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‘Remember al Nakba,’ too
Janet Lahr Lewis is Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle East at the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and she is Peace with Justice Program Associate at the General Board of Church & Society.
The creation of the state of Israel celebrated as "Independence Day" is celebrated in May. This is also the day that is remembered among Palestinians as al Nakba, the Catastrophe, when they lost Palestine.
This is an important time to remember, especially now that Israel has taken legal steps to wipe this event from the minds of its citizens and the world. Just as the Jews have made the world "Remember the Holocaust," we need to "Remember al Nakba."
I was working at Sabeel Theology Center in Jerusalem in 1998, the year of Jubilee for Israel: 50 years since its creation. The Year of Jubilee in Judaism is the year where everything is set right; a time for the release of the captives, justice for the oppressed, reconciliation among neighbors, and so on.
1998 was only a few years after the Oslo Accords, signed by the government of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, when we still had hopes that things would be set right. In contradiction to that sense of hope, we watched new checkpoints go up, new settlements begin construction, and the new Israeli-only bypass road system being built.
It became very clear that peace with justice was not on the horizon any time soon.
Worse than imagined
In the Jubilee year Sabeel hosted an international conference focusing on the 50 years since al Nakba. I don't think any of us expected that the situation would get worse than we could have ever imagined.
The importance of remembering those historic moments becomes even more critical.
Now, 67 years since al Nakba, and 48 years since the occupation began in the West Bank and Gaza, at a time when Israel and the Zionist movement around the world — even among members of our own churches — would like us to forget that part of history, the importance of remembering those historic moments becomes even more critical.
Israel has even gone so far as to destroy archaeological artifacts in an effort to wipe out evidence of non-Jewish cultures, except Roman, throughout history in the region.
I have seen it happen with my own eyes. I have challenged archaeologists on this. Ironically, there apparently is no written set of standards similar to those in engineering, for example, by which archaeologists can be held accountable.
Reclaiming the narrative, changing the politics, insisting on equal rights for Palestinians both in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza have become even more important, and now falls on the shoulders of the international community.
The "Israelis of conscience," who believe in equal rights for all people with whom we were working, are leaving Israel, fed up with their own extremist government. In Israel there is now a Right and an Extreme Right, because the Left has left. This new extremist Israeli government will create a new Exodus.
Let's not allow history to be changed or perverted by the elimination of events or the misuse of terminology.
There are always two sides to any coin.
Don't participate in Holocaust Remembrance Day without participating in Al Nakba Remembrance Day. Don't visit a Holocaust museum until there is one built to remember the other holocausts in the world: the on-going Palestinian holocaust, the Rwandan, the Native American, the Cambodian, the Armenian ... You could be waiting a long time!
The love of one does not automatically mean enmity towards the other.
God placed us on this earth to have life and have it abundantly — all of us.