Jaramana UNRWA camp in Syria
The word “nakba” was coined in 1948 by Constantin Zureiq in his pamphlet “The Meaning of Nakba,” but he didn’t describe it the way it is used today. His description of the events of 1948 were centered around the mistakes of the Arabs rather than the actions of the Jews.
He wrote, “When the battle broke out, our public diplomacy began to speak of our imaginary victories, to put the Arab public to sleep and talk of the ability to overcome and win easily – until the Nakba happened…We must admit our mistakes…and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.”
Other quotes from the pamphlet include, “Seven Arab countries declare war on Zionism in Palestine….Seven countries go to war to abolish the partition and to defeat Zionism, and quickly leave the battle after losing much of the land of Palestine – and even the part that was given to the Arabs in the Partition Plan.”
“When the battle broke out,” Zureiq wrote, “our public diplomacy began to speak of our imaginary victories, to put the Arab public to sleep and talk of the ability to overcome and win easily – until the nakba happened.”
“Zionism is deeply implanted in Western life, while we are far from it…They live in the present and look to the future, while we are drugged-up dreaming of a magnificent past,” he continued.
Crucially, Zureiq emphasized, “We must admit our mistakes…and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.”
Zureiq, who taught in Lebanon, here isn’t talking about Palestinian responsibility but of broader Arab responsibility. Yet his lesson has been ignored for 72 years while the term remained, in a twisted form, to refer to Palestinian victimhood at the hands of the criminal Zionists.
It is ironic that Zureiq was correct – and his analysis of Arab responsibility for the Palestinians being stateless remains true not only for history but for today.
Even if one would accept the Arab lies of how Israel is evil incarnate and committed the most horrific massacres in 1948 and physically expelled the Arabs, there is a very basic question that no one asks: why are the Palestinians still in misery today, in Syria and Jordan and Lebanon? Why are they stateless today in the entire Arab world outside the ones who lived in the West Bank in 1949 and have since moved to Jordan?
The responsibility for Palestinian suffering for 72 years is entirely from their fellow Arabs, usually with the excuse that it was necessary to keep the Palestinian issue alive.
The Arab League decision in the 1950s to disallow Palestinians to gain citizenship in member countries remains one of the most vicious attacks on Palestinian rights in history – but it was ostensibly to keep Palestinian unity and nurture Palestinian nationalism, which was practially nonexistent at the time.
But that was only one of literally scores of examples of how Palestinians have been mistreated by the Arab world and by their own leaders. The expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from Jordan in 1970. The expulsion of hundreds of thousands from Kuwait. The apartheid against them in Lebanon. The bombing of Palestinian camps in Syria. Palestinian leaders today maintaining two classes of citizens – keeping “refugee camps” open and treating their residents as second class citizens who are kept there forever, or until Israel is destroyed.
This is the real nakba. But the word itself has been twisted for political ends to be an attack on Israel rather than its original meaning of how Arabs have failed Palestinians, and continue to do so today.
“Nakba Day” was only created in 1998 by Yasir Arafat, who picked the first day of Israeli independence as its date. Though he created this day during the Oslo process that was supposed to bring a state, but his message is that Nakba Day must always be associated with delegitimizing Israel. It was yet another brilliant PR move that ultimately hurts the Palestinians who, for reasons of honor and shame, are taught an Orwellian history where the hatred exhibited by Arabs towards them is erased and replaced with a fiction of 72 years of suffering solely at the hands of Israel.
It is way past time for Palestinian leaders and the Arab world to take responsibility for their role in Palestinians not having a state and rotting in “refugee camps” today. Only the truth can bring effective change. But the truth is exactly what the Arab world is avoiding with the Nakba story.