Arabs see May 8, 1948 as a pivotal date marking defeat and the loss of Palestine [EPA]

As Israel commemorates the 60th anniversary of its independence and founding, Arabs are marking the Nakba, or catastrophe, a term used to refer to the Arab defeat in 1948 and the consequent dispossession and displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinians. 

Al Jazeera spoke to Middle Eastern youth on their views of the founding of Israel, the issue of an independent Palestinian nation, the state of the region 60 years after conflict broke out, and why the ideals of Arab nationalism have failed to rescue the Palestinian people.

Almuhannad Al-Hammadi, 23, government employee, Qatar

Al-Hammadi: Israeli occupation of
Palestine alludes to Arab weakness

Palestine is a central issue of Arab solidarity [and] every speech must mention Palestine. The religious and historical significance makes it part of the ideology. It may never be factored out of the equation in its plea for Arab unity.

The fact that Palestine is still under Israeli occupation points to how weak so-called Arab solidarity really is.

Palestinian suffering has continued for 60 years and the Arabs are willing to do nothing.

If half the Arab nations are in a state of chaos, how may we speak about resolving the Palestinian issue or uniting the Arabs? After 60 years of defeat, one sees that the term Arab nationalism is becoming a legend of the Nasser era, a fading dream.

Nevertheless, I continue to strongly support the cause to unite Arabs, while most people from different age groups regard Arab nationalism as a dead hope.

Saher Isaac, 31, engineer, Palestinian-Israeli from Haifa


Isaac: Arabs should learn
from the Jewish experience
My father is from pre-1948 Palestine and he settled in what has now become the state of Israel where many Israeli-Arabs now reside.

 

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the West Bank throwing stones at Israeli troops during the first intifada, just for fun.

Arabs think I am an Arab and Israelis think I am Israeli. When I speak Hebrew, people usually do not think I am an Arab. Now, I am a part of the only Arab family in my neighbourhood in Haifa.

If you take a look at all the Arab states, they all speak Arabic and have the same traditions and I participate in this union of what has become of the Arab world.

But if you take a look at Israel, their union is stronger. I would appreciate if Arabs could learn from the Jews who came from all over the world and in the span of 60 years managed to establish a state.

But when Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian president, came to power, Palestinians started putting money in their pockets. I want Palestinians to be self-sufficient, but there is too much corruption going on that it makes me resent the Arab world. 

I visit Bethlehem and parts of Israel maybe once or twice a month, and when I go back to Palestine, I feel ashamed because I know Palestinians can do better.

If the Jews who lived in the Middle East over 2000 years ago were able to leave the area and then come back to establish a state, then why can't the Palestinians create a state in a land that they already live in? Thus, I am forced to respect the Jewish people because they have done so much to become productive members of their own society, while Palestinians and their authority figures have done quite the opposite.

For instance, Arabs have oil and we could become world leaders and use such an important natural resource to our benefit, but that does not happen, so where is the Arab ideal in that? Arabs are always agreeing to disagree, just like the Arab league, it is a joke.

If anything, I think I am lucky that I live under Israeli occupation than another Arab country because I have my rights here, I am treated fairly here. I cannot say that I would have the same sort of freedom in the Arab world. 

Mohamed Hassan El Tayeb, 24, student, Sudan

Most Arabs devote a lot of interest to the Palestinian issue not only because they see the current status there as unjust but also because they are concerned about the suffering of fellow Arabs.

The Palestinian issue is without a doubt integral to Arab nationalism. Arabs almost unanimously support the Palestinian cause and passionately support Palestinian liberation.

Arab media across the board agree on how news from Palestine should be reported.

Whenever the Palestinian issue is on people's minds (as with the Gaza blockade, recently), there is an observed heightening of "Arabist" sentiments. 

Hadeel Alaini, 23, Yemeni teacher living in Egypt

Alaini: I have always had mixed
views on the Palestinian issue

It is an extremely complicated matter; I have always had mixed views on the topic.

I am not sure about how I feel. At first, I believed that the Palestinians had every right to each piece of land they claimed was theirs.

Now, I do not have faith in the Palestinian government and those in power who come across as incompetent because I do not believe they will be able to reclaim all Palestinian land. Or whatever bits and pieces of land the Israelis have left them.

In my heart, I believe they have a right to these lands, but they are stuck with those fragmented bits and pieces.

It is heartbreaking to see rich Arab countries competing in building the biggest malls, tallest buildings, and largest conference centres when Palestinians and Iraqis are dying. Perhaps that is why we are too busy for Arab nationalism.

Arab nationalism is our only hope, though. Young Arabs these days are scrambling to leave the region and doing everything in their power to get Western passports, but they are not the ones to blame.  

It seems our governments are doing everything in their power to stand in our way and hinder any form of progress we attempt to make. Our governments need to realise that without the approval of their own people, they will never get anywhere.

Source: Al Jazeera