In 1948, two intertwined mirror events took place: the emergence of the State of Israel and the demise of Palestinian society with the disintegration of its dream of statehood. Thus, for the Jewish citizens, 1948 marks the independence of Israel; for the Palestinians, it marks the Nakba, or catastrophe. For the 726,000 Palestinian refugees who were displaced as a result of the 1948 war, the Nakba meant that their abandoned hometowns and properties would become an entrenched memory filled with the scent of pre-1948 Palestine. As the Palestinian refugees clung to the memory of what was, the Israelis who occupied their homes and properties were bent on creating a new reality that negated pre-1948 Palestine. A by-product of the creation of Israel was the 156,000 Palestinian Israelis - the Palestinian Arabs who remained in their homes in Israel and later became Israeli citizens under the rule of the new Israeli state. They are concentrated mostly in the Triangle area and the Galilee, and 60 years later, they number almost 1.5 million.
Between 1949 and 1966, Israel declared martial law, restricting its Arab citizens to their villages and localities, and instituted a permit system allowing some of them to travel from their towns and villages and to work in Jewish areas. The nascent state and its Zionist political elite also wanted to ensure that Arab properties would pass to the state. Through the enactment of legislations such as the Absentee Property Law of 1950 and the Land Acquisition Law of 1953, most Arab properties were wrested from its original owners, regardless of whether they were present in the country or not. The notion of "present-absentee" which is unique to Israeli law and, perhaps, the only concept of its kind in the annals of legal history, enabled Israel to transfer to the state the properties of its Arab citizens, even of those who had moved a few kilometers from their former villages or towns, earning themselves thus, the status of "present-absentees."

Confronting Land Confiscation and Control

The Israeli Communist Party, with a mixed Jewish-Arab membership, played a crucial role in the 1950s and early 1960s in confronting the land grab and other repressive policies of the Jewish state towards its Arab citizens. Other nationalist groups and Israeli peace activists joined in to protest land expropriation and restrictions on movement, and to highlight the repressive practices by Israel's secret service and police. The newspaper Al-Ittihad became an intellectual beacon for the steadfastness of the Palestinian Israelis.
The same period also saw the development of a literary tradition that galvanized thousands of young Palestinians and Arabs who manifested their national and spiritual attachment to Palestine. Samih Al-Qassem and Mahmoud Darwish were among the poets who made a name for themselves and for Palestine. Emile Habibi, Tawfiq Zayyad, Emile Touma, Tawfiq Touby, Hanna Abu Hanna were among the writers, historians, politicians and novelists who promoted the Arab Palestinian perspective as they encouraged the Palestinians in Israel to remain steadfast and to confront the policies aimed at their disempowerment.
Clearly, the Israeli government's policy was the geographic separation between Jews and Arabs - with the exception of some towns and localities where mixed populations exist to this day. In addition, the Israeli education system was structured to ensure that Arab students would be taught in all-Arab schools and Jewish students in all-Jewish schools. This segregation reflected an ideology whose aim was the consolidation of the Jewishness of the state, but, at the same time, without the total disenfranchisement of the Arab citizens. While Arabic remained the mother tongue among the Palestinian Israelis, Hebrew became the dominant language and the medium of contact between the two populations - mostly work-oriented or service-motivated - and led to an interchange in lifestyles, food, or fashion. The Israelis appropriated hummus and falafel as their own national dish, to the dismay of the Palestinians who first introduced them to it. While a majority of Palestinian Israelis kept to their villages, towns and cities, an increasing number of their youths began to attend Israeli universities and to find that certain cultural traits of Israeli Jewish society, such as the exercise of free choice or independence from parents, suited them as well. Nevertheless, the structure of Israeli society and its spatial, geographic and demographic composition discouraged integration. Most importantly, the Palestinian Israelis, regardless of how law-abiding they were, were always considered a security threat and feared as a "fifth column."

Land Day

The cumulative effects of Israel's policies against its Arab citizens, especially land confiscation, led on March 30, 1976 to confrontations in which six Palestinian Arabs were killed by Israel's security forces and police. This became known as "Land Day" and is commemorated annually in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well. The 1980s and 1990s saw different orientations and new forces emerging among the Palestinian Israelis and, like in neighboring Arab countries, nationalism was on the wane and religious Islamic ideology on the rise. In addition, the predominance of the Israeli economy had its positive impact on the Arab citizens of the state, although they remained on the periphery and under-represented in the various economic sectors.
The political and socioeconomic realities shifted with the signing of the Oslo agreement and the introduction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the early 1990s. This led to a measure of optimism among the Palestinian Israelis as, for the first time ever, Yitzhak Rabin invited Arab parties represented in the Knesset to join in forming a supportive coalition. However, the subsequent failure of the concept of "a state for all of its citizens" promoted by some Arab Palestinian nationalist politicians caused some dismay. And although the overwhelming majority of Arabs in Israel voted for Ehud Barak in 1999, he decided not to involve Arab parties in consultations for the formation of his coalition government. The greatest disappointment came with the outbreak of the second intifada (2000) and the killing by the Israeli police and security services of 13 Arab Palestinians, all citizens of Israel, with the exception of one victim from the occupied territories.
The rise of Islamic religious ideology among the Palestinians in Israel meant that the stress was less on the equality for all citizens than on a link with broader Islamic concerns. Islam, for a good number of Palestinian Israelis, as it is for Muslims elsewhere, has become a defining parameter which influences perspectives and socio-political behavior. At the same time, as Arabs moved from the leaderless years of post-state creation, the second and third generations became more educated and found their way into universities, some sectors of the economy and the liberal professions, all of which promoted a lifestyle open to modernity. Most importantly, these changes posed a challenge to the Israeli system on how to deal with this new generation of "modernist Arabs" as well as Islamist Arabs.

