Home Media Action Alerts2022 University of Toronto Newspaper Column Refers to Israel’s Creation as “Nakba” – Catastrophe

University of Toronto Newspaper Column Refers to Israel’s Creation as “Nakba” – Catastrophe

by Robert Walker

In a column published on October 2 in the Arts & Culture section of The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper, entitled: “Finding a voice through storytelling at the 15th annual Toronto Palestinian Film Festival,” Milena Pappalardo reviews the 2022 Toronto Palestinian Film Festival (TPFF), which ran in late September.

Pappalardo’s commentary was peppered with anti-Israel disinformation, beginning with her background of the TPFF creation in 2008, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for the catastrophe, which Pappalardo explains “is a sombre day in Palestinian history that commemorates when Israeli militias terrorized and forcibly removed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people from their homes during the establishment of Israel in 1948.”

This oft-repeated proclamation, made frequently by anti-Israel activists, is extraordinarily misleading.

On May 14, 1948, following the United Nations Partition Plan, Israel declared its independence, marking the rebirth of the Jewish nation-state for the first time in almost two thousand years.

Almost immediately, the tiny reborn country was invaded by surrounding Arab armies, attempting to destroy the nascent Jewish State before it had a chance to defend itself. Living inside the new state were hundreds of thousands of Arabs, as well as Jews, and while it is true that roughly 750,000 Arabs were displaced during this period – similar in number to the 800,000 Jews forcibly exiled from their homes in Islamic lands – Pappalardo has missed the true culprit.

Historian Benny Morris noted that Arab leaders actively encouraged their community members to leave the country as a strategic move. “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments,” he wrote in “The Birth of the Palestinian Problem Revisited.”

In the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Aubrey Lippincott, the local US Consul General, wrote in 1948 that Arab leaders were urging “all Arabs to leave the city, and large numbers did so.”

Today, the descendants of the Arabs who refused to heed the intimidation lobbed at them by local Arab leaders are residents and for the most part citizens of Israel, where they enjoy full and equal rights in a community that numbers more than two million.

Contrary to the implication suggested in the column that Israeli militias arrived one day to exile Palestinians and install Jews in their place, Israel has been home to the Jewish People for three thousand years. The land of Israel is where the Jewish prophets walked and taught, where Hebrew was studied millennia ago, and where the Jews’ collective history was forged.

By continuing to give credence and legitimacy to the term “nakba,” Pappalardo is in effect erasing the Jewish People’s longstanding historic rights and presence in their homeland.

By de facto denying the Jewish history of Israel, Pappalardo – along with anyone else parroting the nakba myth – is doing more than creating a revisionist history; they are doing a major disservice to the cause of peace and any hope for a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians today.

Pappalardo’s regurgitation of the common misinformation surrounding Israel’s independence is more surprising given her opposition to what she describes as the over-politicization of Palestinian culture, writing that “to say one is Palestinian is often taken not as a fact, but as a political statement — a statement that welcomes debate and unwanted commentary.”


It is axiomatic, therefore, that if Pappalardo wants to remove what she sees as politicization surrounding Palestinian identity, she should start by being part of the solution, and that means discontinuing terms and concepts like nakba, which takes a sledgehammer to any concept of historical accuracy.

The impacts of such falsehoods have very real-life implications. If Palestinians are taught and retaught a myth that claims Israel has no right to exist and was founded illegitimately, many will come to believe such legends, and will consequently oppose Israel’s right to exist, perhaps even violently.

Send your feedback to The Varsity’s Editor-In-Chief, Janine Ngan, at: editor@thevarsity.ca.

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