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Nakba Day and Israel’s Ministry of Thought Control

Israel’s failure to implement total censorship



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Nakba Day Protests at Tel Aviv University

Nakba Day Protests | Tel Aviv University

Can a democracy censor? Despite Western-propaganda, the answer is yes. However, unlike the situation in totalitarian regimes, democratic censorship is invariably disguised as something else; in this aspect, totalitarian regimes are more honest than what nowadays is wrongly referred to as democracies. The events surrounding 9/11 and the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq are a good example of that. Despite American media's sanctimonious claim of being balanced, one won’t find a balanced report on these issues. When was the last time the Taliban’s leader got the Times’ front page? How can censorship in a democracy be achieved? Let’s answer this question by illustrating the topic with a current event. In the case of Israel, how can the state censor events linked to Nakba Day? Oddly enough—and I would be accused of anti-Semitism if I were to add the obvious—Israel does that through the Ministry of Finances.

Nakba Day Protests TAU Dormitories

Nakba Day Protests
TAU Dormitories

Palestinian PR Victory

Nakba Day Protests TAU Dormitories

Nakba Day Protests
TAU Dormitories

Nakba Day or the “Disaster Day” is on May 15, when Palestinians remember Israel's declaration of Independence. Israelis celebrate it at a different date. Formally, civil affairs in Israel are conducted using the Hebrew calendar, thus official events change in their Gregorian date because the Hebrew calendar is lunar in nature, meaning it wobbles in cycles of 19 years. On all official documents issued by Israel, the Hebrew date is proudly stated; however, since this calendar wobbles, everybody uses the Gregorian calendar as the main reference calendar. This includes offices of the Israeli Administration; all appointments with them are arranged using the Gregorian calendar. Most of the calendars sold in Israel show the Gregorian date in large digits and the Hebrew date in small—almost illegible—digits. Actually, if asked, most Israelis would fail to list the names of the Hebrew months in their correct order. “Independence Day is in April or May” they’ll say hesitantly, mixing up the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars. Since the Palestinians stick to Gregorian dates, they have an easy job promoting Nakba Day, a much easier task than Israelis face with the wobbling Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day (see Is this Israel's last Independence Day?).

The Zionists’ Deepest Fear

The extent of mind-control the Israeli administration attempts on the population it rules is astonishing. Prime Minister Golda Meir claimed Palestinians do not exist, and expected the people to answer: “Amen!” Things have not improved much since her departure; for many years possessing a Palestinian flag—even if hidden in a dark drawer—was a punishable crime in the state claiming to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.” The Zionist leaders’ deepest fear is that their people will realize they have been deceived by them; they fear that the people will realize that the Zionist dream is nothing but a hollow, meaningless dream built atop solid Palestinian structures. After all, most of the Israeli towns have been built by Palestinian workers. Thus, the attempt to suppress the commemoration of events like Nakba Day was to be expected. Considering the extent of the protests taking place on that day across Israel, the task was herculean even for Zionist administrators. The logo below belongs to the Settlers’ Channel 7 (see “Juden Raus!” says Israel) and was featured in their articles covering the Nakba Day this year. Even the settlers—who often draw maps of the West Bank which ignore Palestinian cities—cannot ignore this event.

Yom Hanakba

“Yom Hanakba” Nakba Day Logo by Zionist Channel 7
note the Hebrew letters styled as Arabic ones

The event is so traumatic in the eyes of Israel, that until July 2007, the term “Nakba” was forbidden in Palestinian schools within Israel’s jurisdiction. Can a regime claim to be a democracy when it bans words from school? Two years later, the word was banned again. Yet, this is loose change; in March 2011, the Knesset legislated what is commonly called the “Nakba Law.” Astonishingly, the formal name is the “Budget Foundations Law – amendment 40, 2011.” This amendment to the law allows the Minister of Finances to deduct from the budget of an organization supported by the state up to three times the expenses that organization used for supporting activities denying the state as Jewish and democratic, or activities supporting violence, racism and terror, or for supporting the definition of Independence Day as a “Nakba Day” (“Disaster Day”), or the support of actions leading to the destruction of the Israeli flag or any other state symbols. Interestingly, the legislator ignored the intrinsic contradiction of its law. Defining the state as “Jewish” is a racist and discriminatory act by definition; every one of its non-Jewish citizens is a living testimony of this. According to this law, the state should cut the Knesset’s budget immediately! Yet, in January 2012, the “High Court of Justice upheld the controversial Nakba Law.

Amateur Administrators’ Error

On paper, the Israeli administration gave a “proper Zionist Answer,” (“tshuva tzionit olemet” in Hebrew). This is a popular phrase used in Israel against any event that is perceived as a threat. It implies violence, though nothing specific is said. In this case, the implied violence came in the form of state censorship of an event it dislikes; amateur administrators as they are, they thought that by controlling the people’s pockets, they would gain control of their minds. On Monday 14, 2012, they woke up to their worst nightmare.

Today, Tel Aviv University—a perceived stronghold of the Jewish establishment—commemorated Nakba Day. Tel Aviv University’s Dean of Students had previously approved a ceremony to commemorate Nakba Day in the plaza adjacent to the “Naftali” social sciences building. However, University security services decided that due to the “possibility of disturbances,” the event would be held at “Antine Square,” located next to the University’s main entrance. The pictures brought here are from the protests; the distinctive buildings of the university dormitories across the street can be clearly seen. “Every year different political bodies organize events focusing on the Nakba, in an attempt to make it the focal point of relations between Jews and Arabs in the area. What has never been done, and the time has come to do it, is to commemorate the Nakba in an alternative way, accessible to and created for the Israeli public—an event to remember the tragedy and great loss that befell the people who were here before ’48, many of whom still live here,” said Noa Levy, a law student and organizer of the Nakba Day ceremony.

The pictures are incredible. The fact that 400 participants crowded the small plaza and that they read an alternative version of Yizkor, the Jewish prayer of mourning is even more so. The names of pre-1948 Palestinian villages inside what is today Israel, were read and the event included a moment of silence. For non-Israeli readers I must clarify this very much resembles Holocaust Day. Following this, the horrified Israeli government might declare a new Holocaust Day to commemorate the defiling of its Independence Day by its own citizens. “The Education Minister is of the opinion that the decision is wrong and infuriating,” said the Minister’ spokesman, referring to the university’s decision to allow the event. Amateurs and unprofessional as they are, the Israeli administrators forgot to cover in their censorship law spontaneous events that come out of people’s warm hearts and not out of cold government’s budgets. However, expanding on this one may be denounced as an anti-Semite by the censoring, undemocratic, Israeli government. Isn’t that so, Mr. Netanyahu?

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