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Old City of Jerusalem.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editorial: Independent Jewish Voices, the Palestinian Nakba ( Catastrophe) and the refusal to accept the 1947 Partition Plan

by Rhonda Spivak , May 20, 2019

On May 18, 2019  Independent Jewish Voices, CanPalNet, and a number of other groups sponsored the viewing of the documentary 1948: Creation and Catastrophe which was screened at the Winnipeg Cinematheque.  The viewing  marked the "Nakba"  or  "Catastrophe" which Palestinians say occurred during the 1948 war when Israel was created.  Palestinians refer to  the displacement that occurred around the time of Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948 as the "Nakba." The problem with the Palestinian "Nakba" narrative is that it doesn't take into account that the Palestinians  initiated the 1948 war  because they refused to accept the 1947 U.N. Partition plan, which was to have brought about both a Jewish and Arab state. 
David Ben-Gurion and the Yishuv leadership, albeit they were not altogether enamoured with the partition plan, accepted it, but the Palestinians under the  leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem , Haj Amin Al Huseini opposed the plan, as did the surrounding Arab states. It was a historical mistake for the Palestinians to have refused to have accepted the 1947 partition plan, which would have meant sharing the land. The result of rejecting partition is that the Palestinians do not have the state that they could have had as early as 1947.
One can understand how on a personal level  many Palestinians suffered greatly from the 1948 war. However,  the "Nakba" was the result of  Palestinian and Arab leadership rejecting the  UN resolution calling for the establishment of both a Jewish state and a [ Palestinian] Arab state. As Irwin Cotler has written, "“The Jewish leadership accepted the resolution, but the Palestinian and Arab leadership did not, which they had a right to do. What they did not have a right to do was attack the nascent Jewish state with the objective – as they acknowledged at the time – of initiating a ‘war of extermination.’" (Of course, we can only wonder what would have happened to the Jews in 1948 had they lost the war ? The Jews certainly believed that they would have been collectively slaughtered.)
Historian Benny Morris has written more recently the 1948 war was "a jihad -an Islamic holy war"as well as a territorial and political war.  Morris has said  that "What I discovered in the documentation relating to the war, at least from the Arab side, was the war had a religious character, that the central element in the war was an imperative to launch jihad. There were other imperatives of course, political and others—but the most important from the enemy's perspective was the element of the infidels who had the nerve to take control over sacred Muslim lands and the need to uproot them from there."
It should be noted that the Palestinian Arabs similarly made an historic mistake in rejecting the Peel Commission plan in 1938 which was more generous to the Palestinians than the 1947 Partition Plan. In this regard, research by Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has shown that from 1917 to 1948 prior to the State of Israel being established, about 20% of Palestinians were willing to accept the Peel Commission plan for the partition of Palestine in 1937, which called for a Jewish and Arab state. They were represented by an Arab man named Raghib al-Nashashibi, who became Mayor of Jerusalem in 1920, and who was willing to accept the Peel Commission plan, and secretly favoured  a union with Transjordan. The Nashashibi clan opposed the extremism of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin  Husseini. However, as Cohen relates, the extremists of the Palestinians  had the upper hand and terrorized the moderates. Cohen writes, "The message was clear: anyone who leaned towards compromise or disputed Hajj Amin's leadership was a traitor whose life was forfeit." (Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows:Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism at 64 and 122).
Had the Palestinians chosen to  support the  moderate position of  the Nashishibi clan over the extremist Husseini clan, they could have had the borders the Peel commission offered. 
Finally, in order  to make progress in bringing the conflict to an end  the majority of Palestinians will need to come to terms with Israel's existence  and agree to live side by side with  a sovereign Jewish state--in other words they finally will have to  adopt 'the Nashishibi position over the Mufti's position. 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.