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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Letters to the editor: May 4, 2015

When I think of Yom Ha’atzmaut, I think of freedom, independence and survival. It is an important day for the Jewish people because 67 years ago, a long-lived dream finally came true, and Israel was officially recognized as a nation. To me, this day represents everything that Jews have sought after for countless years. On this day, we celebrate how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved.

Three years after the tragedy of the Holocaust ended, the state of Israel was established. Six million people perished in the most horrific chapter of human history simply because they were Jewish. Yet, after years of suffering, they were finally given a safe haven, a place where Jews all over the world can visit or live and feel at home. Israel is the light that shines over the Jewish people.

While visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, I heard a story about a man living in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Many people around him did not understand him; they couldn’t comprehend how, after everything he was going through, he was still so happy about his life, always singing and dancing. He simply responded, “As long as I’m alive, I am going to live.” This, in essence, is the spirit of the Jewish people.

When I stepped off the plane after landing in Israel, I felt different. I couldn’t explain why, but I have spoken with many others who have gone to Israel and experience a similar feeling. It is a feeling of warmth, a feeling of belonging, a feeling of coming home. Israel is the symbol of the Jewish people, the symbol that we will live on through it all. After visiting this holy land, I now chose to live my life by the words I heard at Yad Vashem: “As long as I’m alive, I am going to live.”

Throughout all that we have endured, even through the most tragic times, we will survive. Israel means so much to us as a people because it is our past, our present and our future. By staying strong and holding onto what we believe in, the Jewish people have earned their place in this world, in the beautiful land of Israel. This is what we celebrate on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

— Leah Cresswell



For the Palestinians of Israel and Palestinians in the occupied territories and beyond, Israel’s “independence day” means continued military occupation and colonial settlement of their indigenous lands. Hardly a cause to celebrate. In fact, like the state of Arizona, Israel officially outlaws Palestinians (or anyone, for that matter) from promoting ethnic Palestinian history or culture on the basis that such education would constitute a national security threat.

Not surprisingly, as former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons.”

Israel’s ethnic studies ban (labeled officially as Amendment 40 to the Budget Principles Law) is known as the “Nakba Law” because it prohibits state-funded bodies from teaching historical narratives of Palestinian suffering that coincided with the formation of Israel as a settler state displacing the indigenous population. The Nakba, or catastrophe in Arabic, occurred before, during and after Israel’s state declaration in 1948, when armed political militia forces merged to form the Israeli military and conquered three quarters of historic Palestine.

The military forces of the new state, rooted in a decades-old, quasi-religious political movement of Jewish nationalism called Zionism, uprooted 800,000 (or 85 percent) of indigenous Palestinians across 1,300 localities (of which 531 towns and villages were completely destroyed), scattering the newly-made refugees throughout the region and beyond. Today, the refugees and their descendants, who number several million, are languishing in UN-operated camps, with four million under a 45-year Israeli military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 1.5 million Palestinians living with third-class citizenship within Israel.

The truth is often a bitter pill to swallow. In order to make honest assessments of history we must confront — rather than ignore or repress — perspectives that challenge the status quo.

— Gabriel Schivone

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