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The ’48 discussion is replacing the ’67 discussion

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Yesterday Jeffrey Goldberg went off on Mahmoud Abbas’s statement that his family was expelled from Israel during the Nakba; Goldberg said angrily this was the fault of the Arab armies. So suddenly Goldberg’s energies are not really concerned with the settlements and the ’67 lines any more– no even Tom Friedman is conceding that Israel has blocked a peace deal — he is concerned with the ’48 lines.

This is the political achievement of the Palestinian solidarity movement and the Israeli rejectionists in the last year or so: serious people are not disputing the ’67 question, it would be like arguing over when people are going to Jetson up to Mars. They are fighting over the ’48 lines, the Nakba, the refugees. On All Things Considered last night, a Hamas spokesman talked about the inequity of Palestinian refugees not being able to return to their homes– even as Israel exercises a law of return that allows any Jew to move to the West Bank, a gross inequity of 7 decades, indeed… On NPR this morning, a panicked Israeli spoke of the refugees’ scary demands and his fears of democracy in Syria and Jordan. We need Assad, we need Hezbollah, he said, not democracy!

The ’48 discussion is replacing the ’67 discussion. And ’48 is an existential discussion. The prediction by Ehud Olmert and John Mearsheimer that Israel was pursuing a policy of national suicide by turning up its nose at the Arab Peace Initiative’s ’67 offer is coming true, in the Arab spring. The conversation is ceasing to be about the borders of the Jewish state, which the Israelis could never agree on, and more and more about What is this thing called a Jewish state? What did Partition create?

I’m not against Partition– I wonder how brutalized these two peoples are on religious and racial lines, I think revolution would be very bloody; I saw the Stars of David painted on the trashbins in besieged Gaza– but Partition hasn’t worked, and by stages I imagine it will come to an end in a postracial age.

This new conversation, which reflects the reality that the two-state solution is a dead letter, is a sign of the next stage. Serious people around the world are questioning the establishment of a Jewish state in ’48 when the promised Arab state never emerged and the refugees were not allowed to come back to their homes, serious people are questioning that fundamental inequity and revisiting a Partition resolution that granted no self-determination to Arabs– even as Pakistanis, Indians, Turkmenistanis, Kosovars, East Timorese, Slovakians have had self-determination.

This is the conversation pro-Israel forces in this country fear more than anything else, yet they have brought it on themselves– through an original sin, of denying the right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Kennedy and Eisenhower and Johnson and Nixon all wanted to honor, of the refugees being allowed to return to their homes; of erasing their villages; and of pursuing a greater and grabbier Israel during four decades of occupation. And in the months to come we will see more nakedly than ever the power upon which these forces depend: the Israel lobby, the U.S. government. The only pillar, as a democracy movement sweeps the Middle East, and Israel calls out for us to support dictatorships.

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