by Daniel Pinner
Naksa? What Naksa?
After the Naqba (“Catastrophe”, the Arab term for Israel’s independence) comes the “Naksa”, meaning “setback”, referring to Israel’s stunning victory in the Six Day War of June 5-10, 1967.
The typical narrative goes: In Resolution 181 of November 1947, the UN gave Israel 55% of historic Palestine. During the course of the subsequent war (never mind the exact causes and circumstances of Israel’s War of Independence, or even who was fighting whom), Israel increased he territory by 40%, ending up with 78% of historic Palestine, and then ethnically cleansed Palestine, creating [insert any number you like here] Palestinian refugees.
And then, one bright summer’s day in 1967, for no readily apparent reason, Israel invaded and conquered the remaining 22% of historic Palestine, in what is known as the Six Day War.
And as a consequence, the Palestinians have now been living under the harshest occupation in history for more than half-a-century.
This false narrative of historical revisionism has gained general acceptance over several decades. A couple of recent simple, representative examples, chosen at random from millions:
Under the headline “Six Day war: By June 10th, Israel had possession of all of Palestine”, the Irish Times last year explained the events of half-a-century earlier:
“On the morning of June 5th, 1967, Israeli war planes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force... At 10am that day, Jordanian artillery opened up on Israeli army positions in West Jerusalem. Israel responded with bombardment and a ground offensive. The eastern sector of Jerusalem, ruled by Jordan, was captured by Israel over the next 48 hours. By June 10th, the West Bank and Gaza had fallen, leaving the Israelis in possession of all of Palestine, as well as Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights. The Arab world was stunned by a defeat which left Palestinians facing at least 50 years of – continuing – Israeli occupation”.
Under the headline “Six-Day War was ‘totally devastating’ for Palestinians”, Deutsche Welle introduced its article with the subheading “The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which began with the Six-Day War in June 1967, changed the lives of millions of Palestinians”.
The historical fact is that in 1948, when Israel became independent, the Palestinian nation did not exist. In those days, the Palestinians were the Jews, and the Arabs were the Arabs. Every organisation which called itself “Palestinian” was Jewish – the Palestine Post (which later became the Jerusalem Post), the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (which later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), the Anglo-Palestine Bank (which later became Bank Leumi), the Palestine Brigade (the common colloquialism for the Jewish Brigade, the unit of the British Army composed of Jews from Palestine), the Committee for a Free Palestine (an Irgun front in the USA), and so forth.
The Jews and the Arabs each had their respective national consciousnesses: the Jews as the Jewish nation, striving for independence in the ancestral Jewish homeland; and the Arabs, striving for Arab sovereignty throughout the traditional Arab homeland, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east.
This is why UN Resolution 181 of 29th November 1947 never mentions a “Palestinian state”; rather, it partitioned Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State.
To be sure, Arab nationalism could not tolerate an independent Jewish state in Palestine – but that had nothing to do with Palestinian nationalism or Palestinian identity. The issue was purely Arab nationalism and Arab identity (what Egyptian President Gamal Abd el-Nasser would define and express in the 1950’s as Pan-Arabism).
When the British Mandate for Palestine ended on 14th May 1948, the Jewish community, led by David Ben-Gurion, declared independence. The Arab community did not, precisely because the Arabs of Palestine had no national consciousness or national identity.
Instead, as soon as Israel became independent, the seven Arab states which were independent (Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) attacked and invaded the nascent state, their declared war-aim being the extermination of Israel and of all the Jews therein.
Outnumbered, outgunned, isolated, attacked on four fronts, Israel not merely survived the genocidal onslaught – she conquered territory from the Arab aggressors.
Of all the lessons of Israel’s War of Independence, one which stands out clearly is that the war was definitively not about Palestinian independence: the four Arab countries which border Israel (Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt) did not give so much as a single nanometre of land to the “Palestinians”. Instead, they kept everything they could lay their hands on for themselves.
Of course this wasn’t enough for them, and so in 1967 they made another attempt at genocide.
This time, more Arab countries were independent. In addition to the seven which had attacked Israel in 1948 (Trans-Jordan had in the interim changed its name to Jordan), Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia had since become independent of the French Empire; Libya had become independent of the Italian Empire; Sudan and Kuwait were no longer British protectorates.
Thus in 1967, and grand coalition of 13 Arab and Moslem states mobilised to exterminate Israel. That is the sentence that should have preceded the articles in Deutsche Welle and the Irish Times.
