NY Times spotlights Palestinian 'naqba,' ignores Jewish 'naqba' in Arab lands
Each year, Palestinians commemorate with raucous protests their "Naqba" -- a presumed "catastrophe" due to the founding of Israel. One people celebrates its anniversary, the other hangs on to its sense of victimhood.
In its May 15 edition, the New York Times, takes due note of the Palestinian "Naqba," which occurred this year just as Palestinian prisoners ended a nearly-month-long hunger strike that sought more favorable treatment while in Israeli detention. Here's how Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner puts it:
"The two sides had seemed intent on reaching a deal before Tuesday, when the Palestinians commemorate the "naqba," or catastrophe, on the anniversary of Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. The war that followed the declaration led to the flight or expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and the day is traditionally observed with protest marches." ("Palestinians In Jails End Hunger Strike - Agreement to Improve Israeli Prisons Is Signed" page A4.)
There are two gross historical distortions in this single paragraph.
For starters, Kershner fails to point out that "the war that followed" was a coordinated war of aggression by half a dozen Arab armies with the stated intent of wiping the nascent Jewish state off the map. Israeli leaders had pledged in their declaration of independence that Arab residents would receive equal political and civil rights. But the Arab world instead went to war. Had it complied with the UN decision to divide British mandatory Palestine into two states -- one Jewish and the other Arab -- there never need have been a Palestinian "naqba." Somehow, Kershner is not interested in actual history; instead she takes pains to disguise Arab responsibility for the "naqba."
Furthermore, Kershner's rewrite of actual history fails to take note that there were two "naqbas" in 1948 -- not just a Palestinian one.
Starting with the 1947 UN partition plan and then Israel's birth in May, 1948, about 850,000 Jews who had roots in Arab lands dating back a couple of thousand years were summarily persecuted, deprived of all legal rights, stripped of their property and forced to flee from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and other parts of the Arab world. Their synagogues were torched and many were lynched by bloodthirsty Arab neighbors. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands was greater than the number of Palestinian refugees.
A fair reading of history demands that equal attention be paid to this Jewish "naqba." But fairness is in short supply in the New York Times. There's also no indication in Kershner's piece about the different outcomes of these two "naqbas." The Arab world kept displaced Arab residents from Israel as refugees to use them as pawns in their pursuit of Israel's demise to this very day. In contrast, most of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who managed to flee from Arab lands ended up in Israel where they were integrated into the state's economic, political and social life. Such integration remains out of the question on the Arab side of the ledger.
But all this real history is censored by the Times' uncritical acceptance of an invented Palestinian narrative designed to block any realistic chance of a peace agreement. Kershner's article is a double affront to actual history. And in a most fundamental way, it disserves Palestinians by keeping them locked in a phony, mythical history that thwarts their national aspirations.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers