Unlike boring old Yom Haatzmaut, when all you can do is sing, dance, barbecue, hike and generally have fun with family and friends, Naqba Day provides all sorts of exciting possibilities to mark the historic occasion.
Firstly, you can celebrate by protesting against Israel’s very creation. After all, that is what caused the Naqba in the first place, isn’t it? And we wouldn’t want the poor Palestinians to be celebrating all by their lonesome selves, so what else would a nice Jewish Israeli student studying in Tel Aviv Universitydo but protest celebrate alongside them.
Tel Aviv University’s decision to allow a Nakba Day ceremony on Monday on the campus is “erroneous and outrageous,” Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Sunday.
The Nakba Ceremony slated to take place on Monday is the first of its kind at the university. It was organized by student members of the Jewish–Arab Hadash Party. It will include, for example, a moment of silence and the reading of an alternative version of the Yizkor memorial prayer, ending with the words, “Remember the people of Israel, remember the people of Palestine, remember all people.” Nakba Day, or “Catastrophe Day,” is commemorated by some Arabs on May 15, the day after Israel declared its independence in 1948 according to the Gregorian calendar. Israel celebrates Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar.
Despite the protests and requests from across the board, including from the Tel Aviv University Students’ Union I am happy to say, the protest still took place. However it ended up being a whole lot noisier than the organizers might have hoped for, whenclashes broke out between 200 “right-wing” protestors and 400 “leftist” celebrants.
Protestors from the right waved Israeli flags and signs that read: “When I came to Israel there was no Palestinian nation,” and “I’m proud to be Israeli,” they also sang Israeli songs. They also prevented the ceremony’s organizers from speaking and booed them repeatedly.
During the ceremony the leftist activists read out what they said was “an alternative Yizkor prayer.” Six Arab students presented their personal stories and those present stood for a moment of silence.
In addition the right wing protestors shouted: “Death to terrorists,” and “terrorists out.” One of them burnt a cardboard drawing of a Palestinian flag. Another shouted out: “Murderers, where were you when a little girl was killed.” The left wing protestors responded with: “You’re the murderers.”
Our next international event is not nearly as exciting. In fact it is a little humdrum for which I apologize. You see, the EU has slammed Israeli settlements and decried Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Yes, I know. Ho hum. Plus ça change and all that.
“The EU expresses deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” the bloc’s 27 ministers said in a statement issued during talks in Brussels.
“The viability of a two-state solution must be maintained,” the three-page European Union statement added.
Reiterating that settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law, the ministers notably condemned “the marked acceleration” of settlement building since the end of a 2010 moratorium and expressed “deep concern” over settler extremism and incitement in the West Bank.
But Israel’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying the EU position included “a long list of claims and criticism which are based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground.”
“Such a public presentation does not contribute to advancing the (peace) process,” it said.
“Israel is committed to the wellbeing of the Palestinian population and acts according to all relevant international conventions.”
In contrast, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed the EU statement as “politically responsible.”
But the Palestinians wanted to see the EU propose a way forward in stalled peace talks, which have been on hold since late September 2010, she said. “What is lacking, unfortunately, is a mechanism to move ahead… We were hoping that they would take an initiative, a mechanism, concrete steps.”
This final paragraph above leads us smoothly into the third momentous way to mark Naqba day. Hanan Ashrawi demands that the EU provide a way to initiate peace talks, but how can the EU do what the Palestinians themselves do not wish to do?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to resume negotiations without preconditions, prolonging the long-standing impasse in the peace process.
The cool reception bodes poorly for hopes of the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Netanyahu, who fortified his ruling coalition last week by bringing in the main opposition party.
Netanyahu’s proposal, as well as Israel’s demands for security arrangements that would need to be agreed upon as part of any final peace deal, were presented in an official letter delivered to Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday by the prime minister’s special envoy for peace talks, attorney Yitzhak Molcho.
Netanyahu’s letter was in response to one he received last month from Abbas, in which the Palestinian leader stated his grievances over the collapse of peace talks in 2010 and laid out his parameters for renewing negotiations.
After receiving Netanyahu’s letter, Abbas briefed members of the Executive Committee of the PLO and the Fatah leadership. The Palestinians rejected Netanyahu’s proposal and criticized the contents of his letter, arguing that it did not present any new stances and did not address several of the main long-standing Palestinian demands for the resumption of talks.
In his letter, Abbas had demanded a halt to Israeli settlement construction on land Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, which Palestinians seek for their future state. He also demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners and a resumption of negotiations based on 1967 lines.
Additionally, PLO officials confirmed what Israeli sources have been saying in recent weeks — that Netanyahu would not back down from his stance that negotiations should resume without preconditions, and that any and all issues over which there are disputes between the parties should be discussed during negotiations.
Abbas is expected to consult with Arab leaders in the coming days to draft a formal response to Israel.
With short-sighted reactions like that, and with the support of one-sided institutions like the EU, it looks like the Palestinians will be celebrating marking Naqba Day for many years to come.