JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Heightened security contributed to a relatively calm Nakba Day on Tuesday, as Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli Arabs in Israel commemorated what they call the Nakba or catastrophe of Israel’s founding.
Low key protests and parades were the order of the day, with minor clashes with security personnel that resulted in some 50 injuries to Palestinians at a checkpost near Hebron and a prison for security offenders near Ramallah. One soldier and three border policemen were also lightly injured.
Near an IDF checkpoint in Qalandia, about 150 Palestinians hurled rocks at security personnel, who responded by firing tear gas canisters. Some 350 demonstrators at Bitunya and another 200 at Rachel’s Tomb also threw rocks at troops. No injuries or damage were reported.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at a Nakba Day assembly in Ramallah, declared, “We will remain in this land. We will remain like oak trees. We will remain like our olive trees.” He applauded Palestinian leaders “who led us from Nakba to revolution to statehood,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Abbas added that “Jerusalem is the key in the gate to peace. Any attempt by the occupation to mess with the Holy City means igniting tension and wars in the region and the world… We insist on each particle and each stone in Jerusalem.”
Despite calls for a general strike in Israeli Arab towns and villages, only a few businesses shut down for the day, with most businesses and schools open as usual. In Arab areas in the North and in the Negev, the observance was hardly felt at all.
On Monday, right-wing protesters traded insults with Tel Aviv University students who held a Nakba Day memorial service near the campus, as dozens of police officers looked on.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said that if the Palestinian leadership in 1948 had not rejected UN Resolution 181 creating a Jewish and Arab state, the Palestinians would be celebrating independence instead of “Nakba.”
Rather than demonstrating against Israel, the Palestinians should be directing their anger on Nakba Day at the extremist Palestinian leadership that 64 years ago rejected any accommodation, Regev said Tuesday.
Regev said the demonstrators should ask themselves why they are not celebrating 64 years since the establishment of a Palestinian state, just as Israel celebrated its Independence Day two weeks ago.
“The answer is clear,” he said. “The Palestinian leadership in 1947 and 1948 adopted an extremist and maximalist position. Unlike the Jewish leadership, they rejected partition and refused to accept a Jewish state even in truncated borders.”
The object of Palestinian anger should not be Israel, he said, but rather the Palestinian leadership at the time which “said all or nothing, and in so doing betrayed the Palestinian people.”
“I would ask those demonstrators why the current Palestinian leadership still has a problem recognizing the legitimacy of the Jewish state,” he said. “I would ask them if they are not repeating the same mistakes of the extremist leadership from ’47 and ’48.”