Are Arabs in Israel Equal Citizens?

The essential dilemma still persists: Are the Arabs equal citizens in Israel? And what about calls, such as Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman's recent proposal to turn over Arab population centers, especially those in the Triangle area close to the border of a prospective Palestinian state to that state? Clearly, the Arabs are not equal citizens, in spite of the acquired rights to social security and in economic endeavors. Recent public opinion polls show conclusively that a majority of Jewish citizens do not want to associate with Arabs or to visit Arab towns and localities, not even for leisure activities. The policies of segregation and separation, first instituted by the state at its inception, have led to the creation of a psychological, ethnic and religious divide.
But the realities of the first decade of the 21st century with the attitudinal changes among the Arab population, the result of higher education as well as developments in television and electronic communication, pose a challenge to the traditional security perspective of the Israeli establishment. Israel, which proclaims itself "the only democracy in the Middle East," cannot keep pursuing a policy of disenfranchisement of its Arab citizens. The alternative for a majority of Israelis, however, is not a state for all of its citizens but rather a state that rids itself of as many of its Arab citizens as possible. Hence, some Arab politicians in Israel fear that the negotiations with the PA over territorial exchange would eventually lead to the transfer of thousands of Palestinian Israelis to the prospective Palestinian state.

The Occupied Territories: The Labor Force Dimension

The encounter between Israel and the Palestinians in the territories occupied in June 1967 took on different dimensions than those between Israel and its Arab minority. Initially, the occupation led to the provision of cheap labor for the Israeli economy, which saw a period of boom, particularly in construction. This period resulted in the transformation of many villages and towns in the West Bank into dormitories that provided day labor and created new economic elites within Israel's socioeconomic structure as they brokered Arab labor to various Israeli establishments. As a result, some of the traditional institutions of family patronage and city-village economic dependencies started to change in the occupied territories. This economic interchange led to the superficial discovery of the Other, particularly as Palestinian laborers interacted daily with Israeli bosses and Jewish Israeli laborers and others who sought their services. Yet this contact did not spill over into social and or cultural interchange, nor did it invite major perceptional transformation of each other across the political and ideological divide.
In spite of apparent economic growth in the occupied territories due to exported labor, Israeli policies did not encourage indigenous Palestinian economic development. In fact, some political and sociological analysts argued that Israeli policies were aimed at keeping the territories and their population captive to the needs and interests of the Israeli economy.

Israel's System of Palestinian Population Control

Most important was Israel's institution of a system of population control at all levels. While initially encouraging the old mukhtar system of local representation, the Israeli Civil Administration (an arm of the military occupation in the occupied territories) took care not to deal with the Palestinian population and its institutions as a unified bloc. Instead it followed a divide-and-rule policy, encouraging mayors and other local representatives to speak only of their immediate problems and concerns rather than of problems and challenges facing the population and the territories as a whole. A carrot-and-stick approach was introduced by the Israeli military authorities in order to reinforce this policy. In East Jerusalem - which was illegally annexed and its municipal boundaries expanded from 6 square kilometers under Jordan to 70 square kilometers after 1967 - a protest led by former Governor of Jerusalem Anwar al-Khatib and former Mayor Rawhi al-Khatib condemning the illegality of annexation was met by the deportation of at least four Jerusalem leaders. This deportation policy, applied all over the West Bank, led to the weakening of the local leadership that could have tackled jointly the concerns and problems faced by the population. Inadvertently, this policy encouraged many to go underground and to link up with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole political representative of the Palestinians. The Israeli Civil Administration tried at certain points to promote local substitutes for the PLO and for its leadership within the occupied territories but failed miserably.
One could conclude that these economic and political orientations of the Israeli Civil Administration were short-sighted; in reality they were intended to secure Israel's interests as perceived by planners, academic experts, security officials and political pressure groups. They also reflected the condescension and self-assuredness of those serving in the Civil Administration as the control systems throughout the occupied territories were considered good enough to keep matters in check. Israel saw itself as invincible and able to continue its occupation, benefit from cheap Palestinian labor, use the resources of the territories and keep the Palestinians compliant with the system.

