Israelis memorialising the Palestinian Nakba
Author: Ronit Lentin

The 1948 war that led to the creation of the State of Israel also resulted in the destruction of Palestinian society, when some 80 per cent of the Palestinians who lived in the major part of Palestine upon which Israel was established became refugees. Israelis call the 1948 war their ‘War of Independence’ and the Palestinians their ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe. After many years of Nakba denial, land appropriation, political discrimination against the Palestinians within Israel and the denial of rights to Palestinian refugees, in recent years the Nakba is beginning to penetrate Israeli public discourse. This book explores the construction of collective memory in Israeli society, where the memory of the trauma of the Holocaust and of Israel's war dead competes with the memory claims of the dispossessed Palestinians. Taking an auto-ethnographic approach, it makes a contribution to social memory studies through a critical evaluation of the co-memoration of the Palestinian Nakba by Israeli Jews. Against a background of the Israeli resistance movement, the book's central argument is that co-memorating the Nakba by Israeli Jews is motivated by an unresolved melancholia about the disappearance of Palestine and the dispossession of the Palestinians, a melancholia which shifts mourning from the lost object to the grieving subject. The book theorises Nakba co-memory as a politics of resistance, counterpoising co-memorative practices by internally displaced Israeli Palestinians with Israeli Jewish discourses of the Palestinian right of return, and questions whether return narratives by Israeli Jews are ultimately about Israeli Jewish self-healing.

Contested Nakba narratives as an ongoing process
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2001). Introduction In Chapter 5 I discussed Israeli Jewish scholars, activists and writers speaking about Palestine in general as part of the construction of a specific Israeli-Jewish self. I now turn to a central strand of Israeli research on Palestine and the Palestinians, the revisionist histories of the 1948 war, spearheaded in the 1980s by historians Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim, and political scientist Ilan Pappe. Pappe, whose political credentials include robust support for Palestinian selfdetermination and the one-state solution, posits the importance of

in Co-memory and melancholia
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Ahmad H. Sa’di

, culture, consciousness and modes of economic activity, most noticeably through regular (and occasionally mundane) practices aimed at keeping them subordinate. Actual policies would not follow these archetypes; rather, they would mostly be hybrid, as the rest of this chapter will illustrate. The first decade Already during the 1948 War, Israeli leaders endeavoured to achieve the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestinians. Through the statistical–bureaucratic 03_Ahmad_Ch-2.indd 30 8/20/2013 1:54:54 PM MUP FINAL PROOF – <STAGE>, 08/20/2013, SPi policies 31

in Thorough surveillance
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Living in the shadow
Ronit Lentin

and Jewish participation in commemorating the Nakba (http://academicsforjustice.org). Merkel’s visit, just before the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel and of the Palestinian Nakba, epitomises and normalises the abnormality of the Israeli state, built from the destruction that was the Shoah on the disavowal of the dispossession of the Palestinians. Introduction: living in the shadow 3 As Israeli ‘new historian’ Han Pappe argues (2008: 93), any discussion of the 1948 war, which Israelis call their ‘War of Independence’ and Palestinians their ‘Nakba’, or

in Co-memory and melancholia
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Paul Kelemen

of emphasis in proPalestinian discourse from the armed struggle and anti-imperialism to human rights was made propitious by the 1967 war. The Palestinian population that had slipped out of Western consciousness after the 1948 war, once more commanded its attention by directly confronting Israeli military force in the West Bank and Gaza. But the radical left’s ideological retreat after the mid-1970s was a factor, too, in a broader realignment on the left over the Israel-Palestine conflict that drew its ideological ballast from the human rights agenda. There were

in The British left and Zionism
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debate the role of the 1948 war and the Nakba in shaping Israeli Jewish collective memory (e.g., Benvenisti 2000; Bronstein 2005a, 2005b; Gertz and Khleifi 2006; Pappe 2006). However, the work of the ‘new historians’, Nimni (2003a: 8) cites Said (1998) as saying, denotes ‘the profound contradictions bordering on schizophrenia’ that informs 2 some of their work in admitting the Nakba while claiming that ‘there was no other choice’ – another demonstration of the denial paradox Cohen (2001) writes about. According to Shenhav, one consequence of this debate is the

in Co-memory and melancholia
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Telling autoethnographic stories
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on the transfer of Palestinians beyond the boundaries of the putative Jewish state. Nachmani’s diaries denote deep moral consternation shedding light on the dark side of the 1948 war, from the massacres and expulsions of innocent villagers, to the looting and robbery which accompanied almost every Jewish victory – a classic case of ‘interpretative denial’ (Cohen 2001). Yet according to Morris, Nachmani was unaware of ‘the link between these events and his own actions, which, for decades, aimed at the expropriation and expulsion – albeit legally and with financial

in Co-memory and melancholia
Ahmad H. Sa’di

Arabists that Nimer Hawari could fill the function of an Arab leader. His history as a nationalist figure seemed promising. After the end of the Second World War, he established a quasi-military 08_Ahmad_Ch-7.indd 152 8/19/2013 2:32:45 PM MUP FINAL PROOF – <STAGE>, 08/19/2013, SPi political rights under a military rule 153 scout movement known as Al-Najada (auxiliary corps), which numbered some 2,000 members on the eve of the 1948 War (see, e.g., Morris, 2004:59). Although Al-Hawari allied himself with the Palestinian national leadership before this war, the

in Thorough surveillance
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Ahmad H. Sa’di

/survey at the end of the 1948 War and grant ID cards to its citizens was not a novel idea in the country’s history. A previous attempt was made during the Palestinian revolt of 1936–39. Prior to his departure in 1938, the British General John Drill hoped to introduce identity cards to control the citizens’ movement across the frontiers and between districts as a measure for quelling the revolt. Yet, Drill’s identity card plan was hampered by Jewish objections to a system that would have helped identify illegal Jewish immigrants (Thomas, 2008:249). The Israeli ID system

in Thorough surveillance
Ronit Lentin

47 Pappe writes, ‘anywhere where there are almond, fig or olive trees, there was a village. People lived there. Today they live in refugee camps, or in the occupied territories, or in other villages in Israel, or across the border’ (Pappe 2005: 90). The education system inculcated contempt for the Arab landscape and taught Israeli youths to erase them from their mental map (Benvenisti 2000: 57). The canonical. 1948-generation writer S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky), whose stories, published immediately after the 1948 war, graphically depict its horrors, describes the

in Co-memory and melancholia