Past, Present, Future: 1948 and 2011

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J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he studies literature and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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  1. Avatar North
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    says:

    Awsome post, couldn’t agree more.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    I stole your bicycle 60 years ago, and now I have moved onto your front lawn. And I say this: the only way the authorities throwing me off your lawn today can be just would be if you recognize as legitimate the disposition of your bicycle as it existed 59 years ago.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Michael Drew
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      See, the bicycle part of the analogy doesn’t work so well once you realize that “stole” means, “Agreed with the international authorities to whom you now appeal to split the territory, was instantly attacked by the neighborhood gang but managed to survive.” And also because it doesn’t require that one give up his own existence in order to return the bicycle.

      The point still remains: arguing over 1948 is going to get no one anywhere, or at least anywhere productive. Arguing over 1967? Much more fruitful.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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        says:

        Insistence on ‘recognition’ is the thing that is focusing most on ’48 from where I sit, and if I am not mistaken, it is Israel that is focused on that. It is just status quo that Israel isn’t seen as legitimate by many people in the region; the politics will always reflect that. It is a pipe dream to think that can be made to go away. What is not legitimate is to resist the history of 1948 (or 1967) violently, and that is what should be focused on. If peace means not receiving recognition from some neighbors, Israel should accept that. You are right that they should be secure in their recognition at the UN (i.e. that as to existence, the views of some in the region will always be overruled by the rest of the international community), but they are that, owing to the support of the most powerful member states.

        It is Israel’s insistence on “recognition” from particular players, not latent attitudes in the region about its (il)legitimacy that points the most toward 1948 and stands in the way of progress.Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Michael Drew
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          The only player that Israel demands recognition from, in exchange for peace, is the Palestinian leadership. This seems reasonable: you would want the group with whom you’re negotiating, when it comes to dividing an area to which both groups lay claim, to recognize the end result of that deal as legitimate. Creating a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders that does not recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a state won’t solve the problem, especially if that new, Palestinian state feels that it is the legitimate authority over the land Israel (at 1967, and post-hypothetical peace deal) occupies — which is what non-recognition implies.

          Not recognizing Israel as a legitimate state prevents the reception of ambassadors, establishment of embassies and “normal” diplomatic relations, and leaves us EXACTLY where we are today: a self-declared Palestinian state that is not recognized by the state that matters most (and which it refuses to recognize) — Israel. Adding a UN declaration to that mix will, at best, enforce an unsustainable status quo. In worse (and more likely) scenarios, it will, in fact, result in Israel’s delegitimization in the eyes of a suddenly growing portion of the international community.

          I fail to see why Israel, alone among nations, should be asked to recognize and treat in good faith a state that not only does not recognize its legitimacy, but that also believes it is the rightful authority over all Israel’s territory.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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            Palestinian non-recognition of Israel today doesn’t foreclose the possibility that a Palestinian state would eventually recognize Israel. That is what diplomacy is for. You have to work for what you want.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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        says:

        As to the bicycle, the point is not that I would return the bicycle. I might not have it anymore, making it equally impossible to do as it would be if I had to give up my existence to do so. The point is that I simply not insist that you retrospectively bless my theft of it in order for us to move on to present issues and the formation of a living peace between us. If I can’t move on to the work of concluding an otherwise peaceful resolution to the present, material issue of my living on your front yard while you continue to refer to the events of 60 years ago as involving ‘theft’ (because that was your experience of it), then maybe it is I who is not so finished with arguing about the events of 60 years ago after all.Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Michael Drew
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          says:

          But Israel DOES have “the bicycle.” Israel IS the bicycle. If the Palestinian people want to join the community of nations, and are appealing to the United Nations as the legitimate arbiter of the “front lawn” controversy, then they can’t very well claim that the United Nations is not a legitimate arbiter of the “bicycle” controversy because the UN recognizes Israel’s right to be/own/possess the bike.

