George Deek is an Israeli Arab. He is also the deputy ambassador to Norway. Here are a few excerpts of a speech he gave in Oslo on September 27th, 2014. You can read the full speech here. This is what I took away as his main points.
The Nakba was a humanitarian desaster, but today it and the Palestinian refugees are being instrumentalized by Arab politicians:
And to be frank, you don’t need to be an anti-Israeli to acknowledge the humanitarian disaster of the Palestinians in 1948, namely the Nakba. […]
But it seems that this conflict was not the only one during the 19th and 20th century that lead to expulsion and transfer. Why is it that the tragedies of the Serbs, the European Muslims, the Polish refugees or the Iraqi Christians are not commemorated? How come the displacement of the Jews from the Arab world was completely forgotten, while the tragedy of the Palestinians, the Nakba, is still alive in today’s politics? It seems to me to be so, because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive. The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel.
It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it: […] The Nakba day was set on May 15th – the day after Israel proclaimed its independence. By that the Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster of the Nakba is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile – the Nakba in their eyes in the creation of Israel.
To overcome the refugee problem, the refugees must be enabled to build a future for themselves and their children:
If the Palestinians wish to redeem the past, they need to first focus on securing a future, on building a world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be. And the first step in that direction, without a doubt, is to end the shameful treatment of the Palestinian refugees.
In the Arab world, the Palestinian refugees – including their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren – are still not settled, aggressively discriminated against, and in most cases denied citizenship and basic human rights. Why is it, that my relatives in Canada are Canadian citizens, while my relatives in Syria, Lebanon or the gulf countries – who were born there and know no other home – are still considered refugees? […]
In fact, Israel was one of the few countries that automatically gave full citizenship and equality for all Palestinians in it after ‘48. And we see the results: despite all the challenges, the Arab citizens of Israel built a future. Israeli Arabs are the most educated Arabs in the world, with the best living standards and opportunities in the region.
Hatred for those that are different must be fought by all of us together, because in the end it will affect all of us:
The Arab world seems to have forgotten that its greatest days in the last 1,400 years were when it showed tolerance and openness towards those who are different. […]
But rather than reviving the successful approach of tolerance, Arab youth are being taught to hate Jews, using anti-Semitic rhetoric from medieval Europe, mixed with Islamic radicalism. And once again, what started as hostility towards Jews has become hostility towards anyone who is different. […]
So friends, If we wish to succeed in protecting our right to be different, if we want to have a future in that region, I believe we should stand together – Jews, Muslims and Christians: […] We will fight against Islamophobia, but we need our Muslims partners to join the fight against Christianophobia and Judeophobia. Because the thing at stake is our shared humanity.
Palestinians (and the whole Arab world) must take responsability for their actions and the consequences instead of seeing themselves as the victims and blaming others:
When the world changes, people start worrying about what the future holds. This fear makes people shrink themselves into the passive position of victims, rejecting reality, and looking for someone to blame for being behind all this. […]
Only the Arabs themselves can change their reality. By stopping the leaning on conspiracy theories and the blaming of outside powers – America, the Jews, the West or whoever – for all the problems; By learning from past mistakes, And by making wiser decisions in the future;