The Makers of the Palestinian Nakba and their Influence on Israel

Undeniably, the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) that rendered 750,000 Palestinians homeless and scattered in countless refugee camps has profoundly influenced the Palestinian perspective on Zionism and Israel. Likewise, the Nakba and its architects have influenced the policies and actions of Israel’s military, political establishment, and Israel’s illegal settlement project.

mai abdul rahman        May 2016


While the Palestinian and Israeli perspective of the events that led to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) are viewed from very disparate optics, the political and social-environment that are currently experienced and observed within Israel and Palestine are a direct result of the Zionist doctrine that created the Nakba.

Palestinians contend that their Nakba is the consequence of the Jewish Zionist terror scheme that unleashed a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians’ Nakba narrative is substantiated and documented by Palestinian and Israeli historians. Ilan Pape’and Benny Morris meticulously  describe the Zionist campaign of expulsion, terror, rape, and intimidation of the Palestinian native population. Pape’ and Morris unequivocally conclude that the aim of the Zionist terror campaign was to dispossess the Palestinians from their homes and lands and repopulate it by Jews. In a nutshell, the Palestinian survivors of the Zionist terror campaign were made homeless to home the Jews. Similarly, the declared aim of Israel’s illegal settlement scheme is to displace and dispossess the Palestinian native population of their lands and properties to make room for Jewish settlers. The impact of the strategies and tactics that created the Nakba on present day Israel is irrefutable.

Israel’s dismissal of the Nakba, or mere reflection of the consequences of the Nakba has helped foster Israel’s militant culture. The historical relationship and collective narrative of the Israeli society and its institutions to the early Zionist groups that took part in the Nakba are directly linked to the militant climate of the current Israeli far right political establishment. Furthermore, the ideological strategies and rationale that created the Palestinian Nakba are used to justify and sanction Israel’s illegal settlers terror inducing strategies against the Palestinian population.

The chief architects of the Nakba were influenced by the militant views of the Jewish Russian born Zeev Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky’s “The Iron Wall” publication laid out the rationale for the Jewish colonization of Palestine. Jabotinsky did not refute Palestinians’ right to their ancestral lands, but suggested their rights and desire to remain on their lands can be altered or arrested through the use of force. He argued that the “Zionist colonization must be carried out to destroy the will of the native population.” Central to his strategy was the use of organized systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians by constructing an ‘iron wall’ made up of well-equipped and armed Jewish militants. He asserted that “under the protection of an iron wall of Jewish bayonets, which the native population cannot break through.”

When first proposed the ‘iron wall’ doctrine was rejected, but eventually it was adopted and implemented across Palestinian villages and towns with the intent of driving Palestinians out of their lands. The Zionist militants organized terrorist attacks on the native Palestinian population, their homes, lands, and properties. They planted bombs in buses, marketplaces, movie theaters, and public places, and some were ordered to commit “operational rape”. They were also responsible for executing wholesale massacres that targeted Palestinian villagers, their women and children.

After Israel’s independence, the militant Zionist groups that were involved in the Palestinian Nakba were granted considerable influence. Many became Israel’s political and military leaders. The Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Stern Gang formed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Additionally, they fielded Israel’s political elites and military commanders including Levi Eshkol, Yigal Allon, Menacham Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon, and Moshe Dayan. For example, Yitzhak Shamir who later became Israel’s prime minister defended his role in assassinating Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden and for taking part in the brutal massacre of Deir Yassin.

The Zionist’s embrace of Jabotinsky’s doctrine, especially among Israel’s political institutional leaders and military commanders was too difficult to subdue. His ideology shaped Israel’s political parties, and influenced its military and political leadership who helped build a culture of acceptance among Israelis for the perpetual occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, its Gaza wars and siege. It is the chief reason that young Israelis and their Palestinian captive victims are hostage to “never again” and “never forget” Jewish motto, that exacts high price for the smallest infraction including non- violent dissent against Israel’s military policies.

In fact, many credit Jabotinsky for the rise of Israel’s far right political parties and  Jewish extremism. For example, the Irgun Zionist militant group morphed into Herut (Freedom party), and since 1977 it is known as the Likud. Menachem Begin who was Likud’s first prime minister made the following statement soon after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948: “ Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (Greater Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever.” His views are articulated in the Likud charter. Since 1993, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the leader of the Likud. Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, was Jabotinsky’s private secretary.