          If you want Israelis to support a peace deal, they need reassurance that in five or ten years, the Palestinian government isn’t going to turn around and demand more. And if they do not recognize Israel’s legitimacy over the territory of the pre-1967 borders, then they are, in effect, laying claim to that territory.

          As an example, Tom van Dyke’s comment from my subsequent post on this topic:

          “Hamas accepts 1967 borders, but will never recognize Israel, top official says
          Speaking to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Mahmoud Zahar says recognition of Israel would deprive future Palestinian generations of the possibility to ‘liberate’ their lands.

          By Haaretz Service

          http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-accepts-1967-borders-but-will-never-recognize-israel-top-official-says-1.361072

          That is not peace; that’s waiting until the time’s ripe for the next “intifada.” Except hoping that somehow you’ll be able to wrangle up (non-Arab) international support for it, now that you’re recognized even by Israel as legitimate.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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            says:

            “I disagree with the judge’s decision but I’ll abide by it”? You’ve never heard of that? That’s all I’m saying you can’t get people to move away from, because you can’t. And don’t get me wrong – I think Palestinians should recognize Israel because it is a fact, and recognizing facts is productive. But to the extent that can’t realistically happen now because of the politics of the matter among Palestinians, then I think making it a condition for peace means that it is Israel who is standing in the way of progress. Good things come in time.Report

            • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              “And don’t get me wrong – I think Palestinians should recognize Israel because it is a fact, and recognizing facts is productive.”

              I probably owe you an apology for this, as it may very well have been my quick reading more than anything else, but this wasn’t entirely clear to me at first — and probably led me to not take your arguments quite as seriously as I ought to have… Despite my dovishness on this issue and willingness to criticize Israel publicly, it’s still something that makes me get defensive when reading things on the internet — and that requires a few extra layers of filter, both for my reading and responses, none of which were operating when I was responding to you earlier. Again, apologies.

              I’ve got to run now, so for the moment, I’m just going to say that I still don’t think the scenario you’ve sketched out changes much, if anything, for the better… or gives us a genuinely different status quo. (Though if you’re imagining a situation that allows for more Palestinian opportunities at genuine nation-building…) I also worry that Abbas’ op-ed today hinted at a willingness to use UN recognition as a means to further international de-legitimization of Israel.

              I’m going to re-read your arguments later and actually give you better responses; you’ve spent enough time arguing with me to deserve that.

              I still don’t like that bike analogy, though.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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                says:

                Well, it’s not like I’d made it clear before that, so I don’t think you owe me any apology. The question, for me, was just if we are going to decry fighting over 1948, that we be aware of who really is prepared to quarantine the issue and move past it. Are we so sure that the call to ‘recognize’ Israel is not a moving past ’48, but simply a conclusion of it in its favor? How then could we expect Palestinians to accept “moving past” it, when they know in fact they will have to face all the consequences of having conceded 60 years of being wrong on the matter (i”m taking no position on whether that is the case – I’m just sketching viewpoints as they exist today). Would Israel be so eager to “move past” 1948 if it meant having the matter concluded in the other direction?

                Ultimately, I agree with both of your major points – that Palentinians should recognize Israel (because it would be productive today, not because they must acknowledge Israel was historically in the right), and that we shouldn’t fight over 1948. But if that really is the extent of your arguments, then there needs to be a way for Paelstinians to do that that doesn’t totally implicate 1948 in their hearts and minds — in the most catastrophic way possible, no less. And I certainly don’t think Israeli demands for recognition have gone out of the way to downplay what that would require Palestinians saying about the historical legitimacy/morality of their enterprise. What I fail to see is how that position, rather than a patience for the realities of Palestinain public sentiment, is one that is more focused on progress in the presnet than on fighting, and finally winning, the 1948 war once and for all. HOw is that “moving on” or “being productive”?

