Al Nakba: Nothing to Celebrate



Recently, I posted about an event Michigan Peace Team endorsed; a protest of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration at “A Fair To Remember.”

I wanted to add a “post protest update”, but realized as I started writing it was more than a short Post Script.

On Thursday 21 August 2008 around 70 individuals gathered along Woodward Ave. near 8 MI, at one of the entrances to the state fairgrounds. We were a somewhat eclectic group and signs and banners demonstrated that; (More on that later) with everything from “ A free Palestine is a Free Israel” to “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” to “A 2 state solution is Apartheid.”

Cars lined up to enter the fairgrounds along Woodward, and we were highly visible.  Many people pretended to ignore us or just shook their heads or shrugged their shoulders as they drove by. A few flipped us the finger, gave a thumbs down sign or shouted out “go home” as they drove by.  One woman held a sign up in her car window that appeared to be quickly written on notebook paper, “Jews Rule.”  But, I did not feel the intense antagonism I have felt at other Palestinian solidarity protests.

I never felt fearful, or under attack myself.  A few even gave thumbs up or a peace sign as they drove into the fair grounds. I remember at a protest during the attack on Lebanon; the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County had a support Israel protest and a number of people joined a counter demonstration. A woman leaving the support Israel protest told my friend she hoped my friend’s child was killed. There was such fear and hatred in her words. 

Someone else leaving the rally on thier bike tried to run into a group of counter demonstrators.

I sensed none of that this time. Sure some people were angry that we were there. Some expressed that. But the intensity and something I can’t quite put my finger on was gone.

A few people approached to ask why we were there and what we were doing. A young man from West Bloomfield high school interviewed several of us for his school paper.  An organizer with the “Fair to Remember” who was attempting to direct people to parking joked with me that people wouldn’t pay attention to him thinking he was with us. I acknowledged we were making his job harder and we both laughed a little.

Several buses filled with what looked to be middle and high school age kids went in. Some leaned out the window to flip us off, several snapped our photos on their camera phones as they drove by and the majority seemed to move to stand up or move to the side of the bus where they were better able to see us. 

I realized that these bus loads of kids and the many many cars with children that drove in made it important for us to be there, and made me glad we were.  Perhaps it will spur some conversations in families and with friends. Perhaps they will begin to ask the questions that are difficult to answer. Perhaps we were the voice that said “hey, check out the other part of the story” that some of them heard.

I’m glad I was there. It felt important for all the reasons I noted in the earlier post.  I was glad that no one was there with signs that said “Fuck Israel” or had swastikas on them.  There was nothing said that I felt so uncomfortable with that I wanted to walk away, to disassociate myself from.

Still there were signs and banners that I felt less than comfortable with.  “Smash Israeli apartheid ,  “Zionism = Kosher Apartheid” , and “Stop Crucifying Palestine”  and “ A two state solution is apartheid.” Why? Well… it varies from sign to sign…. And perhaps that is more for another post. Perhaps not.  I guess in general I find myself uncomfortable with signs that call to mind violence, that while may have no anti-Semitic meaning or intent themselves can easily (even if intentionally) play on the real anti-Semitism that does exist in the world, or that can be interpreted as name calling and attacks.

But, as I said – all in all I think it went well. I am glad I was there. I am glad I asked others to be there. I am glad that MPT was a part. It was an important reminder that there is another side.

I think many of those attending the “Fair to Remember” are probably not in 100% agreement with Israeli policies of apartheid. I would guess that many of them are like the people in Mark Twain’s The War Prayer they simply are unaware of the unuttered part of their celebration. (Al Nakba, 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes, 33 massacres, 531 Palestinian villages and towns destroyed….)

I’m glad we were there to utter it.   



4 responses to “Al Nakba: Nothing to Celebrate

  1. Anohter thoughtful post. I am not sure I understand your concern with the sign “A Two State Solution is Apartheid” — from earlier things you wrote it seems like you would agree with this. What am I missing?

  2. Hey Rachel,
    Yep- i can see where I sound contradictory and inconsistant. Here’s the thing… as things stand now, and with the currrent “reality on the ground” I think a 2 state solution is apartheid. And with the current imbalance of power I do not believe that any negotiations that agree to that are honest and fair. But, if the international community could somehow correct the power imbalance and the Palestinians could negotiate on a level playing field and if all parties involved in such a negotiation agreed that a 2 state solution was best who am I to say it is not a valid solution. Do i personally see it as best – no. But, it doesn’t so much matter what I think. Those involved in and directly impacted by a conflict are always those who know what’s best. All that is too complicated for a poster people can only glance at as they go by – so it wasn’t a poster I would want to carry.

  3. I think the best position for non-Palestinians and Palestinians in the diaspora to adopt is the three demands of the BDS campaign: 1. An end to occupation of territory seized in 1967 2. Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel (and “Palestinian” has emerged as the preferred descriptor among a plurality of Arabs living in Israel) 3. Full implementationof the right of reutrn for Palestinain refugees in accordance UN GA Resolution 194. This way, one does rule out either a one- or two-state which ought to be decided by the parties. But, we, in the justice and peace/solidarity movement must do everything we can so that the Palestinian people come to the bargaining table as fully empowered as possible. To read the BDS call go here:

  4. NextYear – For those terms to work, the Palestinian cause would have to abandon its Islamic approach and cease all violent attacks.
    Can they do this? Can they abandon their totalitarian ways?
    Can they allow the descriptive word “Palestinian” to include Christians?

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