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Nakba is the root of the conflict and makes ’67 negotiations meaningless — ‘NYRB’

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An important piece by Nathan Thrall in the New York Review of Books is titled “What future for Israel?” Important because it is broaching in the pages of our leading liberal intellectual journal, beloved by motheaten Zionists, the paradigm shift that has been forced by young idealists and activists: a shift from the ideal of partition to the ideal of human rights. From the ideal of preserving a Jewish state (the 67 borders and all the failed negotiations and demographic/racist baggage of that ideal) to the idea of equal rights. In a word: 1948 replaces 1967. The grievances inherent in the establishment of a Jewish state have come to the fore. The Nakba, committed by socialist Zionists, must be acknowledged at last– the Nakba now embodied in colonization of the West Bank. And when those ethnic undertakings/crimes are openly discussed, how many American Jews will not begin to question “What future for Israel?”

Maybe Tony Judt was too abrupt for this same audience 10 years ago when he said that Israel was an “anachronism.” Thrall has a lighter touch, but it amounts to the same news. Though we’ll probably have to wait another ten years for it to sink in.

Some excerpts:

Israel’s turn away from the Palestinians has brought an overdue shift in focus from the borders of the state to what lies within them. Jewish identity was a central issue of the 2013 election; indirectly, so too was the place of minorities in the Jewish state. Among Israeli citizens, Jews but not Palestinians have collective rights to land, immigration, symbols such as their own flag, and commemorations, particularly of the Nakba, the catastrophe of Palestinian defeat and expulsion in 1948. Jews and non-Jews cannot legally marry. Current residents of Jerusalem homes that were abandoned during the 1948 war have been evicted to make room for former owners and their descendants—but only when the deed holders are Jews.

The inequality of Jews and non-Jews within Israel’s pre-1967 borders—in which Palestinian citizens and residents lived under military rule from 1948 until the end of 1966—prepared the ground for still more unequal arrangements in the West Bank after the 1967 war. Both were created by the Ashkenazi Labor Zionist elite that now criticizes the settlers for dynamics it set in place. On what grounds, [author Yehouda] Shenhav asks, is the idea of Jewish settlement in ruined Palestinian villages within the pre-1967 borders—formerly inhabited, in many cases, by Palestinian citizens internally displaced by war—considered more moral than Jewish settlement on Palestinian agricultural lands of the West Bank? The former, he argues, involved far more human suffering. [Author Asher] Susser, indeed any Zionist, would surely object to comparisons that would cast doubt on Israeli claims to its pre-1967 territory. But he offers strong support for the underlying premise that the root of the conflict is not east of the Green Line but in the more than century-old project of Zionist settlement itself.

The fading importance of the pre-1967 borders means a breaking with illusions and a return to the true nature of the conflict: a struggle between two ethnic groups between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea….

Israel, Susser argues, almost certainly will not achieve an end of conflict, much less recognition of a Jewish state, without meeting Palestinian demands to admit responsibility for the flight and expulsion of refugees of the 1948 war…

Many Israeli leaders believe that any such acknowledgment of responsibility or acceptance of Palestinian claims to return would shake the very foundations of the state, undermining its international legitimacy and upending decades of Zionist teaching by conceding that Israel was responsible for forcibly dispossessing large numbers of Palestinian civilians from their land and homes at its birth. Netanyahu understands the size of this obstacle, or once did, yet is moving with Kerry to renew talks based on the foundering 1967 model.

Kerry, like his predecessors, has concentrated on 1967 issues such as borders and security, showing few signs that he has learned from past failures. One hopes that he is not under the mistaken impression that Olmert and Abbas were inches away from a real agreement. Those talks did not come close to resolving even the 1967 issues. What’s more, compared to Olmert, Netanyahu is less desperate, less willing to compromise on 1948 issues, and is making calculations in a region that has become less stable and forgiving of risk.

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29 Responses

  1. OlegR
    July 21, 2013, 11:32 am

    If you want to talk 1948 or try a rematch you might not like the result.
    Just a thought.

    • annie
      July 21, 2013, 11:47 am

      If you want to talk 1948 or try a rematch you might not like the result.

      ok, even if i may not like it i’m still game. can you answer this question?

      On what grounds, Shenhav asks, is the idea of Jewish settlement in ruined Palestinian villages within the pre-1967 borders—formerly inhabited, in many cases, by Palestinian citizens internally displaced by war—considered more moral than Jewish settlement on Palestinian agricultural lands of the West Bank?

