opposition came from three Likud members, one of whom -- Benny Begin -- is clearly one of the best MK’s in the current Knesset, known for sound values and strong common sense. The three – the other two are Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor, for you Israeli Knesset-watchers -- argue that the proposal "is not compatible with the freedom of speech which is accepted in Israel as a democratic Jewish state."
Well, see? I agree with that, too. Certainly life would be better if there were no more public ‘nakba’ celebrations. Certainly the cash-strapped government of Israel could find better things to spend its money on than guarding Arabs from us and from each other, and from destroying property. But I’m not convinced that it’s worth curtailing these idiot’s right to demonstrate and carry on.
The problem of restricting freedom of speech – and yes, for you strict constructionists out there, I too believe that “speech” and “action” are two entirely different things and ought to be treated as such. Still, the problem of restricting the Arab’s freedom to publically display their incredible hypocrisy most probably means that next time, when my own fellow travelers – the right wingers – want to demonstrate or protest, we, too, might end up being arrested and tried. (Which already happens, by the way. But let’s just pretend that Lady Justice is blindfolded here, too, just as she used to be in the US)
So for me, this debate falls into the same category as did the debate over flag burning in the US. Remember?
Back in 2006, when an Amendment to the US Constitution to criminalize flag burning was simmering brightly, there was a lot of similar talk.
What do you do? Criminalize the destruction of US flags as a means of protest? Or is that an unwarranted abridgement of freedom of speech?
I guess I ultimately came down on the side of the wag who made a much simpler suggestion: Why not just mandate that all US flags be made of non-flammable fabric?
But in the flag-burning controversy as in this, the ‘nakba’ debate, I don’t really have an opinion, or not a strong one, anyway.
I see both sides.
What do you think?