The weather, the fauna and the family-oriented parks welcomed Israel's 64th Independence Day on Thursday with a big smile. To borrow a term from childhood – it was fun. The country's Jewish population displayed tolerance and understanding toward the Arab sector's reluctance to take part in the general, spontaneous festivities. If and when, one of these days, we achieve a true peace, perhaps both peoples will be able to come together and celebrate independence from any foreign rulers – the expulsion of the Turks, followed by the British. But the Jewish and Palestinian peoples are still a long way from this happy day.
That is why Jewish Israel understands the reservations of some of Israel's Arabs in the face of the symbols of Israel's independence. Those portions of the population are expected to respect, but not to participate in, the celebration. Just as Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran did, when he stood up for the singing of the national anthem out of respect, but did not take part in the actual singing. His passivity was received with understanding.
But the Arab leadership in Israel is not satisfied with abstention. It seeks to protest actively against the freedom of the Jewish people. This is how Israel's Independence Day turns into a string of Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day displays, as though the establishment of the State of Israel was a catastrophe. Yes, a catastrophe did occur: Israel's Arabs aggressively, and even violently, rejected the U.N.'s partition plan, and the very next day five Jews were murdered. The war that ensued, which began as a rash of unofficial battles between makeshift armies, developed into a murderous onslaught targeting the Jewish population. Luckily, the Jewish minority was strong enough to ward off the attacks.
The Israeli Arabs who don't want to hold the customary barbecues on Independence Day would do best to take advantage of the day to ask themselves: What happened back then? How is it that Jews again offered their hand in peace, and were rejected? Even on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa front, where a cease-fire had been effectively achieved, the national Arab leadership forced local Arab residents to violate the truce and fire at the first Hebrew city. But when the onslaught failed, they reverted to lamenting their bitter fate. They brought this “Nakba” on themselves, and the Arab street's failure to comprehend that is what very well may be the only thing standing in the way of peace. I recommend that they read Professor Benny Morris' book on the topic.
It is a fact that they plotted to kill all the Jews, but it is also true that thousands of Israeli Arabs suffered greatly. Most of them chose to become refugees, and then instead of becoming furious with their brothers who refused to absorb them in Syria and Lebanon and in Gaza (not to be confused with Jordan), they became angry with the Jews for daring to defend themselves.
We can and should show sympathy for their bitter memories. But if they must mark them on a designated day – why not Land Day? Doing it on the fifth of Iyar (the Hebrew calendar date of Israel's declaration of independence), the day we celebrate our freedom, is not fair. They have plenty of other dates they can observe: the expiration of the British mandate in Palestine on May 15, the partition plan decision on Nov. 29, or even the Islamic date of Israel's declaration of independence.
Marking Nakba Day specifically during Israel's independence celebrations indicates a desire to stir up trouble.