I’ve written before that as a Jew, I no longer consider Yom Ha’atzmaut to be a day of unmitigated celebration – but rather be an occasion for honest reckoning and soul searching. In particular, I believe we need to struggle with the very meaning of independence itself. In our profoundly interdependent world, what does the concept of “independence” ultimately mean? Is independence a one-time occurrence or an ongoing process? And, perhaps most painfully, in what ways has Jewish independence come at a very real cost to the rights of another people?
To help us reckon with these kinds of questions, I encourage you to visit the new website, #Nakbasurvivor. This is an amazing new project from the Institute for Middle East Understanding that invites Palestinians to tell their family’s story of the Nakba over Twitter and YouTube. It’s a brand new effort, but already the stories seem to be pouring in. (Click above for one such story.)
As Jews, we know as well as people that memory is profoundly sacred – and that it is our duty to transmit our memories to the next generation so that we might be transformed by the lessons they teach us. As I watched these videos, I felt a myriad of emotions: a sense of honor that these sacred stories were being preserved and transmitted, a sense of pain that my own people’s independence came at the cost of another’s, and a sense of responsibility to acknowledge this memory – and to speak out against the injustices that still continue to this day.
When it comes to memory of the Nakba, there is no justice. This past year, the Knesset has passed legislation that makes it illegal for any Israeli communities that hold events commemorating the Nakba on Yom Ha’atzmaut. In other words, Israel has essentially criminalized the memory of 20% of its citizens.
Today, on the first Yom Ha’atzmaut since this law was passed, Nakba demonstrations have taken place across East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There have been widespread clashes with the IDF and numerous Palestinian casualties have been reported. (In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud, a 17 year old was shot in the stomach with live ammunition – as of this writing, he has no pulse and the doctors are now fighting for his life.)
There will be no independence for anyone – Israeli or Palestinian – until there is justice. And there will be no justice until we truly honor memory, no matter how painful.