                Now, it might be the case that, given that history-neutral way of recognizing the fact of Israel’s existence in today’s world, Palestinians might not take it — today, or even for a long time after statehood. But if that is the case, then that, too is a fact that has to be dealt with in any way forward. I have no position on whether UN recognition would be a good thing with or without Palestinian recognition of Israel. (I offered a thought or two above about why it might help, but I’m nowhere near convinced it’s what would help most.) But if it isn’t workable absent Palestinian recognition, then I think we need more ideas about what is the way ahead, because it seems pretty likely that recognition isn’t immediately in the offing. And, with the rhetoric being what it has been, I don;t see that as a Palestinian failure to move past 1948 any more than an Israeli failure. Israel doesn’t want to table 1948; they want to conclude it in their favor, demolishing any Palestinian historical claims relating to it. Reluctance to accede to that is not reluctance only to “move past” history or just leave it in the past.Report

              • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Michael Drew
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                I think, in retrospect, that I could have used broader language about accepting 1948/recognizing Israel and still made my argument — maybe it would have been stronger that way. Regardless, I think that my initial stridency that the UN must, should it recognize Palestinian statehood, affirm at the same time Israel’s right to something roughly on the pre-1967 borders. At the very least, there needs to be a defined boundary in which the UN says — this area is where we recognize your legitimate statehood; playing in someone else’s sandbox without their permission won’t make you any friends.

                Is such a de facto recognition more or less as good as an outright recognition? Perhaps, for a time. Your point about using it to provide room for building Palestinian statehood to the point where the can recognize Israel is at least as valid as my talk about negotiating partners and borders &c. I’m much more skeptical of it than you are.

                As for 1948/demanding recognition as a way of stalling the negotiations at 1948 rather than moving past it: I don’t know whether this would affect your reaction at all, and my language in the post and comments was too blunt to make it clear, but I certainly wouldn’t presume to demand that the Palestinian people, on the drop of a dime, move beyond it. I think Faulkner’s observations about the trauma of the past — especially for the losing side — can be terrifyingly accurate; I think 1948 will define the Palestinian people for years to come, in ways good and bad, whether they want it or not. But I will presume to call on their leaders to, at least professionally, move past it. This post was prompted by Abbas’ op-ed, which is based in historically questionable romanticism, rather than any real case about the condition of Palestinian state apparati today, or a vision for a Palestinian future. In their public lives, he and his colleagues need to focus on 1967 — to move beyond Nakba/right of return/their parents or childhoods and attempting to recapture the past, and talk about their children and grandchildren and what a Palestinian state will look like for them. At least and especially when talking to Western audiences.

                I think that this conversation — about my language of recognition/1948/etc, not the actual Israel-Palestine issue — speaks to the problems of the blog as a medium. I like to think that if I’d written this post, proofread it, hit save, and came back it it 24 hours later, I’d have refined it to include or acknowledge much of what I just wrote (or at least much of that final paragraph). Instead, I proofread it once and posted it.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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                What I am saying is that, politically, we should be flexible enough to recognize, as you very forcefully do just above, that, as a factual matter, the popular Palestinian grievance regarding 1948 is not going to go away with any UN resolution – or even any statement by their leaders, but that we also should recognize the political consequences of this, which are that it may be imprudent at any given moment to force Palestinian leaders to split from their people inasmuch as to concede what is a living concern among many/most Palestinians regarding 1948. My understanding of the history is that that kind of split is what gives rise to popular movements like Hamas.

                But what should be a non-negotiable condition that Palestinian leaders (and people) must meet to be welcome in any peace process, to say nothing of internationally recognized statehood, should be the renunciation of violence pursuant to those grievances. To me, that is what would be necessary and sufficient from the Palestinian side to allow them to say they are willing to move past 1948 in an official way within a peace process. In my view, this would amount to the disagree-but-willing-to-abide position I described. And from Israel, there should be a willingness to accept that as the precondition they should insist upon for negotiations leading to a final settlement. Insisting the Palestinians concede the wrongness of their cause as relates to 1948 does not comport with a desire to put the academic battles around history in the past that I can see; rather it indicates a desire to finally win them.

