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When will the Israeli Left accept the occupation started in '48, not '67?

Only when the Israeli Left accepts that the occupation began in 1948 — and remains an open wound for Palestinians — can Arabs and Jews truly refuse to be enemies.

Palestinians participate in a rally marking the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, Nablus, May 15, 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Palestinians participate in a rally marking the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, Nablus, May 15, 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

One of the negative characteristics of the Israeli “Left” is how it terms the military rule over the West Bank and Gaza “The Occupation.” Part of the Left even accuses Palestinians who claim there is no difference between Petah Tikva and Ariel of being like the Right, because “that’s what the Israeli Right claims.” For most Palestinians, however, this exaggerated and Orwellian talk of “The Occupation” blurs Israel’s real shame, and the skeleton buried deep in the closet: The brutal and criminal occupation of 1948.

Ethnic cleansing and massive land expropriation, and then settlement of that land, are the mother of all disgraces — even if Israelis refuse to recognize it as such in public, and even if they try very hard to ignore what most Arabs are saying. Israelis’ designation of the ’67 occupation as “The Occupation” is intended, among other things, to either obscure or prevent any engagement with the Nakba. As such, most of Israel’s pseudo-Left is actually composed of Nakba deniers.

One of the most worn-out claims used to avoid referring to the crimes of ’48 as an “occupation” is that the Nakba, or the “War of Independence” to use the laundered Zionist expression, was necessary for the national project of establishing a state for the Jewish people following World War II.

Another claim, put forward mostly by the Israeli Right, is that Palestinians refused the 1947 UN Partition Plan. This claim has always seemed to me to be void of any foundation or basic logic, and is therefore not worth addressing. Let’s see those who wave this claim around agree to distribute their homes and land to people who have arrived from overseas to dispossess them, and then we can talk about it.

Palestinians participate in a rally marking the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 15, 2017. (Flash90)

Palestinians participate in a rally marking the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 15, 2017. (Flash90)

A national project?

The argument that it was necessary to establish a state at the expense of the native population, while justifying it because of the persecution experienced by the occupiers, is pathetic at best. Many good people have already spoken about Zionism’s cynical exploitation of the memory of victims of the Holocaust. But to the ears of Palestinians, these self-justifications along with exaggerated talk of the “The Occupation,” as if there was no other disaster and open wound, sounds more than just pathetic.

These statements are intended to blur Israelis’ responsibility for those bloody events. It’s important to bleeding-heart Zionist left-wingers that Arabs and Jews don’t need to be enemies, but less important to listen to Palestinians and understand how traumatic ’48 still is — and how much impact it still has, even for the third generation after the Nakba.

It’s not just the diaspora of millions of refugees from the Nakba, most of them living in substandard conditions in camps. It’s also the lack of recognition of the greatest injustice ever done to the Palestinian people. When you don’t recognize your direct responsibility for the catastrophe of another, how can you expect them to live with you in peace or believe in your coexistence slogans?

Living in the past

Far too many Israelis, seeking to exempt themselves from Palestinian claims that the lack of recognition over ’48 remains an open wound, feel at ease preaching to Palestinians that they should “let go of the past.” And this is coming from the people who claim to be returning to the land of their ancestors from thousands of years ago. The hypocrisy is boundless.

Thousands of Israelis attend a left-wing rally calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, May 27, 2017. (Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis attend a left-wing rally calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, May 27, 2017. (Flash90)

Ignoring and forgetting the past is another negative feature of the “Zionist Left.” Israelis constantly make use of their biblical right to Palestine and continually remind the world of their past persecution — so it’s precisely the leftists among them whom you would have expected to understand Palestinians’ insistence on remembering the crimes of the past. Especially when those same persecuted people are the ones who caused these injustices.

The Nakba will never disappear from the Palestinian discourse as long as no solution to the distress of Palestinians is found, because it is still ongoing and its implications are still being felt. Arabs are still being kicked out of their homes in order to settle Israelis, and not just over the Green Line (see, for example, Umm al-Hiran, and how mixed cities are being Judaized).