The  Palestinian Nakba, was instrumental in fashioning Israel’s agenda and mission that is articulated by its military and political establishment, its Zionist agencies, religious and community groups, affiliates and organizations. Their collective purpose and actions are meant to disconnect the Palestinians from their ancestral lands in order to expand Israel’s territory and reach. In fact, the entire Israeli establishment was once members and leaders or connected to members of Israel’s bloody terror campaigns that produced the Palestinian Nakba. The early Zionist terror campaign group leaders and members became Israel’s generals, prime ministers, party leaders, and Knesset members .

Why should this matter? The ideological perspective and strategies of the early Zionists became the fundamental framework that drove Israel to become an army nation, where boundaries between its militant ideology and society are blurred. It is the reason why Israel is more like ancient Sparta, where mandatory military service provides its impressionable young with one unifying national experience (the occupation) and one shared enemy (the Palestinians). It is the reason that has provoked Israel to build a warrior society that is unique among nations, where the measure of each young Israeli is defined by his or her role in executing Israel’s military policies and occupation.

Since 1967, Jabotinsky’s strategies and objectives have been visibly articulated within the folds of the Israeli settler’s extremist culture. Their violent activities against the Palestinians whether they may be citizens of Israel, Palestinian-Israeli Bedouins living in the Negev, or Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, is driven by one objective: to increase the number of Israeli Jews living within the Palestinian population.

While the US defines violence by Israel’s illegal settlers against the Palestinians as terrorism, Israel defines these same activities with the innocuous term: ‘price tag’. However, Israel’s’price tag’ term describes illegal settlers’ use of violence and intimidation against Palestinians including young children. Israel’s ‘price tag’ label relates to the destruction, burning, and desecration of Palestinian churches, mosques, olive trees, homes, and institutions.

Recognizing the Palestinian Nakba is of critical importance to the Palestinians, and a necessary step to addressing Palestinian grievances. Also acknowledging the Unknown-1consequences of the Nakba in shaping Israel’s extremist militant ideology and its relationship with the Palestinians is of great relevance to Israelis and Jews as well. Furthermore, understanding the role of the Nakba and its influence on current day Israel is relevant to all those who are concerned about the direction of the Israeli society and its far right political establishment. Moreover, those befuddled by the rise and growth of Israel’s Jewish extremists can better understand the current Israeli state by considering the role of the Nakba in creating Israel’s tolerance for inflicting pain and loss on the Palestinian population.

Accepting to shoulder the militant strategies of Israel’s early Zionists is the reason why non-violence is a doctrine with few adherents in Israel, even among the few Israelis who are willing to make peace with the Palestinians. It also explains why the principles of non-violence are unappreciated. Understanding the influence of the makers of the Palestinian Nakba on Israel’s parties and political establishment is central to understanding Israel’s five decade long occupation and its settlement policies.

There is no denying that the Palestinian Nakba helped Israel establish its reign and control of Palestinian lands. From the Israeli perspective the terror campaigns unleashed on the defenseless Palestinians resulted in the creation of Israel, allowing the dominance of the Jewish people on the remaining Palestinians within Israel and subsequently on the vast majority of Palestinians under Israel’s occupation and siege. With little reflection, the Israelis have largely absorbed and internalized the dreadful strategies of the early Zionist terror campaigns.

Nonetheless, there was a time when Israelis were honest about the implications of their actions. Early Zionists including David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first president, acknowledged that violence against the native Palestinian population was used in all of its forms. Ben-Gurion also warned that promoting a culture of accepting violence could potentially undermine Israel’s moral compass. To contain it, he asked that no one within the ranks should sanction acts of violence against innocent people “with money or speech making to justify murder”. Refusing to face the consequences of the Nakba could become Israel’s destiny, unless Israelis and their supporters commit to end funding and justifying Israel’s illegal settlement project.

Unchallenged, the human and moral cost of the early Zionists’ terror campaigns have created the social acceptance for Israel’s citizens and settlers to utilize the same tools to expand Israel’s territory within Palestinian lands. Consequently, the ‘iron wall’ terror inducing strategies and their objectives remain the guiding principles behind Israel’s illegal settlers and their terror tactics. In short, the impact of the Nakba on the Israelis and their institutions is still unfolding.

All is not lost. Israel’s far right ideology can be adjusted by acknowledging the consequences of the Nakba on both Israelis and Palestinians. This simple humane gesture will help build genuine peace among Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s past history and fate are linked to the Palestinians. The Nakba is their shared tragedy that has affected the destiny of its victim and victor. While highly controversial, hope rests on the small but growing sentiment within Israel to begin a national conversation on the merits of the Palestinian Nakba account. Once Israelis embrace the Palestinian Nakba narrative they will help construct a new shared narrative that will heal the scars of its violent history that has been etched in the seminal consciousness of both people.






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