                As I have indicated, where exactly that leaves recognition in particular with respect to the he-said-no-she-said of who won’t leave history in the past, I am not sure. It depends what recognition means, I suppose. But I know that I strongly prefer the case you made for recognition after I pushed you about who was in fact insisting on revisiting history to the one you made in your original post, to wit (i.e. the one I prefer):

                “Not recognizing Israel as a legitimate state prevents the reception of ambassadors, establishment of embassies and “normal” diplomatic relations, and leaves us EXACTLY where we are today: a self-declared Palestinian state that is not recognized by the state that matters most (and which it refuses to recognize) — Israel. Adding a UN declaration to that mix will, at best, enforce an unsustainable status quo. In worse (and more likely) scenarios, it will, in fact, result in Israel’s delegitimization in the eyes of a suddenly growing portion of the international community.”

                I respond much better to an argument like this — pragmatic and concerned with real consequences in the present — from someone who is couching the discussion in the need to put history in the past when they, than I do to an argument that rather willingly (it seems) takes up the 1948 question, while criticizing others for, perhaps, bringing it up.

                That said, it’s not at all clear to me that you are necessarily right about the dire consequences of pursuing these things (Palestinian recognition of Israel prior to UN/Israeli recognition of Palestine). I agree, as I think most people do, that that is the basic exchange that must happen (along with settlement on borders, refugees, and Jerusalem, which all have specific solutions sketched out that basically just await movement on the fundamental exchange). But it’s not clear to me (as I begin to repeat myself now) that this must happen in a certain sequence. They both must happen, but it seems to me that insisting they both must be ready to happen within a certain time window of each other, or even in a particular order, radically reduces the chances that they will. Things happen when they are ready to happen. I understand Israel’s reluctance to make a concession without receiving a verifiable concession in return. This could make them the “bigger man,” but it could also make them the dupe who would live to rue the day. i understand that. But sometimes that is precisely what is necessary to resolve conflicts that are at impasse. One of these parties may have to accede to making a self-denying concession. I am critical enough of Palestinian leadership to believe they won’t be that bigger party. They have little to lose but this symbolic and perhaps pernicious narrative (and precious little more to gain: statehood won’t make their land any less desolated presently; it is not to their credit that they can likely be counted on to hold on to it all the more tightly the more they are threatened with losing it. Israel, by contrast, it seems to me, has by far the most to lose, but also the most to gain, in making a concession based on trust. If that is necessary, and if one of the parties can be counted on not to do it, doesn’t that leave the other with a simple choice: prolong the status quo, or make a concession based on trust?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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                says:

                Also, again on the bicycle, it was not meant as a fair analogy for the conflict from on objective standpoint. Again, I don’t pretend to have that kind of perspective on it. It was intended as a perspectival illustration of what is being asked from Palestinians in their own minds and hearts. the point was that that viewpoint, if it exists as I understand it to, is itself a fact in this process. And insisting on correcting or litigating the bicycle analogy (or its analogue) as unfair qua analogy is itself a perfect illustration of the way in which the Israeli stance on “recognition,” as I understand it, does not amount to a desire to move beyond the issue of 1948 because it is part of the past, but, again, rather, to settle the matter substantively in a very real way in the present. To then accuse Palestinians of refusing to put the past in the past in their response seems pretty rich to me. Perhaps I am not aware of Israeli proposals to seek recognition in ways that truly table 1948 as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, but I am skeptical they have been offered at high levels.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J.L. Wall
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            If the Palestinian government turns around and demands more, but does so using diplomacy and not arms, isn’t that just they way of things in international relations? Multiple states residing in tight quarters, with long-disputed borders? A perfectly final settlement as to borders with perfectly amicable, mutual recognition, and peace, seems to me to be a bit pie-in-the-sky where this conflict is concerned, don’t you think? Shouldn’t we get to peace first? And maybe some political entities (i.e. a Palestinian state) that would allow for proper interstate negotiations, rather than the debased status quo that doesn’t allow for any shadow of the kind of representation, security, or even dignity necessary for a populace to even recognize deals negotiated on its behalf?Report

      • Avatar Kevin Carson in reply to J.L. Wall
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        There’s a big difference between (1) recognizing the right of Jews in Palestine today to remain there, and accepting the existence of Israel as a fait accompli in return for a Palestinian state, and (2) accepting the legitimacy of Israel’s founding.