The sad truth is that recognizing the Nakba necessitates recognizing the original occupation of 1948, which Israelis are scared to confront. You can shout peace slogans until the cows come home, but as long as you ignore the rights of the refugees of 1948 to return to their land at the expense of the settlers in Ein Hod, for example, those words are meaningless.

Do you want to engage with Palestinians as equals? Do you want to insist that you refuse to see them as enemies? Do you want to strengthen real leftist values? Then start repeating: The occupation is 69 years old, not 50. When more Israelis come around to this line of thinking and stop denying the Nakba, perhaps then more and more Palestinians will begin refusing to see them as enemies.

This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Firentis

      As I’ve been saying. Palestinians see Israelis as enemies. Their narrative insists that only the elimination of Israel is a legitimate and just solution. Their narrative rejects the idea of Jewish self-determination in the Jewish homeland in any borders. Yet there are some morons here that tell me that a two state solution which creates a Palestinian state with this founding narrative will be at peace with Israel.

      Yep. We’ll stick to the status quo until the Palestinians are ready to make peace. And we will continue to see the Palestinians as enemies and treat them accordingly as long as they see our existence here as a problem to be solved.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: it shouldn’t take you a whole lot of research time to convince yourself that starting from the late 19th century the intentions of the Jewish settlers wasn’t to live in peace next to the Palestinians – their intention was to drive them out.

        Whether a two-state solution is possible or not there’s no excuse for the home demolitions, torture, prison time with no charges and no trials, checkpoints, and the whole 9 yards of oppression.


        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Nonsense. The intention was to buy land, build towns, bring Jews back to their homeland, create a Hebrew culture, and to gradually build a national home.

          Regardless of whether a two-state solution is possible Israel will do whatever is needed to provide safety and security to the citizens of the State of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Firentis, any number of documented statements by Ben Gurion contradict you.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            Do some elementary research.
            To wit:

            “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border….Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” (Theodor Herzl, diary entry, 12 June 1895)

            In May 1911, Arthur Ruppin, one of early Zionism’s leading figures proposed to the Executive of the Zionist Organization, a “population transfer” of the Arab peasants from Palestine.

            Israel Zangwill, the influential Anglo-Jewish essayist and Zionist, 1901: [W]e must be prepared to either drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession as our forefathers did or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population….”

            In the February 1919 issue of the League of Nations Journal, Zangwill proposed that the Palestinians “should be gradually transplanted” in Arab countries and at a public meeting in the same year he remarked that “many [Palestinians] are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy.” (Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 12 1919).

            In 1918, David Ben-Gurion, described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs)

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            I actually did do research rather than cherry-picking and pasting from whatever propaganda source you people commonly consume.

            Both Herzl and Jabotinsky held visions of Arab minorities living in peace in the Jewish state.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            Herzl and Jabotinsky both advocated occupation of Palestine by a European power (For that matter Herzl also advocated Zionist settlement in other territories already ruled by a European army). They clearly foresaw violence would be part of building the “Jewish” state. I’d say this is to Zionist history what tax evasion was to Al Capone or a tape recorder was to Richard Nixon.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            Feeble response. Unworthy of further comment.

            Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        FYI-Jul 4, 2012 Hamas, An Israeli Creation

        Ron Paul alludes to the fact that Israel helped to spawn Hamas in order to weaken the then immensely popular and secular PLO.


        Reply to Comment
      • David


        In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel as a sovereign state within the borders of the 1947 recommendatory only UNGA Partition Plan, Res. 181 (which, for the record, violated the terms of the Class A British Mandate for Palestine and the Atlantic Charter, was never adopted by the UNSC and was grossly unfair to the indigenous Palestinian Arab inhabitants.)

        By signing the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PLO accepted UNSC Res. 242 and thereby agreed to recognize a sovereign Israel within the 1949 armistice lines, i.e., as of 4 June 1967 – 78% of mandate Palestine.

