Disaster: Thousands of Palestinians lived in tent cities like this one for many months after their forced exodus.
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In 1967 came An-Naksa: The Setback, which saw a triumphant Israel, backed by American arms, seize and occupy the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. But although Palestinians, unless Israeli policy undergoes an unheralded reversal, can never expect to return to their original homes, they have never given up the lesser dream that one day they will at least have a state of their own, peacefully coexisting alongside Israel, on the borders as they lay prior to 1967, and fair restitution for the land, homes, businesses and resources wrested from them.
Numbed by grief, an elderly Palestinian sits amid rubble following an Israeli air attack.
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Today, in 2011, we find that, thanks to Fateh/the Palestinian Authority, even this pragmatic dream may be dead in all but name. Negotiating from an admittedly weak position, with a far more powerful opponent and a far from impartial self-appointed “referee” in the United States, Fateh offered far more than it needed to, or had any right to, keeping nothing save its own titles, pay and privileges. But Israel demanded more, and the US backed it — as it virtually always has. So far, so good, as Israel’s dominant Zionist faction sees it: This is only the logical culmination of its long-term strategy to fulfill what it perceives as a supreme mitzvah: to restore Eretz Yisrael, the biblical Land of Israel.
But not without consequences does Israel crush the dream of an independent Palestine, for millions of dispossessed Palestinians will not forget; nor will they melt away. Israel must reach an accommodation with them, and it now appears that it will have to do so within its own ever-expanding borders. It is understandably loath to do this, for Jews would then become a minority in their putative homeland, but it has successfully built so many “facts on the ground” that there is no practical choice.
We can already see the beginnings of the new Israel that must emerge: an Apartheid state in which the Palestinian minority lives in Bantustans encircled by barbed wire and unjust laws, while the elite among the Jewish majority controls every important post and industry. This will only become more obvious as Palestinians gradually become the majority.
Meanwhile, Tunisia has shaken off the leaden hand of autocracy. Egypt, in the wake of unprecedented protests and civil disorder, has done likewise. The entire region of North Africa and the Middle East no longer presents the outwardly tranquil face of tyranny triumphant: Discord and revolution spread, and long-held assumptions begin to fray.
Thus, Fateh and Israel must now consider their position anew, for now that Palestinians know to what extent the former has bargained away their rights, its authority will erode, and it may soon cease to rule. Beyond this: How firm is the grip of the Israeli government, and how long will it remain so? For as the decades pass without justice, the Palestinians will not forget, and their moribund dream may finally explode Israel itself.