        The idea that there even IS a “Jewish people,” and that Israel is a legitimate expression of their national aspirations, is utter nonsense. At the outset of the modern Zionist movement there were peoples — plural — who spoke Yiddish, who spoke Ladino, etc., and who practiced some form of Judaism (unless they were atheists, of course). Some three thousand years ago the territory we call Palestine was conquered (and much of its native population slaughtered) by a Western Semitic people who practiced a primitive ancestral version of modern Judaism, and managed to hold onto portions of Palestine for a few hundred years. That sharing a religion makes a collection of disparate ethnic groups into a single people, and that a territory already occupied by living people is their ancestral homeland because of a distant religious connection, is utter historical nonsense. Mussolini’s claims to be reviving the Roman Empire, by comparison, seem almost sane. You might as well claim the Romani have the right to repossess some large continuous territory in modern-day India on the grounds that it’s their ancestral homeland.

        Ever notice how many northern European Jews have fair hair skin, how many Ethiopian Jews are black, etc.? I’d venture a guess that modern-day Palestinians have more ancient Hebrew ancestry than modern-day European Jews.

        Israel was nothing but another European colonization project.

        The Palestinian refugee camps still contain people who, within living memory, had homes in what’s become Israel. They still have keys to the houses from which they were evicted, and their camps are laid out according to what city they came from. In the larger camps, they’re even laid out according to what neighborhood in Jaffa or Haifa they came from. “Let my right hand forget her cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I forget thee, O Jerusalem.” That’s not from the Palestinians’ scripture, but it’s one they could identify with.

        The idea that claims based on a national myth about what happened two or three thousand years ago should take moral precedence over this attachment is ludicrous.Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Kevin Carson
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          The verity of your narrative is not as clear-cut as you’d have it. Regarding the various peoples: the break into Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewry is something that happened in recorded history — and, if you trace it through the division of Sephardi and Ashkenazi minhag, it’s why both groups hold by, say, Rashi and Maimonides, but Avadia Yosef and, say, Joseph Soloveitchik (were he still living) would find much, in the details, on which to disagree. This division is one that can, in fact, be traced to the migration of sub-groups.

          Attempting to explain the division between, say, Middle Eastern (Mizrachi) Jews and Eastern/Southern European Jews is where things veer closer to speculation; same with Ethiopian Jewry. But different ethnicities do not preclude Jewish peoplehood, even if they are problematic for nationhood, as you understand it.

          But on those terms, there was no “French” nation until the 18th century, and no “German” nation until the mid-19th; that is, roughly around the time of the advent of modern Zionism. There is an argument that Zionism was itself the Jewish attempt to develop a sense of nationalism (as against peoplehood) along the lines of that burgeoning among others in Europe. The alternatives were, in essence, early German Reform (itself ardently anti-Zionist) — Jews as German nationalists (this appears also among American Jews of the 19th century — perhaps because of the strong German flavor the population at that time), and Jews as socialists. You also have the first inklings of haredi/ultra-Orthodox Jewish reclusiveness at this time, as a kind of anti-nationalism.

          On the other hand, there was a continuous, if small, Jewish presence in Israel and the Arab world throughout this period of European “dominance” — indeed, before around 1000, there were practically no Jews in Europe; the shift is sudden and unclear.