      • OlegR
        July 21, 2013, 4:49 pm

        /ok, even if i may not like it i’m still game/
        That’s the thing, You are not in the game, you live comfortably in California.

        Sure i can it’s not more moral in any way. The settlements have as much right to exist as does Tel Aviv, this is our land . That’s the settlers argument all the way, always have been and they have a point.
        The against settlements argument is based on real politic first and foremost.

      • justicewillprevail
        July 22, 2013, 7:09 am

        :This is our land’. By what logic does the land and houses of Palestinian farmers, artisans, villagers, city dwellers, all the people who have been there for centuries, belong to people from Eastern Europe, Russia, Brooklyn who had never been there in their life, before being given handsome subsidies and armed guards to do so? I don’t think you have a clue what realpolitik actually means, somewhat ironically given your origins.

      • xanadou
        July 22, 2013, 7:12 pm

        Are then the zionists who are not living in Israel in the game? On what grounds?
        Are the decrepit agencies of ADL, AIPAC et al, in the game? They, too, are living in considerable comfort in the US.

        “The settlements have as much right to exist” – by what right?
        “as does Tel Aviv, this is our land”. Why would you single out Tel Aviv?
        And, no, Israel is not your land. It is the land of those who have lived there for centuries, even millennia, who have cultivated the orange and olive groves (now destroyed by the Israeli army), and the land (now illegally appropriated by wanna-be farmers whose only experience is living in a city of Europe or N. America. It is and can only be the land of those who will treat it and its inhabitants with respect.

        You need to try some books that prove that Jews were, until about the 1st century BCE, a minor cult, one of many in ancient Judea. Yes, Judea, the same one which gave the name to a religion invented around 500BCE. Judaism graduated from a cult to a religion when the converts (Shlomo Sands, “The Invention of the Jewish People”) to the new cult had the numbers to de nomine claim that part of the land, at least for a century or two before voluntarily leaving en masse for Egypt, Rome and beyond. Israel, Judea, Samaria, the lot – have been glorified stepping stones for the endless marches by the armies of Sumer, Mesopotamia, Hitites, Egypt, Greece, Persia, Rome, the Ottomans, the Brits… for nigh on three thousand years. If you think that with that tradition of perseverance the Palestinians will at any time decamp, you have another thing coming.

        Archeology has already proven that the region known as Israel was under the dominion of the Sumers for a very long time. From 1000 to 700BCE, it was severely underpopulated by pagan tribes of goat and sheep herders:
        Israel Finkelstein/Neil Asher Silverstein, “The Bible Unearthed”. There was no David, no Solomon, no First Temple, no fancy empire. Just nothing beyond arid pasture land. Jerusalem was a crossroads until the Romans claimed the land and built their military baracks. A lure for local merchants who, gradually and over time, congregated around the area proferring their goods to the soldiers.

        Jews have no more exclusive right to any land than Christians or Muslims. The muslim Palestinians have lived next to adherents to other faiths for eons. In peace. Spend some time with them and find out how its done. Your future may depend on it.

      • Ludwig
        July 21, 2013, 5:34 pm

        Those were not defined as borders pre 1967. They were known as armistice lines. Anybody who refers to 1967 borders is mistaken.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        July 21, 2013, 9:05 pm

        If you steal three-quarters of a people’s country but then you stop and at least let them keep the remaining quarter, something of their culture and identity will survive. If you decide that three quarters isn’t enough, that you have to finish the job, crush them completely, isn’t that even worse?

      • OlegR
        July 22, 2013, 6:51 pm

        You can’t steal what was yours in the first place.

    • just
      July 21, 2013, 11:54 am

      Why do you threaten? The Nakba was real. Israel is going to have to stop denying it, and the brutality and oppression that they inflict on the indigenous Palestinians daily.

      Thanks for this, Phil. I especially liked this:

      ” Important because it is broaching in the pages of our leading liberal intellectual journal, beloved by motheaten Zionists, the paradigm shift that has been forced by young idealists and activists: a shift from the ideal of partition to the ideal of human rights. “

    • tree
      July 21, 2013, 12:15 pm

      Spoken like a serial abuser.

    • amigo
      July 21, 2013, 1:28 pm

      “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” Oscar Wilde.

      Didn,t know Oscar knew Oleg R

    • lyn117
      July 21, 2013, 3:39 pm

      Oleg, are you arguing that “might makes right?” Under that philosophy, there was nothing wrong with murdering 6 million Jews in WWII. There was nothing wrong with Nazi Germany expelling and taking the property of its Jewish citizens as they had the power to do so. And I would note that their motivation was similar, maintaining the dominance & purity of the Aryan ethnicity. If I subscribed to your philosophy, I wouldn’t care.

