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May 16, 2003

Speaking of alternate realities

Nice piece via Incontext
Today, May 15th, is the day the palestinians observe as "Catastrophe Day," the catastrophe (Al Naqba) being, of course, the declaration of the State of Israel. Every year, the historical accounts that accompany this commemeration get more and more bizarre. Here are some excerpts from one of this year's versions.

For 55 years, Palestinians at home and in exile have been marking the anniversary of Al-Nakba, meaning catastrophe, on May 15 when thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes by Zionist paramilitaries.

On that land and on that day, the State of Israel proclaimed itself a state, and with it over 400 Palestinian villages were wiped off the map and nearly one million Palestinians were rendered homeless.

You know, the funny thing is, May 15th isn't the day that Israel declared its Independence. That was on May 14th, although it didn't take effect until midnight (when the British Mandate expired). Small point. May 15th, however, is the day that four Arab armies invaded Israel in an attempt to remove it from the map permanently. But what's truly amazing is the instantaneous physical effect that this declaration of statehood allegedly had. In that instant, 400 villages disappeared and one million (!) people became homeless. It's quite a story. Hardly a believable one, of course. But perhaps they're indulging in just a bit of poetic license here.

For decades, Israel’s ruthless perpetrations of bloodshed, disposition of Palestinians, confiscation of land, illegal settlement and destruction of homes remain unabated.

Even during the peak of peacetime between Palestinians and Israelis, the Jewish state continued to pepper the occupied territory with illegal Israeli settlements to make it virtually impossible for a contiguous future Palestinian state to be created.

Not so long ago, on this day, Palestinian parents and grandparents were forced to flee the ruthless Zionist paramilitary militias to the nearby Arab states of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria to name a few.

Okay. Keep in mind, we're talking about the "catastrophe" of May 15, 1948, here, not the "catastrophe" of June, 1967. Or are we? It's hard to tell. Frankly, I don't think they quite know the difference. Because here's what comes next.

Some have returned when the Palestine National Authority—under the Oslo Peace Accords—took over control of some areas in 1993.

"Returned" to what? To the land they were supposedly chased off of by Zionist paramilitaries on May 15, 1948? Not exactly. The only land to which palestinians "returned" under Oslo was land lost by Jordan and Egypt to Israel in the Six-Day-War.

Am I picking nits here? Well, I think not, and this is why. It's exactly this sort of compression and confusion of history that makes up so much of the basis for the various "claims" that are being made by the palestinians against Israel today. Read further, and you'll hear again about the mythical keys to homes, "now inhabited by Israelis," that no longer exist. And then we return to this.

Most Palestinians remain living in exile in crammed, poverty-stricken refugee camps, which lack the most basic of humanitarian services. For those, the right of returning to the homes they were forced to leave behind is as scared [sic] as the ancestral land itself.

This description is, of course, true for most palestinian refugees of the Six-Day-War. Not so, however, for the 1948 refugees, with the possible exception of those in Lebanon. It's a distinction with a difference, but the blurring of the lines is intentional -- intended to blur the line betwen their aspirations for Ramallah and Bethlehem and their aspirations for Tel Aviv and Haifa. That's why it's important to keep an eye on this particular ball.