Alex Stein on ‘Nakba Day’

Alex Stein on ‘Nakba Day’

… I understand where the Palestinians were coming from, and I understand the logic behind their strategy. But if I had chosen such a path [of going to war rather than accepting the UN partition plan], I would like to think I would have paused to consider what might happen in the case of failure. Absolute rejectionism leaves no room for error. A morality that is unrealistic quickly becomes immoral. If Nakba commemorations do not acknowledge the role played by Palestinian rejectionism in creating the Arab-Israeli conflict, the mistakes of the past are doomed to be repeated.

We learn from Isaiah Berlin that there can be no neat reconciliation of conflicting values. Israel/Palestine represents a case in point. … The only hope is for an uneasy compromise – a compromise that was embodied in the original UN partition plan.

Today, as Uri Avnery has demonstrated in a major debate with Ilan Pappe, division of the land remains the only feasible solution. To achieve this, there has to be a change in mentality. … Even though I simultaneously understand and disagree with the Palestinian reasons for opposing Jewish statehood, the point is that they failed. On Nakba day, amidst the mourning, this must be acknowledged. You can read Stein’s entire piece online.

By | 2007-06-01T04:10:00-04:00 June 1st, 2007|Blog|8 Comments


  1. Anonymous June 1, 2007 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    You may have missed Mati Steinberg’s critique of the Shlomo Avineri piece that you posted on the Nakba:


  2. Ralph Seliger June 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    My thanks to Zack for this interesting reference. Both Shlomo Avineri and Matti Steinberg make good points.

    Avineri is correct that the Arab world generally lacks a dimension of self-critical discourse, lending itself to scapegoating and constant blame on the Other. The Arab world has indeed failed to acknowledge that it should have accepted the UN partition plan or sought other means of compromise, rather than choosing the course of total war that ended in the Nakba. Curiously, Zack appears to share this uncompromising quality in most of his comments.

    Historian Rashid Khalidi advances a
    similar criticism in “The Iron Cage.” Still, even he can’t bring himself to endorsing the UN partition plan and he regards the Zionist currents that favored binationalism as lacking in serious influence; this, even though the largest such movement was the Yishuv’s second largest party and ran its largest kibbutz federation.

    The one or two writers cited by Steinberg are exceptions to the rule. But indeed, the Zionist peace camp has long accepted the change in the PLO endorsing a two-state solution. And we are very hopeful that the Saudi/Arab League peace initiative represents a breakthrough. If Avineri believes that the entire Arab world must change its basic historical narrative to acknowledge their errors and complicity in this conflict in order to end it, I’d say that he’s being too pessimistic. Such a change in Arab attitudes would help, but I don’t believe it’s essential.

  3. Anonymous June 2, 2007 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    Why should anyone have endorsed the UN partition plan who actually cares about justice for all people?

    As you know the partition granted 55% of historic Palestine to a Jewish state, and 45% for an Arab state, though Jews constituted just 33% of the population and owned 7% of the land at that time. In retrospect, Palestinians would have been wiser to have taken the deal if one looks at their options now, but the partition was not a fair, just or moral proposal.

    Similarly, your sense that Palestinians are again uncompromising when they fail to barter away more or the additional 22% of their homeland is troubling, leaving more than 80% for Israel.

    I have to ask Ralph, why do you seem so supportive of Israeli Jews have greater rights to land than Palestinians? Why do you criticize others as “uncompromising” when they suggest that should not be the case? Because it sure creates the impression that you are not really concerned with equal rights for all people.


  4. Ralph Seliger June 3, 2007 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Barring the bi-national solution that one of Meretz’s antecedent movements supported and the Arabs completely rejected in 1947-’48, partition was the only logical solution. While I understand the Arab complaint about slightly more of the territory going to a resident minority, and I believe this perhaps to have been a political error, this would have accommodated hundreds of thousands of displaced survivors of the Holocaust. At any rate, with no war, the new Jewish state was also obligated to live with its very large Arab minority.

    The tragedy that befell the Arabs was made possible by the Arab assaults on the Jewish state. Zack would probably insist, with quotes by Ben-Gurion, that the Arabs would have been expelled anyway, but I see little likelihood that the small and struggling Jewish population would have forced out so many Arabs without being attacked first. Zack will, of course, ignore the murderous statements of the Mufti and other Arab leaders, substantiated by many of their actions, about the tender mercies they planned for the Jews of Palestine. Zack can’t possibly believe these in the interest of “justice” and “equality.”

  5. Anonymous June 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    Regarding this:

    “Zack would probably insist, with quotes by Ben-Gurion, that the Arabs would have been expelled anyway, but I see little likelihood that the small and struggling Jewish population would have forced out so many Arabs without being attacked first.”

    Would you like to check the date of Deir Yassin, as one example, and compare it with the date of Israel’s declaration of Independence and the attack of the Arab armies?


  6. Anonymous June 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    Regarding inequality and your friend Meron Benvenisti, note this quote from a review of his new book in the JPost:
    “Challenges to the Zionist ethos when it comes to equity and to use of natural resources are intensified by the fact that the Palestinians, who constitute 40 percent of the total population, only control 8% of the water resources and 11% of the land. Also, he points out that Palestinian per capita income is 10% of that of the Israelis. These figures raise serious questions about the viability of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. According to Benvenisti, there are “cracks in the edifice of Zionist mythology.””

    Seems a bit damning to me.


  7. Ralph Seliger June 3, 2007 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Zack thinks he’s trumped me here. The attack and subsequent massacre of innocents at the Arab village of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem, was effected by the dissident Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang) militias on April 9, 1948, prior to Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. But Palestinian-Arab attacks on the Yishuv began within weeks or days of the UN approval of the partition plan in November 1947.

    The murder of captives at Deir Yassin was condemned by the Jewish Agency for Palestine (the Yishuv’s official political leadership) and quickly “avenged” by Palestinian massacres of a convoy of about 80 medical and nursing personnel of Hadassah Hospital and of about 50 surrendering defenders of a kibbutz in the Etzion Bloc. All of these events, and more, were war crimes.

    April was a critical time in the 1948 war when irregular Palestinian forces were defeated in a number of critical battles, which helped lift the siege of 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem and allowed Jewish forces to contend with the coming attacks by outside Arab armies which directly followed Israel’s declaration of independence. These victories/defeats (depending upon which side you were on) were also the beginning of the combination of panicked mass flight and expulsions remembered collectively by the Arab world as the “Nakba.”

  8. Ralph Seliger June 3, 2007 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    I wonder who’s still reading these comments other than Zack and myself. My previous comment was actually a response to Zack’s prior assertion about Deir Yassin. This is a response to his new comment on Meron Benvenisti.

    Benvenisti is referring to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, and not those who are citizens of Israel. Israeli Palestinians do not enjoy equal resources, but are much better off than their kin next door.

    Still, Benvenisti, Zack and I are all in accord on the inequity of water and resources use cited here. Zack doesn’t seem to understand that Meretz is a left-liberal/ social democratic party that is critical of many practices and policies of Israel over the years. These criticisms are raised from within the Zionist fold. Believe it or not, most Israeli critics of Israel’s inequities are Zionists.

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