Israel Independence Day is celebrated on the 5th of Iyyar, according to the Hebrew calendar – three weeks after Pessach. In between, lie the two memorial days – Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for the fallen of Israel’s wars). Just as there is a direct line between the Exodus from Egypt, (which we celebrate at Pessach and which marks our physical freedom from the burden of slavery) and the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (which we celebrate 7 weeks later at Shavuot and which marks our spiritual freedom and our evolution, from a disorganised rabble into a nation, with a common way of life and a binding Law), so there is a direct line between the emergence of the scattered remnants of our people from the ashes of the Nazi Holocaust (which we commemorate on Yom Hashoah) and our rebirth as an independent nation, (which we celebrate on Independence Day – Yom Ha’Azmaut). The rebirth of the Jewish state came at a high cost, which, apparently, has not yet been defrayed in full, as our sons and daughters continue to pay with their lives, not only on the battlefield, but also as victims of the many “Palestinian” terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
The word “shoah” is usually translated into English as “Holocaust”. The original meaning of the Biblical word, according to the Even Shoshan dictionary (Israel’s equivalent, more or less, of the Oxford English Dictionary) is “destruction” (horban – חורבן – the same word we use for the Destruction of the Temple and the subsequent loss of the Jewish Homeland), or “annihilation” (kilyon – כליון – a word with connotations of something being completely wiped out). The catastrophe which was visited upon the Jews in the lands occupied by the Nazis was so overwhelming, no other word was deemed sufficient to fully comprehend the magnitude of the event.
What the Nazis planned for the Jewish People was nothing less than genocide – another word which, like “holocaust” is much bandied around today in a way which greatly cheapens it. We are told that what the Jewish State has done to the “original Palestinian population of Palestine” is as bad as (some even dare to say worse than) what the Nazis did to the Jews. And to counter the Jewish narrative of the Shoah, the “Palestinians” and their allies (many of whom support them out of pure, old-fashioned antisemitism) have come up with the narrative of the “Naqba”. The Arabic word, naqba, literally means “catastrophe” – and, indeed, what happened to the Arab refugees who fled their homes in what later became the State of Israel was, for them as individuals, catastrophic. But this catastrophe was, by and large, brought on them by their own leaders who ordered them to leave and promised them that when “the Zionists” had been destroyed, they would be able not only to return to their homes, but also to take possession of the homes of “the Zionist enemy”. If the Arabs had not rejected the UN partition plan, for two states – one Jewish, one Arab – the “Palestinian refugee problem” would never have come into being. Yet the Naqba fiction* has now taken such a firm hold, not only in the Arab imagination but in the dogma of the New Left (including, I regret to say, the Israeli New Left and even a few Israeli “reconstructionist” historians) as to make any hope for peace between Jews and “Palestinians” in the foreseeable future (I use inverted commas, because the existence of a separate Palestinian Arab People is part of the myth) about as likely as the hope of discovering a live unicorn.
The propagators of the Naqba myth claim that the suffering of the “Palestinians” at the hands of the Zionists is equal to, if not greater than, that of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, attributing to “the Zionists” the same crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing which the Jews themselves suffered at the hands of Hitler and his cohorts, and – with a moralising tone which is breath-taking in its impudent mendacity – arguing that, after what we Jews have suffered, we should show more compassion!
The attempt to compare the Naqba with the Shoah is so vile a lie as to be a complete obscenity. Furthermore, any comparison of the Shoah with other acts of genocide is an attempt to water down the enormity of the Shoah. Certainly, other peoples have been the victims of mass murder. The Rwandan genocide immediately comes to mind, as does the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians. But in no other case has one nation deliberately and cold-bloodedly devised a pre-meditated plan for the total annihilation of another, putting all its resources at the service of those responsible for the execution of that plan. And the Shoah was not the first time such a crime has been planned against the Jewish people. Pharaoh planned to completely wipe out the Children of Israel by throwing all male children born to the Israelites into the Nile and giving their female children in marriage (or concubinage) to Egyptian men. This is commemorated at Pessach. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews throughout the Persian Empire, old and young, men, women and children. This, too, we commemorate – at Purim. Yet there was no such Zionist plan to eradicate the “Palestinians” or even to force them to leave. Nor is the status of Israeli Arab citizens in any way comparable to that of Jews in the Third Reich (or, indeed, to that of blacks under the former apartheid regime in South Africa – another despicable calumny levelled at the Jewish State by her enemies and even by some who falsely claim to be her friends). Could Jews in Hitler’s Germany serve in parliament, as judges, as university lecturers? Could blacks in South Africa under the apartheid regime attend the same universities, eat in the same restaurants, even sit on the same park benches as whites? Yet Arabs in Israel enjoy all these rights and more. The attempt to portray the Zionist dream as being, in some sort, the successor to Hitler’s dream of a pure Aryan Europe, is, as I said earlier, so preposterous as to be obscene. And so is the comparison of the “naqba” – a much lesser “disaster” and one which, moreover, the “Palestinians” (or, at least, their leaders) could have avoided and which they brought on themselves – with the horrors of the Shoah.
Naqba does NOT equal Shoah. Anyone who claims it does, is either abysmally ignorant – or a bare-faced liar.
* See an excellent analysis of the development and strength of the Naqba Obsession by Sol Stern in the City Journal.