The Nakba ("disaster") is the heart of the Palestinians' backward-looking national narrative, which depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin. But the Nakba narrative is a myth - a radical distortion of history.
During the 1948 war and for many years afterward, the Western world expressed hardly any moral outrage about the Palestinian refugees. The fighting in Palestine had broken out only two years after the end of the costliest military conflict ever. 11 million ethnic Germans were expelled from their homes and force-marched to Germany by the Red Army, with the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill. Historians estimate that 2 million died on the way.
Around the same time, the Indian subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan; millions of Hindus and Muslims moved from one to the other, and hundreds of thousands died in related violence. Against this background, the West was not troubled by the exodus of a little more than half a million Palestinians after a war launched by their own leaders.
In the Balata refugee camp, inside the West Bank city of Nablus, many of the 20,000 residents are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the Arab citizens of Jaffa who fled their homes in 1948. Balata's young people are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes. If Israel and the Palestinians ever managed to hammer out a peace treaty, PA President Mahmoud Abbas would have to go to Balata and explain to its residents that their leaders have been lying to them for 60 years and that they are not going back to Jaffa. Which is one of the main reasons that there has been no peace treaty.