The Emergence of Palestinian Civil Society

The Palestinians responded to Israel's occupation policies with the development in the late 1970s and the 1980s of civil society organizations aimed at handling the variety of issues that were not addressed by the Civil Administration. These organizations, often affiliated with PLO political factions, were mostly grassroots-oriented and operated in the fields of community health, education, vocational training, women empowerment, and agricultural relief, among others. Alongside these organizations, Palestinian universities and institutions of higher learning mushroomed and began absorbing thousands of students. These institutions became a rallying point for the PLO program and were used by various Palestinian factions to recruit new members and promote resistance to the occupation. No wonder then that the universities became the theatre for ongoing confrontation with the Israeli occupation forces.
The occupation provided Israel with the opportunity to embark on its settlement activity. Hebron witnessed the first drive of settlement activity that is ongoing to this day. Jewish settlement in the occupied territories highlighted the insuperable gulf which divides Arabs and Jews over the land and its ownership. The spatial, geographic and demographic separation that exists in the West Bank today due to settlement activity parallels the separation between Arabs and Jews within Israel proper. Settlement activity aimed at appropriating the land; denigrating Palestinian village and rural communities; and bisecting, trisecting and quadresecting the Palestinian territories through a settler-only road system. More notably, it aimed at land expropriation and the exclusive use of water and other resources in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to such a point that it would become impossible for the Palestinians to regain political control.

Sumud and the First Intifada

The trials and tribulations of a protracted occupation led to the concept of sumud (steadfastness) that went hand in hand with the development of civil society organizations and the establishment of universities and other educational and cultural institutions. Sumud received the support of the Baghdad Arab Summit (1978), which led to the establishment of the Palestinian-Jordanian Joint Committee to manage a special fund to support sumud. Palestinians of all walks of life wanted to remain on their land and to go on with their lives and traditions in defiance of the Israeli occupation and settlers' violence.
Some saw the eruption of the first intifada (1988-1993) as an expression of massive popular sumud and affirmation of self, community and nation. Others saw it as the result of frustration with the vacuum created by Israel's policies of control and repression that hindered the development of local political, economic and social forces that could supplement the PLO's leadership role outside the occupied territories. Still others saw the intifada as a reflection of a generational gap whereby the younger generation expressed its disappointment with the performance of the older generation. Thus, children rose up to do precisely what they perceived their parents had failed to do: to attempt to throw off the yoke of the occupation.
The political fruits of the first intifada were the Oslo Accords in 1993. While the Palestinians viewed Oslo with guarded optimism, the arrival of the PA and the PLO to the occupied territories kindled the hope that the occupation would eventually end and a two-state solution would be implemented. This hope proved unrealistic, and the failure of Oslo, along with several attempts at Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, led to the eruption of the second intifada in September 2000. For a variety of reasons, the second intifada was never capable of transforming its achievements - if any- into political gains as was the case with the first intifada. As a result, the Palestinians feel that Israel has the upper hand and, as it proceeds with the construction of the separation wall begun in 2002, more and more Palestinians are of the opinion that Israel is seeking to exercise full control over their lives and to deprive them of their land and basic rights.

An immediate consequence of the separation wall is the total separation from Israeli society, although Israel continues to have full control over the vital areas of life in the occupied territories. The Palestinian labor force is now denied access to the Israeli labor market, and thousands of Palestinians are trapped between the wall and the 1967 border, and are denied access to their lands, places of work and social services. East Jerusalem is encircled in the north, east and south by the "Jerusalem envelope," and as a result, close to 100,000 Palestinians with Israeli blue identity cards are now located outside the city's boundaries. The West Bank's fragmented landscape with hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements has almost all of the Palestinian population trapped into small residential pockets, whether in cities, towns or villages. The military checkpoints that control the movement of Palestinians within the West Bank itself are testimony to the control philosophy of Israeli military officials. The overall impact is the weakening of the PA as it attempted to deal with the many problems and issues on a locality basis rather than in a comprehensive manner.
With a deadlocked political process and the Hamas-PLO rift, the Palestinians remain pessimistic about positive developments in the near future. The financial aid provided by the international community suggests a long-term economic and social dependence for the Palestinian people. The development plans as elaborated in Paris (December 2007) and Bethlehem (May 2008) need to address questions of free access and movement across the Palestinian territories. Israeli military officials keep insisting that it is impossible to lift these checkpoints. It would seem that Israel's security for them lies in ever-growing control; they fail to perceive Palestinian economic development plans as an impetus for the promotion of normal relations with their Palestinian neighbors. Poverty in the Palestinian territories - with a significant percentage of households falling below the poverty line - is the result of the same Israeli policies of control. Using economic leverage to accomplish political gains, the Israeli government and its military establishment are virtually contributing to despair among a vast segment of the Palestinian population that fails to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas the Palestinians remain committed to a negotiated settlement with Israel, the faits accomplis on the ground point to the impossibility of a successful negotiated settlement. Israel does not have a vision of peace; it has only a vision of security. The dream of good neighborly relations between Palestinians and Israelis seems, at the moment, a remote likelihood.