By Ethan Bronner, New York Times, May 14, 2011
JERUSALEM — Tensions were high in East Jerusalem on Saturday as hundreds of Palestinians buried a 17-year-old demonstrator and preparations were under way for rallies on Sunday to mark the founding of Israel 63 years ago, an event that Palestinians call the “nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe.
The dead teenager, Milad Ayyash, was shot in the stomach on Friday during stone-throwing demonstrations in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and died in the hospital on Saturday. A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said police officers had not used live fire and were investigating the cause of his death.
Witnesses said the gunshot came from inside Beit Yonatan, a Jewish-owned building in Silwan, either from a security guard or a resident. The teenager’s family declined to allow a police autopsy, Mr. Rosenfeld said.
On Saturday, mourners carried the boy’s body through East Jerusalem. When the procession passed Beit Yonatan, they threw rocks at the building. The police arrested four people and used stun grenades, causing several light injuries. The burial took place without further disturbance.
The police presence ollahis expected to be heavy across Israel on Sunday. “Obviously what happened yesterday and today will influence how we deploy tomorrow,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.
After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, armies from neighboring Arab states attacked the new nation; during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Israeli forces. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were also destroyed. The refugees and their descendants remain a central issue of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel celebrates its independence day according to the Hebrew calendar, which this year was last Tuesday.
To this observer, it seems there is not a day that passes without more violence over the mere existence of the state of Israel. Often, the stories originate with the Palestinian side, or from Hamas or from Hezbollah, or from one of the many states whose only perspective on the state of Israel is outright hatred, contempt and even a commitment that the state must be eliminated from the face of the earth.
No state, regardless of the history of its faith and culture, would survive in such a constant state of war, and a constant state of fear that it would be both attacked and removed, if possible, as the preferred solution to the Israel-Palestinian "problem". It must take incredible courage for the Jews in the diaspora even to visit the homeland, given the level of risk and danger they face while visiting. It also must take incredible vigilance, from the Israeli's themselves, to be on constant guard against another attack.
I recently listened as a former adviser to Yassar Arafat, then leader of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), spoke of his views on On Point with Tom Ashbrook, NPR's flagship news talk show. He commented that, prior to achieving the two-state solution, it would be advisable that at least a healthy ONE-STATE solution would be a worthy goal. His view was that even with Israel itself, it might be possible for both sides to reach a kind of accord that provided some peace and security for their separate people's to live within the existing borders.
Most of us in the west simply do not understand the complexities of the conflict. We know that land that was previously considered "Palestinian" was carved out to create the state of Israel, but the move seems never to have been either consummated or agreed to by the Palestinian side. And today, that side is ennobled by the millions of Muslims of both Shia and Sunni stripes, who seem committed to a self-proclaimed role of a permanent cancer in the heart, blood, lungs, brain, and major organs of Israel.
To an outsider, it comes as a shock that the Israeli people have even survived these last 63 years. No other group, from no other language, history and culture, it says here, would have lasted intact under so much duress. Not only did their forefathers suffer the ignominious suffering and loss of 6 million of their number in the gas chambers, but forever since, their newly 'created' homeland has been under seige.
When is the world, especially including those Muslims seeking so desperately to eliminate the state of Israel, and, for their purposes also remove the people who call themselves Jews, from the face of the earth..when are they going to open their eyes to the realization of the gift to the human civilization that is both Israel and the Jewish people.
Their contributions in every single field of human endeavour is exemplary. Their doctors and their scientists have discovered many of the very approaches that save lives today. Their thinkers and their theologians have contributed many of the world's most insightful and penetrating observations. Their lawyers and businessmen have designed and delivered many of the nuanced contracts that help to underpin many of our organizational structures for peace, for governance, for philanthropy and for the study of human history. Their musicians, and their artists, and their dancers and singers and writers and directors and producers have generated much of the best classical, semi-classical, and popular entertainment genres across the globe...theatrical experiences that have given life to generations of people from all faiths, religions, cultures and histories...and all of this has been accomplished to the drum-beat of constant gun, rocket, missile and verbal assault against their very existence.
This writer is in awe at the depth of both the artistry and the courage of the Jewish people, whose songs can be heard in the midst of their excruciating pain, whenever such pain is "imposed" by hate-mongers. And their sheer joy at being alive is nothing short of a miracle given the 6-plus decades of their tormented history.
It is to call Israel "nakba" that is the catastrophe, not their very existence.