          But more to the point — I wouldn’t make the claim that Israel’s legitimacy as a state depends on religious claims. Even from a religious standpoint… that’s iffy. I would, rather, make the case that it stems from a) the UN Partition Plan, b) Israel’s acceptance thereof, c) Israel’s survival of and victory in a war establishing its independence when invaded by the surrounding states, d) Israel’s recognition by various fellow states, and e) the codification of Israel’s recognition and legitimacy through its recognition by and membership in the United Nations. You will find none of these events in the Torah, written or oral.Report

          • Avatar Kevin Carson in reply to J.L. Wall
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            I don’t think the French and German comparison holds. Their ethnicity is based on a continuous linguistic history going back to the Gallo-Latins and the eastern Franks, and continous occupation of roughly the same geographical areas since the Dark Ages. A number of widely dispersed linguistic groups sharing a single religion does not, I think, an ethnicity make.

            Re the UN partition plan and the outcome of the ’48 war, I won’t rehash my opinions on the legitimacy of the UN or states as expressed in other threads. I would argue for the rights of Jews living in modern-day Israel to live there on the simple basis of having been born there and bearing no blame for how the state was founded.

            I suppose my own preferred outcome would be, not a two-state solution, but a no-state solution — i.e., a Proudhonian system of voluntary federal leagues between self-governing communities (perhaps like the confessional communities in Lebanon before it was destabilized by the migration of Palestinians from Jordan), with a lot of modern network technology and open-source government thrown in. “Adminstration of things rather than governance of people,” and yada yada yada.Report

            • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Kevin Carson
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              The geographical dispersion, yes; the linguistic dispersion… I think we disagree on the extent thereof, but I’ll grant it. I still don’t think that it precludes peoplehood… but it’s too late in the evening (or not late enough?) for arguing over that definition.

              As for your preferred solution: I think you’ve found something even LESS likely than a two-state solution.

              (I know I’ve read your comments elsewhere — but I’m bad enough at keeping names and people straight when I have faces to guide me… on the internet, good luck. I kind of suspected you usually have some sort of crazy libertarian(-ish?-esque?) plan up your sleeve, but it didn’t seem to be where your first comment was going so I didn’t assume.)Report

  3. Avatar DaveC
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    Has anything good ever come out of Palestine, except for the increased interest in Olympics in 1972? If Gaza is a test case, where all Jews were expelled and Gaza is controlled by Palestineans, is that a success? Gaza has no Jews. They now are successfully Judenrein. Saudi Arabia certainly is as Judenrein as could be hoped for in our most optimistic plans for the near terms. Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, etc can all attribute their great social and economic success by driving out most of the Jews. They are not quite there yet. Some day they will drive out or kill all the Jews, and then and only then will they be a succesful society. Now the UN has been somewhat helpful, and promises cooperation in the future.Report

  4. Avatar DaveC
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    Historically, in the Middle East, there were never ever any Jews that lived there legitimately. That means obviously that any bicycle they have now must have been stolen from somebodyReport

  5. Avatar Michael Drew
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    …Having now read the Abbas Op-Ed, I am a bit confused as to how you read it to be officiall concerned with 1948. It is personally concerned with 1948; he tells his story, the one he has to live with every day of his life and can’t forget. But it contains these two statements:

    Our territory is recognized as the lands framed by the 1967 border, though it is occupied by Israel.

    And

    We call on all friendly, peace-loving nations to join us in realizing our national aspirations by recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and by supporting its admission to the United Nations.

    This is someone focused on 1948 as an official matter? On claiming, much less spending energy litigating whether, the Palestinian state rightfully today extends to where it was believed by Palestinians to extend before 1948? A leader who is failing to focus on 1967 for present, official, practical purposes?

