(By Alan Dershowitz)
I just returned from a visit from several university campuses during which I spoke about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. On these and other campuses anti-Israel students commemorate the Palestinian Nakba. They call this the Day of Catastrophe on which the Palestinians were deprived of their homeland and were made refugees from their birthplace. They compare their catastrophe to the Holocaust. Perhaps out of deference to the suffering of the Palestinian people, Pro-Israel students generally say nothing in response to these Nakba commemorations. The impression is thus created that everyone agrees that this was indeed a catastrophe inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians. The time has come to reply to this canard and to place it in its historical context.
The Nakba was indeed a catastrophe, but it was a self-inflicted wound. The Palestinian Nakba was a direct result of the refusal of the Palestinian and Arab leadership to accept the two state solution offered by the United Nations in 1947-48. The UN divided what remained of Palestine, after Trans-Jordan was carved out of it, into two states of roughly equal size (The Israelis got slightly more actual land, but the Palestinians got considerably more arable land). Israel would control territories in which Jews were a majority, while the Palestinians would control territories in which Arabs were a majority. Israel accepted the partition and declared statehood. Palestinians rejected statehood and attacked Israel with the help of all the surrounding Arab countries. In the process of defending their new state, Israel lost 1% of its population (1 out of every 100 Israelis were killed.) In the ensuing war- a war declared to be genocidal by Israel’s enemies- 700,000 Palestinians left their homes, some voluntarily, some at the urging of Palestinian leaders and some forced out by the Israeli military. None of these people would have had to leave Israel had the Palestinians and other Arabs been willing to accept the two state solution. It was indeed a catastrophe for all sides, but the catastrophe was caused by the Palestinians and Arabs.
In the aftermath of the war, Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. There were no United Nations condemnations of these occupations though they were brutal and denied the Palestinians autonomy and sovereignty. Only when Israel occupied these lands, following a defensive war against Egypt and Jordan, did the occupation become a source of international concern.
This is the reality. This is the historical truth. And the world should understand that this particular catastrophe, as distinguished from others like the Holocaust, could easily have been prevented had the Palestinians wanted their own state more than they wanted to see the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
The Germans don’t celebrate the catastrophe resulting from their invasion of Poland. Japanese do not celebrate their catastrophe resulting from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Why do Palestinians celebrate their catastrophe resulting from the Arab attack against Israel?