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June 14, 2019 2:02 pm

The Legacy of the ‘Nakba’ and Lies About Israel on College Campuses

avatar by Matt Stein /


Members of Israel’s Arab minority take part in a rally marking the ‘Nakba,’ near the abandoned village of Khubbayza, northern Israel, May 9, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.

JNS.orgMany students on college campuses these days hear the lie that Israel has murdered entirely innocent, unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip. They hear that the IDF specifically targets women and children, all while they displace Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlements.

In the past, they heard these accusations from professors and student governments.

But now they hear them from politicians, too, including the widely criticized comments of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), with the ​former​ accusing Israel of “hypnotizing the world” to ignore its “evil doings” in Gaza, and the latter planning to take US legislators to the West Bank to meet displaced Palestinian refugees firsthand and hear the “truth” about the after-effects of wars with Israel (wars started by Arabs on the Jews of Israel, with the goal of eradicating them).

What these students don’t normally hear is the fact that the vast majority of those killed and injured in the weekly “March of Return” riots were Hamas operatives, or violent and armed terrorists attempting to infiltrate the Israeli border. It doesn’t help that they use women and children as human shields to hide their activities.

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Such facts are a few Google searches away, but many students just blindly assume that the wild accusations of Israel’s human-rights violations are true.

The problem is that they aren’t armed with information, especially when it comes to the ​Nakba — the “catastrophe” that Arabs associate with the creation of modern-day Israel, and their attempt to destroy the sole Jewish state in the world.

Progressive college students have come to believe that in 1948, Israel enacted a policy of ethnic cleansing and forcibly expelled 750,000 Palestinians in order to ensure a Jewish supermajority and make room for Jewish immigration. They also believe that Israel acted similarly, albeit on a smaller scale, in the Six-Day War.

Thus, the modern blood libels of Israelis targeting children, coupled with ethnically cleansing Palestinians, become credible in the eyes of these students. If Israel committed ethnic cleansing and mass war crimes in 1948 — and continued to oppress and murder Palestinians in decades following it — then why should one question the stories of Israel’s horrible misdeeds today?

Although the historical record shows that some Palestinians were expelled by Jewish forces at gunpoint, there clearly was not an “ethnic cleansing” operation to expel all Arabs out of a potential Jewish state. Rather, strategically located Arab towns were evacuated.

Many Israel advocates overstate the extent to which Arabs in what is now Israel (college students today hardly know there was a time when Palestinians did not associate with a national identity) left of their own accord, and at the behest of Arab leaders. Regardless of the exact percentage of Arabs who were expelled, fled out of fear, or fled at the instruction of Arab leaders, it certainly was not “ethnic cleansing” by Israel, either deliberately or consequently. Indeed, there remains a 21 percent sizable ​minority​ of Arabs today. The fact that Arabs observe “Nakba Day” on Israeli Independence Day doesn’t help matters.

College students are fed the Arab narrative of “ethnic cleansing,” even sometimes of genocide — an obviously absurd and incredibly offensive accusation. The number of Palestinians killed in Israel’s wars — and in all the years since — is minuscule compared to the total population.

Yet students rarely seem to question it. In fact, the college group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) runs a “Facing the Nakba” ​campaign​ on campuses, where students are taught about the “forced displacement” of 750,000 Palestinians, and its “present implications in Palestine/Israel.” Notice that they call Israel “Palestine/Israel.”

It is because of these lies told by JVP, Students for Justice in Palestine, and other organizations that Israel’s image is destroyed in the eyes of so many students. College students who learn about the ​Nakba ​subsequently believe that horrible accusations against Israel today are true. These students are our leaders of tomorrow. If we want to preserve the wonderful relationship between the United States and Israel, the lie of the ​Nakba ​should be fought every second on our college campuses.

Matthew Stein, an honors economics major at Swarthmore College, serves as president of Swarthmore Students for Israel and of Swarthmore Chabad. He is a currently a CAMERA Fellow and a former fellow with StandWithUs.

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