      • OlegR
        July 21, 2013, 4:52 pm

        I am saying that if the Palestinians will insist on a rematch it might end poorly for them once again.

      • justicewillprevail
        July 22, 2013, 7:11 am

        Who is even claiming they are, or do you just like being obtuse and irrelevant? Don’t bother answering.

      • Citizen
        July 23, 2013, 3:29 pm

        @ OlegR
        You mean like MLK “insisted on a rematch” after the Civil War devolved into Jim Crow USA?

      • Sumud
        July 22, 2013, 8:05 am

        Oleg, are you arguing that “might makes right?”

        Of course he is, he just doesn’t have the guts and/or brains to face up to the full ramifications of his position.

      • OlegR
        July 22, 2013, 6:53 pm

        What would they be those ramifications
        That the moment we show weakness our lovely neighbors (Syrian)
        won’t try do destroy us and all those nice International laws be damned.

      • xanadou
        July 22, 2013, 6:18 pm

        “In a word: 1948 replaces 1967. ”

        Aye. Absolutely. Finally! Israel, in its psychotic greed for it all, even lands invented in the myths of greater Israel, has overplayed its hand (the only one on the table). The last decade, like none before it has shown the horrific holocaust inflicted by Israelis on the true Palestinians: christian, jewish and muslim.
        For one thing the zionist reps for the future Israel agreed to the UN agreement that defined the borders. And the endless UN resolutions. Neither have been kept. Not a single, not even phony pretense to renegotiate.

    • talknic
      July 21, 2013, 6:51 pm

      OlegR “If you want to talk 1948 or try a rematch you might not like the result.
      Just a thought”

      OK. Is it not true that Israel pleaded to be recognized and in fact WAS recognized as ” an independent republic within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947, and that a provisional government has been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending the state against external aggression, and for discharging the obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law. The Act of Independence will become effective at one minute after six o’clock on the evening of 14 May 1948, Washington time.”

      • OlegR
        July 22, 2013, 6:58 pm

        It is true and it was not accepted by the Arab states or the Palestinian leadership which led to civil war which led to Nakba etc, etc.

        That’s my point exactly.
        Philip claims that the problem is 1948 ie the problem is the creation of the state of Israel they way it was in the first place.
        If the Palestinians agree with him and indeed want to try and reverse 1948 (In practice that is, i am not interested in their wishes as long as they don’t try to act upon them) then they are in for one hell of nasty surprise
        once again.

    • Citizen
      July 23, 2013, 3:22 pm

      @ Oleg R
      So, you threaten us with Israel’s Samson Option? If not, what do you mean by if we “talk 1948 or try a rematch you might not like the result”? Please clarify. Thanks.

  2. Walker
    July 21, 2013, 11:51 am

    Yes, this is obvious. One of the discouraging things about the post-911 era has been how knowledge of the original context of the I/P issue has practically disappeared. Everything now is about the 1967 borders, if one’s awareness goes back that far. But in fact Israel’s origin – the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, the UN’s handling of statehood – undermines its basic legitimacy. You can see why Israel and its supporters are so touchy about this.

    I have to say that I haven’t succeeded in squaring the circle in my own mind. How to reconcile the sketchy origins of Israel with the living presence of millions of Jews – many of them now fourth generation or later on the land.

    At least the question of the occupied territories is clear. There’s no Balfour Declaration or Resolution 181 for them.

    • W.Jones
      July 21, 2013, 5:43 pm

      “There’s no Balfour Declaration for them”. The most expansionist of their nationalists claim that the Balfour Declaration gives them all of the Palestine Mandate, and that they are being nice in letting Amman be in a different country.

  3. tree
    July 21, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Great piece in the NYRB, although I would quibble over the accuracy of a few of its points. Phil’s link to the article goes straight to page 3. I would suggest linking to the very start of the piece here:

  4. seanmcbride
    July 21, 2013, 1:32 pm


    I read this article carefully, one sentence after the other in order, and came away with a very different message than you did. Nathan Thrall seems to be arguing that Israeli society is moving ever farther to the intransigent right and that there is nothing anyone can do about it:

    Israel’s new government represents well the rightward shift in mainstream Israeli thought. Like Netanyahu and Lapid, most Israeli Jews say they would accept a two-state solution, but the terms on which they are willing to do so are hardly realistic.14 Many of those further to their right, by contrast, are rather more clear-eyed—or perhaps simply honest—about what peace would entail. In a veiled attack against Netanyahu and Lapid, Naftali Bennett recently said, “Some say they are against the division of Jerusalem but they are in favor of a Palestinian state. And I ask, where exactly would the Palestinian capital be? In Jericho? In Bethlehem? In Berlin?”

