The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event on May 15 commemorated a day that Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe.” The day prior marked the 65th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
SJP advertised the event as “Palestinian Nakba: Holy Land Holocaust” and falsely referred to the Nakba as “ethnic cleansing” throughout the event. An SJP representative stated the group did not intend to disrespect the Holocaust and that the events are separate, both deserving attention. However, this comparison to the catastrophe of the systematic slaughter of 11 million human beings, including 6 million Jews, is offensive and insensitive.
Guest speakers painted a distorted picture of Israelis as abusive, power-hungry oppressors and Palestinians as their peaceful victims. This portrayal is not grounded in historical fact.
Contrary to the assertion that Israelis are complicit in an “ethnic cleansing” of the Arab minority, Israeli Arabs today are full citizens with equal rights and are represented in the political arena, sit on the Supreme Court, attend Israeli universities and voluntarily serve in the military.
Moreover, Israelis did not “rob” anyone of their land, as guest speaker Orly Noy, a USF Hebrew professor, asserted. In 1947, the United Nations attempted to resolve the prolonged land conflict, voting in favor ofdividing the land, which is approximately the size of the state of New Jersey, into a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. The Jewish Agency for Israel was willing to accept this compromise, though 60 percent of the land apportioned to them was arid land in the Negev Desert. The Palestinians declined, and Israel declaredofficial statehood in 1948. Refusing to accept or recognize the existence of a Jewish state the five neighboring Arab nations of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon invaded.
Following the war, many Palestinians left based on fear or refusal to live under the new state. Israel’s Arab adversaries promised the Palestinians that they could return upon the destruction of the Jewish people and the newfound state. This plan went awry when Israel succeeded in defending its statehood.
Speaker Hammad Suleyman, who gave his personal account of the Nakba, confirmed Palestinians were “cheated by some other Arab leaders” who said they would be able to return, but he didn’t elaborate further.Palestinians were given the opportunity to have a homeland of their own and would have one had they not declined the United Nations Partition Plan and resorted to violence, infringing upon the terms of the U.N. Charter.
“We are peaceful people,” Suleyman said. “We still have no guns. We don’t have the technology of fighting. We have technology of peace.”
The reality is that Israel has been plagued by violence and threats to its existence from Palestinian militants since its statehood. The Israeli Defense Force reports that from 2001 to 2012, more than 12,800 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from Gaza.Israel has the right to defend its people and should not be condemned for doing so.
Those who came to the event intending to learn more should not stop with merely one account or one perspective. Keep learning, listen to different perspectives and take it upon yourself to analyze the facts and history behind this conflict before arriving at any conclusions.Danielle Haberer is a junior majoring in mass communications.