    Shit, from where I sit the piece is a veritable demonstration to his people just how to go about putting history in the past (while acknowledging its weight and ongoing consequences) and moving to capitalize on present opportunities! It’s leadership by example of the thing you say you want, J.L. Unless, that is, what you want is for this part of the past never to be mentioned, or for the person holding Abbas’ position among Palestinians to declare that his people’s understanding of this history to be fundamentally in the wrong, which would not be to want him to move past it, but instead to revisit and dwell on the question to perhaps the greatest degree possible. But from an official perspective, he seems to be doing just what you want him to(in the very op-ed you object to!:) acknowledging the personal memories his people have of 1948 (using his own experience as the symbol for them), but officially moving beyond them, to refocus on (and endorse!) what his people can hope to realize to day: a state on the 1967 borders. He models for his people moving from a focus on 1948 to one on 1967, as you call on him to do.

    It’s my fault for not familiarizing myself with the material to which you were reacting until now, but I feel a bit misled here, J.L.

    Below in a separate comment, for completeness’ sake, I will (begging the forbearance of the editors, subjecting publication of course to their discretion) reprint the text of the Abbas’ Op-Ed in the May 17, 2011 edition of The New York Times that prompted the charge here of an official focus on 1948 on his part, rather than a focus on the real issue around 1967. Readers can judge for themselves what his focus is.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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      …Now.

      Abbas can pretty fairly be described as focusing officially on 1948 as far as *refugees* are concerned in the piece, in a way that is likely unrealistic and unproductive in the present. Resolution 194 and all that. But that is a far cry from meriting the claim that the piece engaged in rhetoric that moves the Palestinian leadership and people away from “acknowledg[ing] that Israel exists,” and “pressur[es] the international community to retroactively deem illegitimate its 1948 establishment as an independent state,” as J.L. suggested it did. It just doesn’t do that, unless merely recounting personal memories of the time counts as pressure on the international community to deem the founding of Israel illegitimate. If that is the case, then its legitimacy should legitimately be questioned.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Drew
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    May 16, 2011
    The Long Overdue Palestinian State
    By MAHMOUD ABBAS
    Ramallah, West Bank

    SIXTY-THREE years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights. That child’s story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine.

    This month, however, as we commemorate another year of our expulsion — which we call the nakba, or catastrophe — the Palestinian people have cause for hope: this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.

    Many are questioning what value there is to such recognition while the Israeli occupation continues. Others have accused us of imperiling the peace process. We believe, however, that there is tremendous value for all Palestinians — those living in the homeland, in exile and under occupation.

    It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued. Indeed, it was the descendants of these expelled Palestinians who were shot and wounded by Israeli forces on Sunday as they tried to symbolically exercise their right to return to their families’ homes.

    Minutes after the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.

    Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

    Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater. We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem. Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel’s settlement program.

    Negotiations remain our first option, but due to their failure we are now compelled to turn to the international community to assist us in preserving the opportunity for a peaceful and just end to the conflict. Palestinian national unity is a key step in this regard. Contrary to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asserts, and can be expected to repeat this week during his visit to Washington, the choice is not between Palestinian unity or peace with Israel; it is between a two-state solution or settlement-colonies.

    Despite Israel’s attempt to deny us our long-awaited membership in the community of nations, we have met all prerequisites to statehood listed in the Montevideo Convention, the 1933 treaty that sets out the rights and duties of states. The permanent population of our land is the Palestinian people, whose right to self-determination has been repeatedly recognized by the United Nations, and by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Our territory is recognized as the lands framed by the 1967 border, though it is occupied by Israel.

    We have the capacity to enter into relations with other states and have embassies and missions in more than 100 countries. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have indicated that our institutions are developed to the level where we are now prepared for statehood. Only the occupation of our land hinders us from reaching our full national potential; it does not impede United Nations recognition.

    The State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel. A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948.

    Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.

    We call on all friendly, peace-loving nations to join us in realizing our national aspirations by recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and by supporting its admission to the United Nations. Only if the international community keeps the promise it made to us six decades ago, and ensures that a just resolution for Palestinian refugees is put into effect, can there be a future of hope and dignity for our people.

    Mahmoud Abbas is the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the president of the Palestinian National Authority.Report

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