Israeli government minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is in charge of national security and foreign affairs, threatened Palestinians with a third Nakba amidst an ongoing Israeli escalation in Jerusalem. For two weeks now, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been protesting newly installed Israeli security equipment at the gates leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
“Remember 1948. Remember 1967,” Hanegbi said in a post he shared on his official Facebook page. “This is how Nakba begins,” he continued, “don’t try us again because the result won’t be any different.”
The Nakba, or catastrophe, describes the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. Many of these Palestinians became refugees once more following the Israeli offensive in 1967. Today, there are well over five million Palestinian refugees, the majority of whom live in camps across the Middle East.
Hanegbi explained that a third Nakba “begins with zealot religious leaders whom Allah promised the whole world. It continues with radical, reckless leaders for whom the spilling of blood, even if it is your blood, fits their own short-term interests. And it permeates the religiously ignorant masses who only yearn to become “martyrs.”’
According to Zionist ideology, Israel is based on a godly promise. Perhaps Hangebi did not get the memo, but Zionists have long justified Israeli occupation, violence, and impunity using this mythical promise. Indeed, the claim that Zionism represents Judaism and Jews has fueled charges of anti-Semitism against those who criticize Israeli violence.
And what about those “zealot religious leaders”? Unless Hanegbi is living in an alternative Israel, he surely must be aware of the long history of numerous Israeli Rabbis wreaking havoc not only on Palestinians, but also on any Jewish person who disagrees with them. Extremist Rabbis like Yehuda Glick, Meir Kahane, Yitzhak Shapira, and Yosef Elitzur come to mind. The latter two, who reside at the Od Yousif Hai yeshiva in the illegal settlement of Yitzhar south of Nablus, penned a book titled “The King’s Torah.” In this book, Shapira and Elitzur detail their aspirations for an Israeli Kingdom where they could have extraordinary powers to enslave and spill the blood of Jews and non-Jews alike. Incidentally, Hanegbi’s own mother, Guela Cohen, was a member of Lehi, an extremist Jewish militia that operated in Mandatory Palestine. In 1948, an estimated 130 Lehi and Irgun members carried out the Deir Yassin Massacre, killing 107 Palestinians. As one of the earlier massacres ahead of Israel’s establishment, Deir Yassin is a microcosm of the project Jewish religious zealots and their ilk have for the land: cleanse it of the Palestinians and build the Israeli Kingdom.
Fantasies of this sort have been the driving force of more recent violent trends among Israeli youngsters. These include Tag Mechir (Price Tag) attacks by “hilltop youth” who seek to harm those who advocate against the illegal settlement enterprise. Numerous Price Tag attacks have been documented since 2008 including vandalism and destruction of property.
Another group, known as the The Revolt, is the one that was at the center of the deadly arson attack on the Dawabsheh family in Duma on July 31, 2015. The attack decimated an entire family of four, killing three and severely injuring another. Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsheh burned to death in the fire, and both his parents died weeks later because of their injuries. The sole survivor of the attack, Ahmad Dawabshed, has since suffered from serious burns over 60% of his body. The leader of the group that perpetrated the attack, 25-year-old Meir Ettinger, is the grandson of Meir Kahane.
It is these groups that make up the “masses” that Hanegbi conveniently downplays, with the exception that they are not ignorant. In fact, knowing full well the consequences of their actions, these groups routinely squat on Palestinian land, attack Palestinians, and destroy Palestinian property in the hopes that they would establish the Kingdom they yearn for. The only ignorance that is evident here is Hanegbi’s, whose service in Prime Minister Netayahu’s office is part and parcel of the “short term interests” he charges against.
Electoral short-term interests and spilling Palestinian blood are synonymous in Israel. In November 2012, only two months shy of a general election, then-incumbent Netanyahu launched Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza. Prior to that, ahead of the February 2009 legislative election, then Defense Minister and Labor Party leader Ehud Olmert embarked on Operation Cast Lead in 2008 against Gaza to salvage his party’s falling status in national polls. Most recently, amidst talks of an early Likud primary election, observers suggested that the current escalation in Jerusalem ensures that Netanyahu would retain his position as party leader.
At the end of the day, a third Nakba will not erase those that preceded it, let alone the Palestinian people. More importantly, Hanegbi’s use of the Nakba is a clear recognition of the expulsion of Palestinians and the dispossession that Israel’s exclusive settler colonial project necessitates, both historically and in the present.