This commentary was published in Haaretz on 09/05/2011
"A mature, wise and righteous nation should be able to understand that there are other people here, who cannot take part in celebrating an independence that pours salt on the open wound in their hearts," Avirama Golan wrote in Haaretz last month. But how will the Jewish nation in Zion understand the open wound in the hearts of the Arab citizens who live here if it has never had a proper chance to be exposed to the story of their catastrophe, certainly not as a legitimate narrative? The vast majority of citizens do not grasp the significance of the Nakba because they have not had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the pain, trauma and loss that the Israeli Palestinians experienced in 1948. Until now, Israeli governments have disregarded, hidden or denied this pain; from now on, acknowledging it is also prohibited by law.
The Nakba Law is a sad reflection of the non-independence of the State of Israel. It is not merely that, after 63 years, Israel is unable to recognize that no matter how necessary and justified its establishment was, it was accompanied by wrongs and pain inflicted on others. The country is insecure about itself and its continued existence; both its leaders and its opposition figures tirelessly warn that the state will cease to exist, each in accordance with his or her own ideology and fears. Sixty-three years after its establishment, the State of Israel and its Jewish society lack confidence, require external approval and recognition, and feel threatened by the entire world - and even by the minority that lives within. Is that independence? Is that what the "free people in our land," as per the national anthem, looks like?
Thus the citizens of Israel arrive at this Independence Day in a kind of schizophrenic state, which is expressed every time they answer the question "How are you?" with the answer "Personally, excellent." Personally cannot be less than excellent because collectively we are victims all the time, either because someone is threatening us or because someone is blaming us. Collectively, everything is onerous and difficult and exhausting, so personally everything is simply wonderful. That's why every year the public opinion polls discover anew that Israelis are supremely happy with their lives even though they don't trust the government and can't make it through the month without an overdraft. Thus it is that on the 63rd anniversary of the state's founding, the citizens of Israel have more and more foreign passports and more and more thoughts about living elsewhere.
I hope that one day we get to celebrate an Independence Day when we will be genuinely independent - when we want to make peace, when we realize that there are partners with whom to do it, when we understand that the Arab citizens here want to be reconciled with us and that they declare this in the Israeli Arab Future Vision document, and when we stop fearing that soon we will no longer be here. Happy Independence Day.