Sixty Years of the Palestinian “Catastrophe”

As the state of Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, Palestinians remember the Nakbeh,  or “catastrophe” – their story of dispossession, occupation, and statelessness. But, for both sides, as well as external powers, the events of 1948 and what has followed – the occupation since 1967 of the remaining lands of historic Palestine – represents a tragic failure.

Israel is most at fault for this failure, owing to its continued military occupation and illegal settlements. Despite giving lip service to peace, the Israeli army’s refusal to leave the occupied territories continues to be in direct contravention to what the preamble to United Nations Security Council resolution 242 termed the “inadmissible taking of land by force.”

But the international community, Palestinians, and Arabs all bear responsibility as well, albeit at different levels. Indeed, the list of disappointments pre-dates Israeli statehood and the Nakbeh itself: the King-Crane Commission of 1919, the 1937 Peel Report, the British White Paper of 1939, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry of 1945, and the UN Partition Plan of 1947. Since then, we have had UN resolutions 194, 242, and 338, the Rogers Plan, the Mitchell Plan, the Tenet Plan, Camp David, Taba, the Saudi plan, the “road map,” the Geneva Initiative, the People’s Choice, and the Arab Peace Initiative.

To be sure, Palestinians and Arabs are also to blame for their inability to empathize, recognize, and understand the plight of the Jewish people. Although Palestinians had nothing to do with European anti-Semitism and the Nazi Holocaust, they should not have turned a blind eye to the Jews’ tragedy. Palestinians were so locked in their opposition to Zionism that they were unable to appreciate the Jews’ existential needs, just as they failed to appreciate the effects of indiscriminate acts of violence against Israeli civilians.