JUDITH LAITMAN and TSELA BARR, Wisconsin State Journal, May 16, 2008
This month, Jews around the world are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.
These celebrations reflect the understandable joy of Jews who view Israel as the symbol of 60 years of freedom from centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, we are Jews who will not be celebrating. While Israel provided a safe haven for many Jews, the terrible fact is that more than 700,000 Palestinians were made into refugees to make room for the future state of Israel. Sixty years later, that number has swelled to an estimated 7 million.
Many live in 58 registered refugee camps dispersed throughout the Middle East, and some 4 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories continue to endure reprehensible collective punishment to this day.
That is why the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or the Catastrophe to Palestinians.
Any peaceful future depends on recognizing both the Palestinian and the Israeli narrative. And yet, just as the names of more than 400 pre-1948 Palestinian towns and cities have been deliberately erased from maps, the history of the Palestinian Nakba itself has been all but erased from consciousness.
Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-Semitism and Hitler’s genocide.
Today, because much of the world has forgotten, we remember that: In April, 1948, the same month as the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin, Plan Dalet was put into operation. It authorized the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state.
On May 22, 1948, Jewish soldiers from the Alexandroni Brigade entered the house of Tantura residents killing between 110-230 Palestinian men.
In July 1948, 70,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in Lydda and Ramleh in the heat of the summer with no food or water. Hundreds died. It was known as the Death March.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person “has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
Israel has never accepted this basic human right as a basis for peace negotiations, whether by return, compensation, or resettlement.