The result is history: in six days, Israel defeated this vast military machine.
Jordan lost Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), including eastern Jerusalem, to Israel; Egypt lost the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai Desert; and Syria lost the Golan Heights.
The remnants of the defeated armies of the more-distant nations slunk home in disgrace.
And the “Palestinians”?
– They lost nothing, because they didn’t actually exist yet. The Arabs of Judea and Samaria, including half of Jerusalem, were not “Palestinians” – they were Jordanians, proud subjects of His Majesty King Hussein. The Arabs of the Gaza region weren’t “Palestinians” – they were Egyptians, equally proud subjects of President Gamal Abd el-Nasser, the colossus of the Arab world.
This is why, for example, fully a year and a half after the Six Day War, on 19th December 1968, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2443, “expressed its grave concern at the violation of human rights in Arab territories occupied by Israel...called upon the Government of Israel to desist forthwith of acts of destroying homes of the Arab civilian population inhabiting areas occupied by Israel...”.
Note that the UN was not yet aware of any “Palestinian territories” or “Palestinian civilian population” – only “Arab territories” (Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian) and “Arab civilian population” (again, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian).
A typical map of the Middle East from before the Six Day War. Note that the “West Bank” is part of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip is part of Egypt. No mention of “Palestine” or “Palestinian Territories” yet.
What, then, is the “naksa” (the “setback”)?
The term originates with Egyptian president Gamal Abd el-Nasser.
Having led Egypt, and indeed the entire Arab world, into a the most ignominious and humiliating defeat in its entire history (those mighty, brave Arab warriors defeated by a handful of hook-nosed Jews with hunched shoulders), Nasser resigned immediately after losing the war.
The caption reads: “How to use the Star of David”. Cartoon published in the Iraqi daily Al Manaar, 8th June 1967, when a dozen Arab armies were already in headlong retreat, fleeing from the Jews.
Egyptian president Gamal Abd el-Nasser kicks the Jew into the sea. The three soldiers in the background are labelled “Syria”, “Iraq”, and “L:ebanon”. Cartoon published in the Lebanese Al Farida on the second day of the war.
(There were mass demonstrations throughout Egypt calling for him to return to power, which he did the next day. More than half-a-century on, it is still unclear how spontaneous those demonstrations really were, and whether Nasser genuinely intended to resign. What is beyond dispute is that Nasser was a genuinely popular national leader.)
He began his resignation speech, broadcast live on Egyptian TV and radio on 9th June 1967 with the words:
“Brothers, at times of triumph and tribulation, in the sweet hours and the bitter hours, we have become accustomed to sit together to discuss things... We cannot hide from ourselves the fact that we have met with a grave setback [naksa] in the last few days...”.
It is obvious what “naksa” Egypt suffered: the humiliation of defeat at the hands of the despised Jews, their entire Air Force – the single most powerful weapon in the entire Middle East! – destroyed, their Army in tatters, more than 10,000 soldiers killed and tens of thousands more captured and injured, the loss of the entire Sinai Peninsula with its oil reserves and strategic depth, and their reputation devastated.
Similarly Jordan – thousands of soldiers killed, injured, and wounded, the humiliation of being defeated by Jews, the loss of a third of their country, and their reputation devastated.
But the “Palestinians”?
– They suffered no “naksa”, no “setback” whatsoever. To the contrary: the resounding Arab defeat in the Six Day War was what invented the “Palestinian Arab nation”, a nation which had never existed before.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic consequences of the Six Day War was the invention of the “Palestinian nation”. It was this which enabled the Arabs to expunge the humiliation of defeat from their history: instead of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, and Pakistan attacking Israel and being utterly defeated, Arab propaganda succeeded in revising history and portraying the Six Day War as Israel attacking a tiny “Palestine”.
Instead of two-and-a-half million Jews defeating 200 million Arabs, history was falsified into a mighty Israel defeating a tiny, helpless, demilitarised Palestine.
Such is the truth of the “naksa”. A “naksa”, a “setback” indeed for the entire Arab nation whose overriding mission was to exterminate the Jews.
And the subsequent rewriting and falsification of history – one of the greatest setbacks ever for truth.
Daniel Pinner is a veteran immigrant from England, a teacher and an electrician by profession; a Torah scholar who has been active in causes promoting Eretz Israel and Torat Israel.
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