Marching to Atlit. Reuters photo. On front, the granddaughter of 97-year-old Abdul Hadi Qudeh holds the keys to the Gazan house he was forced to leave in 1948. Photo by Mohammed Talatene/APA
This week, Israel again laid bare the old, grim juxtaposition of its birth as it marked the 70th anniversary of the state's founding. This year's celebration of bellicose independence featured European military flyovers, the defiant waving of endless Stars of David, and a vote by Israelis declaring their Iron Dome Missile Defense System their country's crowning achievement.
Though by the Hebrew calendar this year's Independence Day fell almost a month before Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, their own catastrophe, the two events as always highlight a painful intertwining for Palestinians. “The two of us are on opposite ends," says one. "Our day of tragedy, our day of misery, is their day of joy.”
Thousands of Palestinians marked the day by marching to one of 500 villages demolished in 1948 as part of an ethnic cleansing that left over 750,000 Palestinians displaced. This year's march, to Atlit, was again meant to tell Israel that those refugees "do not waive their right of return," said former Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh: "These crowds prove that this land is a cause and our homeland is Palestine."
In support of that tenet, an overflow crowd of Israelis and Palestinians (after a court ruling) attended an alternative ceremony "of remembrance and communion" featuring relatives of those killed by violence. "This is the true hope and opportunity for peace," said one. The heart of the evening, said Israeli author David Grossman, whose son was killed in Lebanon, was "the silence of the void created by loss.” Still, their silence was harshly broken by right-wing protesters who threw bottles and screamed "Grandson of Hitler!" "Bullet to Your Head!" and "Death to the Nazis/ Lefties/ Traitors!" They are the seething chasm.