The Age – May 14, 2010
Palestinians are the only people on Earth that use, as their national day, someone else’s independence day. Tomorrow is Nakba Day. “Nakba” means catastrophe in Arabic, and the “catastrophe” they commemorate is the establishment of Israel.
But if the Palestinians are ever going to have a successful state, it will only come after they stop focusing on what they think other people have done to them, and start focusing on what they can do for themselves.
History provides precedent: The Irish and Jewish peoples see themselves, historically, as victims. Both peoples’ histories are littered with defeats and tragedies. But in the 19th century they turned a corner. Both decided they would no longer be victims; they would be the makers of their own destiny. You can see this change in their songs, books and actions. And despite seemingly insurmountable odds, both achieved a state within decades.
Which brings us back to Palestinians. When was the last time you heard Palestinian leaders acknowledge responsibility for any of their failures?
Instead, all we hear is what the Jews have supposedly done to them. This, after all, is what Nakba Day is all about. On Nakba Day, Palestinians don’t mention that they’ve never had a state, and that in 1948 Israel did not replace “Palestine”; or that Israel was the area called Palestine’s first local independent state (that is, non-colony) since 63BC.
They don’t tell you that Palestinians, with the help of surrounding Arab states, launched a genocidal war to prevent Israel’s establishment; that they lost; that Palestinians were offered a state in 1947 but turned it down; or that in the last 100 years they’ve turned down four other offers of statehood.
Instead, they only talk about the actions of others, thus perpetuating their sense of victimhood.
There is one Palestinian, however, who is breaking the mould. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is building Palestinian infrastructure, fighting Palestinian corruption and laying the foundations for a viable Palestinian state. Fayyad is the first Palestinian leader to take such actions.
Unfortunately, he’s a voice crying in the wilderness. A poll in March this year revealed only 2.2 per cent of Palestinians would vote for Fayyad and his party in parliamentary elections.
On Nakba Day, we will again see Palestinian leaders and their supporters decrying all the horrid things they blame Israel for. We won’t see enough of them cultivating Palestinian pride. And that is the Palestinians’ true catastrophe, because until they are more focused on building up Palestine than tearing down Israel, a viable Palestinian state is impossible.
Bren Carlill is an analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.