        The PLO also agreed to the US/EU/UN supported 2002 Arab League Beirut Summit Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full recognition as a sovereign state (per UNSC Res. 242, i.e., within its June 4/67 boundaries with possible minor and mutually agreed land swaps), exchange of ambassadors, trade, tourism, etc., if Israel complies with international law and its previous commitments. Fully aware of Israel’s demographic concerns, the Beirut initiative does not demand the return of all Palestinian refugees. In accordance with Israel’s pledge given to the UNGA in 1949 and by signing the 1949 Lausanne Peace Conference Protocol to abide by UNGA Res. 194 regarding the then 800,000 Palestinian refugees as a precondition for admittance to the UN (after being rejected twice), the Arab League’s Initiative “calls upon Israel to affirm” that it agrees to help pursue the “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem…”

        Along with all Arab states and the PLO, Hezbollah and Iran have also accepted the Arab League’s 2002 Beirut Summit Peace Initiative. (In its revised Charter, April, 2017, Hamas agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders.)

        Regrettably, then Israeli PM Ariel Sharon summarily dismissed the Arab League’s peace overture, as did Israel in 2008 and thereafter.

        For the record, other peace initiatives that Israeli governments have rebuffed include: U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers’ The Rogers Plan (1969); The Scranton Mission on behalf of President Nixon (1970); Egyptian President Sadat’s land for peace and mutual recognition proposal (1971); U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s call for a Geneva international conference (1977); Saudi Arabian King Fahd’s peace offer (1981); U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s Reagan Plan (1982); U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz’s Schultz Plan (1988); U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s Baker Plan (1989); and the previously noted 1993 Oslo accords signed by Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that unravelled following the latter’s assassination and subsequent return to power of the Likud party from 1996-1999 under Benjamin Netanyahu; continuation of the Taba II negotiations (2001); the unofficial Geneva Peace Initiative of November/December 2003; and the 2014 Kerry Initiative.

        BTW, As for the much touted 2000 Camp David Summit, working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat. It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel’s foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

        The “offer” made in 2008 by then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was never seen as serious because it lacked cabinet approval, he was under indictment with only a few weeks left in office, had a 6% favorable rating, and, therefore, couldn’t have closed the deal, even if the Palestinians had accepted it. (Olmert is now imprisoned.)

        Unfortunately, Israel’s response to every peace overture from the Palestinians and Arab states, has been an escalation of illegal settlement construction in belligerently/illegally/brutally occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands.

        Reply to Comment
      • Sulayman F

        That’s an awful lot of generalizing, and it’s also false. Even Hamas agreed to a two-state solution, so your talking points are out of date. You could flip your same comment around and say the same about the Israeli Far Right, who see all Palestinians as enemies and insists they be eliminated (or kicked out to a neighboring country, they don’t care which because they view Palestinians as “worms” and “cockroaches”). Respect and tolerance works both ways.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Spencer HR

      Too. Bad. The Palestinians should have had accepted the 1947 plan, it was the best they were ever going to get.

      Their rejectionism only put them in the miserable position they are now.

      Reply to Comment
      • duh

        Of course that presumes the Jewish Agency-led “Jewish” State wouldn’t have attempted to seize land across the partition boundary nor force its own Arab citizens across it. Recall Ben-Gurion’s letter to his son in ’38.

        “But in this proposed partition we will get more than what we already have, though
        of course much less than we merit and desire. The question is: would we obtain
        more without partition? If things were to remain as they are [emphasis in original],
        would this satisfy our feelings? What we really want is not that the land remain
        whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish
        [emphasis original]. A unified Eretz Israeli would be no source of satisfaction for
        me– if it were Arab. (…)

        “We shall organize an advanced defense force—a superior army which I have no doubt will be one of the best armies in the world. At that point I am confident that we would not fail in settling in the remaining parts of the country, through agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbors, or through some other means. (…)

        “it is possible that the Arabs will follow the dictates of sterile nationalist emotions and tell us: “We want neither your honey nor your sting. We’d rather that the Negev remain barren than that Jews should inhabit it.” If this occurs, we will have to talk to them in a different language—and we will have a different language—but such a language will not be ours without a state.”


