Expulsion and dispossession can’t be cause for celebration

The demand to make Palestinian rights a reality is no longer simply a matter of justice but also of self-interest

George Bush arrived in Jerusalem yesterday to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary and talk up what has to be the most bizarre proposal yet for achieving peace: a “shelf agreement”. This, Bush explained before he set out, would be a “description” of a Palestinian state to be hammered out between the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert before the end of the year. The idea would then be to put this virtual state on the shelf until the time might be right for it to be turned into a reality. In perfect step, Tony Blair announced that he has succeeded in negotiating the removal of three checkpoints and one roadblock on behalf of the Quartet of big powers and the UN – out of a total of 560 throughout the West Bank – but Israel will only actually remove them “in the future”.

In other words, it’s business as usual, as the crisis of occupation deepens. Neither man, meanwhile, seems to have thought it right to offer any words of condolence to the Palestinians, whose national dispossession and suffering were also unleashed by the creation of the state. That is why today – the anniversary of the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the declaration of Israeli statehood – is also a day of mourning for 10 million Palestinians and their supporters: the commemoration of the nakba, or catastrophe, that led to the destruction of their society and expulsion from their homeland. Ninety years after the Balfour declaration – when on behalf of one people a British cabinet minister famously promised a second the land of a third – the ruins of more than 500 Arab villages destroyed and emptied of their people in 1948 can still be seen all over Israel.

Continued . . .

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