Who will remember the Catastrophe?
Israeli President Shimon Peres proudly announced yesterday that a group of top personalities would attend a two-day conference, from May 13 to15, as part of activities surrounding the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The list of luminaries whose attendance has been confirmed includes: US President George W. Bush, actress Barbra Streisand, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former national security adviser Henry Kissinger, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, Google founder Sergey Brinn, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, Ratan Tata, chairman of India’s Tata group, US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid.
While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with celebrating the creation of a state, one wonders if the lineup of eminences grises who will be attending the events in Israel will be mirrored on the Palestinian side in remembrance of al-Nakba, or “The Catastrophe,” the mass uprooting of Palestinians, accompanied by violence, that resulted from the creation of the Jewish state. Will anyone stand with the underdog in remembering the birth pangs of a people’s multigenerational suffering, or for that matter, will any of the personalities attending the Jewish festivities — many of whom individuals who have themselves participated in the liberation of their people or spoken in favor of liberty and justice — bring the plight of Palestinians to the fore? Will Vaclav Havel, the symbol of a persecuted people under communist rule in Czechoslovakia, shoot from the heart in Jerusalem and stand with Palestinians, just as he stood with Taiwanese? Will Mikhail Gorbachev, who has basked in the light of the totalitarian regime he helped topple, speak for the downtrodden?
Congratulations Israel for your birth, and shame on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for referring today to the state as a “rotting corpse.” But in the coming days, my heart will be with the Palestinians, whose own anniversary will largely go unnoticed by the international elite for reasons that go well beyond the fact that Palestinians certainly do not have the kind of money that Jerusalem will be spending on celebrations this week.
To al-Nakba, and may the next sixty years bring a just resolution to this grave injustice.