Palestinians Must Change Their Attitude Towards Israeli Independence

Yesterday marked not only the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s independence, but also that of Palestine’s, or at least it should have. May 15th, 1948 is a date that resonates strongly in all Israelis’ minds in the same way that July 4th, 1776 carries great weight in the eyes of all Americans. To Palestinians across the world, however, the day marks a grave “catastrophe” – al-Nakba – that drives deep into the core of Palestinian identity.

Unfortunately, commemorating May 15th as a tragic date for Palestinians only helps to epitomize their society-wide narrative of victimization, making it further impossible to find common ground with their Israeli counterparts. The real tragedy – dare I say nakba – is the wasted opportunity for long-term peace and prosperity that the Arabs passed on sixty-three years ago. For the sake of peace, Palestinians would do well to acknowledge this day for what it actually was: “The Day of Lost Opportunity.”

Partisans on both sides of the debate can continue to disagree on whether the 1947 United Nations’ Partition Plan was fair to the Arabs and Israelis, however the fact remains that Israelis made May 15th their independence day while the Palestinians disregarded the same opportunity. If Palestinians had been able to accept the United Nations’ outline for stability in the immediate region, as their Israeli counterparts had, imagine how different modern Middle Eastern history would look.

Jews have always lived in the lands currently occupied by Arabs. They often worked as merchants, traders, craftsmen, and councilors to Arab Muslim leaders for centuries. However, in 1948, the Arabs could not stand to have Jews operate with authority along their borders. They decided it would be best to smash the newborn Jewish state as well as stamp-out the idea of Jewish independence, or Zionism, forever. Consequently, following Israel’s declaration of independence, several Arab countries attacked, including Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and what was known then as Trans-Jordan. Their war of aggression failed, and Israel survived its first challenge to sovereignty. Had the Arab countries' war efforts been successful, I imagine, Palestinians would celebrate May 15th in a very different fashion.

Yet yesterday, instead of overindulging on hilal kofte burgers and shooting off fireworks in their backyards, many Palestinians took to the streets of Cairo in anger and besieged the Israeli embassy. Instead of allowing for the existence of a Jewish state and creating their own to parallel it, they have embraced a cultural sentiment of defeat, helplessness, and antagonism toward Israel. Hopefully, Palestinians will commemorate the next May 15th not as the “Day of Catastrophe,” but as the “Day of Lost Opportunity.” Only then will they be able to move on, establishing their own country as a responsible member of the fraternity of sovereign states.

Photo Credit: Daniel Bender