        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Duh’s quotes of Ben Gurion 1938 came AFTER the Mufti had already verbally proposed his plans for mass expulsion of the Jews from the Land of Israel.
          Duh is an antisemite or alternatively has a very low IQ.

          Reply to Comment
          • duh

            Lewis, let me try to help you get the point. Ben-Gurion stated to his son with no ambiguity that he would seek to undermine any partition of Palestine, either through an agreement with some willing Arab leaders or by force. Not to mention that he wanted the eventual “Jewish” state to be mostly “Jewish” demographically, which only made him one of many Zionist leaders articulating that aim. Ruppin first did so in Dec. 1907 when Hajj Amin al-Husseini was a preteen.

            As I’ve said before and will say a million times, if Palestine hadn’t been occupied by the British, the Zionists would’ve had to invade the country themselves. Their aims were belligerent. And with DBG’s comments in particular, they indicate he wouldn’t have been appeased by Arab acceptance of an internationally-agreed boundary line between Jewish- and Arab-majority areas.

            Reply to Comment
      • David

        Palestinians rejected the Partition Plan (UNGA Res. 181, Nov. 29/47) for entirely justified reasons based on international law. While Jews made up just 31% of the population (90% of foreign origin, only 30% had become citizens, thousands were illegal immigrants) and privately owned only between 6% and 7% of the land, the Partition Plan (recommendatory only, no legal foundation, contrary to the British Class A Mandate and the Atlantic Charter, never adopted by the UNSC) outrageously recommended they receive 56% of Palestine (including its most fertile areas) in which Palestinians made up 45% of the population. (10% of Palestine’s Jewish population consisted of native Palestinian/Arab Jews who were anti-Zionist.)

        Rubbing salt into the wound, the United States quashed a proposal based on international law put forth by Arab delegates at the UN that a referendum be conducted in Palestine to determine the wishes of the majority regarding the Partition Plan. The United States also thwarted their request to have the matter referred to the International Court of Justice.

        48% of the total land area of mandated Palestine was privately owned (‘mulk khaas’) by Palestinian Arabs. (As noted, total Jewish privately owned land was only between 6% and 7%.) About 45% of the total land area was state owned, i.e. by citizens of Palestine, (only about 20% of foreign Jews had taken out citizenship) and it was comprised of Communal Property (‘mashaa’), Endowment Property, (‘waqf’), and Government Property, (‘miri’.) (The British Mandate kept an extensive land registry and the UN used the registry during its early deliberations. It has in its archives 453,000 records of individual Palestinian owners defined by name, location & area.)

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      An excellent lesson on hypocrisy and on how this hypocrisy at once rubs salt in old wounds and is perpetuated, is incessant, in the present, and forecloses any future solution:

      “Far too many Israelis, seeking to exempt themselves from Palestinian claims that the lack of recognition over ’48 remains an open wound, feel at ease preaching to Palestinians that they should “let go of the past.” And this is coming from the people who claim to be returning to the land of their ancestors from thousands of years ago. The hypocrisy is boundless….The Nakba will never disappear from the Palestinian discourse as long as no solution to the distress of Palestinians is found, because it is still ongoing and its implications are still being felt. Arabs are still being kicked out of their homes in order to settle Israelis, and not just over the Green Line (see, for example, Umm al-Hiran, and how mixed cities are being Judaized).”

      Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      The Arab writer is honest. For him and for most Arabs the 1948 and the 1967 lines are “occupied Arab territories”. For them Israel should disappear. When will the Israeli left open their eyes?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I do not see that Rami wrote that Israel should disappear. Please point out where, above, he said that. That is your tendentious and inherently hostile interpretation. I think you mean that Rami thinks that your judeosupremacist order of things should be modified and to YOU that is a kind of destruction and disappearance. But that is your private interpretation. (I know what comes next: unlimited right of return…destroy Israel…Jewish state…blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before. Don’t bother.) The thing is, plenty of people on your side, you included, think Palestine is Arab-occupied Jewish territory. You yourself have said that many times. You would like to make them disappear. To you it is a happy order of things that you should want to make them disappear and they should want to make you disappear. It causes you smug satisfaction. It’s the way things should be–to you. Because you want the war of all against all because you think you will win and their destruction is what you want. You’ve already announced that for you they don’t even exist. But the thing also is that neither side is going to get its most destructive wishes granted them from the sky fairy. That’s why a final status peace agreement is needed. So you can stop playing the victim. It’s a hackneyed routine.

        Reply to Comment
    5. i_like_ike52

      No mention of peace, no mention of 2-state solution, just the usual reiteration for the umpteenth time of the old Palestinian grievances, and the demand that Israel admit its creation was a monstrous crime. Nothing to point the way forward, except a fuzzy claim that we won’t hate each other after that. Note also the demand for an unlimited right of return for the refugees which is, of course, the Palestinian demand that Israel disappear.

      Reply to Comment
    6. i_like_ike52

      This is one of the most important pieces ever to appear at this site. Here is a clear enunciation of Palestinian demands, made by a product of the Israeli/Jewish education system, which was thought once to be able to reach the Arab community and have it meld into what Shimon Peres once called “the New Middle East” which would be a local version of the denationalized, consumerist European Union.

      It is unfortunate that Rami did not articulate exactly what future he has in mind for us here in Israel. He satisfies himself with demanding that we Israelis recognize our supposed “crimes”, revoke them and then we supposedly “won’t be enemies any more”. I don’t really think Rami believes that. Suppose we do what he wants…we accept the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees, several million arrive and Israel renounces its self-definition as the Jewish state. Would we stop being enemies then? Well, let’s look around us at our neighbors…there are other multi-confessional, multi-ethnic states….Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Well, how are they doing? All wracked by bloody civil wars that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and, notably, millions of refugees. Would “liberated” Palestine with its large Jewish population be any different? Would the Jews be “encouraged” to leave, just as has happened to the Christian minority in these countries?
      Well, there is another solution…have all the Jews convert to Islam. Sorry, that wouldn’t help either, because the Jews would still be stigmatized as outsiders who adopted Islam for pragmatic reasons. This is exactly what happened in Spain at the time of the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. Those Conversos who stayed were never trusted and the Inquisition kept hounding them for generations.

      Thus, the logic of Rami’s piece is that the ONLY possible way for Jews and Arabs to “stop being enemies is for the mass emigration/expulsion of Jews from the country. That is what would have happened to the Jewish Yishuv had Israel not arisen in 1948. (Rami may claim that as a good “Leftist” he wouldn’t want the Jews to be expelled, but he isn’t going to the one in power).

      BTW=It should be noted that the mainstream Israeli Left has finally come around to realizing this, and has stopped talking about “peace”, Oslo-style. Ehud Barak wrote a major piece in Ha’aretz recently and simply called for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal more or less to the pre-67 and that we shouldn’t worry about what will happen after because he assures us that he knows there will be no danger, just like Rabin and Peres said during Oslo. We see how all those hollow assurances worked out.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Rami Younis, a non-denationalized, non-consumerist, progressive Palestinian. So confusing. You just don’t know where to place him, do you? He stands things on its head. Upsets the apple cart. And he objects to non-denationalized, non-consumerist religious-nationalist, condescending, patronizing Jews lording it over him and dismissing his cultural narrative as trivial. The nerve of him. That Israeli/Jewish education system failed big time with this guy. He’s not fitting in. Unlike all those Haredi and all those hilltop youth and those hyper-nationalist messianic settlers, right? Those “new Middle East” guys that are products of the Israeli/Jewish education system.

        Reply to Comment
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