    The right has strengthened as the arguments of the left and center have been discredited. Promoters of negotiations have failed to convey how high a price a peace agreement would exact. They have told themselves and the public that the outlines of a peace deal are well known and they have asserted that agreement exists where it does not. Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, a veteran of the Carter and Clinton administrations and co-chairman of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute, writes in The Future of the Jews that it is “commonly understood that the largest settlement blocks would remain under Israeli control in any final peace agreement.” Israelis similarly speak of “consensus” settlements, but the common understanding of which Eizenstat writes is shared only by Israelis and their supporters. Leaked Palestinian transcripts from the Annapolis talks of 2007–2008 record the two sides fighting fiercely over the future status of what Israelis consider one of the most “consensus” settlements of all, Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, with some 40,000 residents.

    • seanmcbride
      July 21, 2013, 1:45 pm

      Nathan Thrall on where Israeli society is now, and the direction in which it is strongly trending:

      The intangible elements of the conflict have grown in importance while the Green Line defined by the 1949 armistice has been all but erased. Jewish nationalist attacks against Palestinian communities in the West Bank have crossed into Israel, taking the form of arson, vandalism, and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Jewish activists in the West Bank have expanded their demographic battle to cities in Israel proper, west of the Green Line, buying homes in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Ramla, Akko, and Lod. Dozens of Israel’s municipal chief rabbis signed a ruling forbidding the rental of homes to non-Jews.20 Many Israelis no longer know where the Green Line lies, mistakenly identifying it with the current West Bank separation barrier and quite unaware that they have crossed it on major roads and highways.

      This is good news?

  5. Les
    July 21, 2013, 3:46 pm

    It’s nice to see something like this slip through the cracks, though Silvers’ NYRB remains in the zionist camp along with the remainder of our major print and broadcast media.

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    July 21, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Phil’s take on the article was not similar to my own. The article contradicted some articles of faith here on mondoweiss, most glaringly its dismissal of the bds movement:

    “Claims of a peace within grasp have been as overstated as warnings that the perpetually closing window for a two-state-solution has nearly shut or that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank will make it an international pariah. In the countries in which the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (“BDS”) has made the largest gains—South Africa and the United Kingdom—Israeli exports have in fact sharply risen. Israelis are not overly worried that the European Union will go significantly beyond wringing its hands over the way its financial support of the Palestinian Authority effectively underwrites Israel’s occupation.”

    And this from the footnotes:

    “In the near future the most one can imagine from Europe is a move to ensure that settlement products in its markets no longer bear “Made in Israel” stickers. At the beginning of 2014, new European Commission guidelines, which restrict European Commission—but not European Union member state—awards to Israeli entities operating in territories Israel conquered in 1967, are to take effect. When the guidelines were leaked to journalists in mid-July, European diplomats expressed surprise at what they viewed as hyperbolic reactions by much of the Israeli government and press. In fact, the guidelines change very little. The EU has had a longstanding policy of limiting the funding of Israeli entities located beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The guidelines are not binding on EU member states; they restrict European Commission support, in the form of grants, prizes, and financial instruments, to Israeli entities in the West Bank and Golan Heights, but such support was minimal to begin with; they do not affect trade between Israel and Europe; and they do not apply to Israeli government offices, such as the Ministry of Justice, that are located beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders.”

    I advise reading the entire article.

    Here’s the last paragraph: “If renewed talks break down, Israelis may begin asking themselves whether the time has come to abandon hopes of a full peace in order to achieve—perhaps through cease-fires or further unilateral withdrawals—a partial separation. They would thereby create something more than one state but less than two, which is, in fact, all that was ever on offer.”

  7. Citizen
    July 23, 2013, 3:46 pm

    This issue (Israel’s legitimacy in the goy world’s eyes) is not going away. Simple morality/ethics: two wrongs don’t make a right. A key line of thought and universal values is what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. “Never again!” is not just a Jewish ethic and call to arms. Too many non-jews died,maimed, dispossed in WW2 to make it an Israeli, diaspora Jewish-only only obsession. The Palestinians may gain nothing by application of the Nuremberg principles against Goering’s value, might makes right, but ultimately, neither will the Jewish Israelis and their supporters world wide, especially in USA, lone superpower.

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