by Muki Najaer
Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, refers to the plight of Palestinian Arabs starting in 1948, displacement and murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians. The Nakba is marked by the start of Israel’s occupation in 1948 – also considered the moment of the Israeli state’s independence.
Livni said, “the Palestinians could celebrate Independence Day if they would erase the word ‘Nakba’ from their vocabulary.” Her insensitive assertion suggests that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine would end, if only Palestinians forgot about their history.
Livni’s remark is not the first of this kind. In a 2007 address to the Annapolis Conference she said, “Not every celebration of ours is cause for sorrow on the other side, and vice versa. I say to my Palestinian colleagues: Do not bemoan the establishment of the State of Israel; establish your own state,” thereby diminishing the actions of the Israeli state against Palestinians for the last 65 years.
She went on to say, “The establishment of the Palestinian state is not our Nakba, or disaster – provided that upon its establishment the word “Nakba” be deleted from the Arabic lexicon in referring to Israel,” as if partition is comparable to the occupation and destruction of Palestinian land and sovereignty for six and a half decades.
Livni’s suggestions to eradicate the word ‘Nakba’ in reference to the Israeli state’s long lived history of oppressing Palestinians has caused internet controversy, with some interpreting her remark as an attempt to give Israel a clean slate.
I am left wondering: How would Livni and other Israeli’s feel about their freedom hinging on the eradication of the word ‘Holocaust’? While comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust is highly contested, that debate misses the point: As a peace negotiator, Livni’s remarks invalidate generations of Palestinians’ experiences of oppression.