The Real Catastrophe
May 19, 2011
Last Sunday, just days after Israelis joyously celebrated Israel Independence Day, many Palestinians, along with other Arabs in the countries neighboring Israel, commemorated Nakba Day. In Arabic, nakba means "catastrophe," so you would expect that this day marks the anniversary of a tragic war, natural disaster, or loss of a beloved leader. But no — the "catastrophe" that they gathered to grieve and protest is the founding of the state of Israel.
This year's Nakba Day was marked by violence. More than a thousand angry protesters from Syria and Lebanon charged the Israeli borders, and violent demonstrations took place within Israel by Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem. Rioters threw stones at police and government vehicles, causing damage to property and injuries to people.
When the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stationed at the Syrian border did what the armed forces of any besieged country would do — use force to defend their nation against a large, violent mob — they drew the ire of many in the international media. Headlines focused on the injuries and deaths caused by the IDF, which was acting only to protect Israel's borders and citizens, not on the Arab incitement. And, true to form, a representative of the United Nations condemned Israel for what he called "the use of disproportionate, deadly force."
Palestinian leaders weighed in as well. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said, "We must praise the courage and faith of all those who protested yesterday on the Lebanese and Syrian borders with occupied Palestine as well as within Palestine." Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Muslim worshippers the morning of Nakba Day to pray for an end to Israel. Even Palestinian Authority (P.A.) president Mahmoud Abbas, the alleged "moderate" Palestinian leader, said, "[The demonstrators'] precious blood will not be wasted. It was spilt for the sake of our nation's freedom."
It is perplexing to Israelis — as it should be to the world — what Palestinians are and aren't willing to do in the name of "freedom." They're willing to praise a dangerous mob that storms Israel's borders, but unwilling to engage in productive peace talks. They're willing to brand Israel a "racist," "apartheid" state, but unwilling to purge their schools of educational materials that promote despicable anti-Semitic views to their children. P.A. leaders are willing to enter a unity agreement with Hamas, a known terror organization and their sworn enemy, but are unwilling to make any compromises that might lead to peace with democratic Israel.
The fact that many in the world see all of this and yet persist in painting Israel as the aggressor is the real catastrophe. And this is why we continually ask you to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" and the security of all Israel and her citizens. May God soften the hardened hearts of Arab rulers and all those who hate Israel, and bring us to the day when all will remember the birth of Israel not as a "catastrophe," but as a sign of God's faithfulness to His people and a triumph of the human spirit.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein