Sixty Years of Israel and the Nakba: A Tale of Siamese Twins!
The Israeli establishment reacted very nervously to the fact that the Palestinians - and especially the Palestinian citizens of Israel - commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Nakba at the same time that Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that "[t]he Palestinians will be able to celebrate their independence only when they erase the Nakba from their political dictionary."
When we speak about 60 years of the establishment of Israel and 60 years of its outcome - the Nakba of the Palestinian people - the relationship between "independence" and "nakba" (catastrophe) looks like a relationship between Siamese twins. They are like Siamese twins that move together, live together and grow up together. During these 60 years, Israel has been consistently trying to get rid of the other face of the twin, trying to hide it, but it was and still is impossible.
Israel has no way to eliminate its responsibility for the Nakba - the Siamese twin of its establishment - without bringing the consequences of the Nakba to an end. The two peoples are still living in a conflict, in a bloody crisis, because of the continued attempts via occupation, wars, aggression and walls to glorify Israeli "independence" and legitimacy, and to eliminate the Palestinians' legitimate national rights, their freedom and independence. After 60 years, it is clear that Israeli legitimacy cannot be complete unless the Palestinian rights and legitimacy are realized alongside those of Israel. There is no way to escape this relationship between the two. Israel will never be really independent and free unless the Palestinian people are really independent and free, too.
This is why today, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, the implementation of the Palestinian national rights in their independent sovereign state - within the June 4, 1967 borders, with two capitals in Jerusalem, and a just solution for the refugees according to the relevant UN resolutions - is not only in the interest of the Palestinians, but also in the very real interest of the people in Israel. True, the borders of June 1967 are not the core of the conflict, but it is the opportunity for the solution.

An Asymmetrical Relationship

The problem does not lie only in the official Israeli attitude, but also in the international community, which evades its responsibility to compel Israel to implement the United Nations resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States, the only superpower in the 21st century and the sponsor of the Annapolis "peace meeting," proves once more, under President George W. Bush's administration, that it is not a part of the solution, but a major part of the problem, an obstacle to reaching a just peace. Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to escape this fact by declaring in their recent visits in Jerusalem and Ramallah that the "U.S. does not intervene in the negotiation process … [that] the U.S. role is just to help the sides to sit together and negotiate."
Given the Israeli-Palestinian imbalance and the fact that the Palestinians still suffer under the Israeli occupation or siege, behind the separation wall, facing settlement expansions, land confiscation, assassinations and house demolitions, the only way to achieving real political progress and to ending the bloody conflict is by enforcing the implementation by Israel of the UN resolutions. Instead, we witness non-intervention by the U.S. - which is able but unwilling - and the rest of the international community - which is willing but unable. We witness unlimited U.S. support for Israeli policies - even going so far as to help the Israeli leaders to evade their commitments to the White House itself, and to the so-called peace process, to the Road Map and to Annapolis.
The American administration "demands" from the Palestinians but "urges" the Israelis. In her last visit to Ramallah, Rice said, "Now it is the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership to improve the conditions of the Palestinians" - as if these conditions have nothing to do with the 41 years of continued occupation.

Redefining the Concepts

We are living at a point when, 60 years on, there is an American and Israeli attempt to redefine the concepts. They are trying to reframe the Palestinian question into an Israeli question. The national rights of the Palestinian people are not on the agenda, but rather the concerns for Israeli security needs and its ideological, racist demographic "fears." There is no doubt that the Israeli leadership, backed by the Bush administration, relates to the two-state solution - based on the "separation wall" partition - in the context of preserving the Jewishness of the state rather than the fulfillment of the Palestinians' legitimate national rights and UN resolutions. The security needs of Israelis must indeed be met; however, it is not just one, but two sides that need security.
The American and Israeli discourse refers to a dichotomy: "the security needs" of Israel and "the improvement of the conditions of life" for the Palestinians. The main component of the "improvement of the conditions of life for the Palestinians" should be the preservation of their lives, their security and freedoms, including freedom of movement and their basic rights to work and education. Who is seeking the Palestinian right to live a secure life in Gaza, in Beit Hanoun, in Nablus - a secure life for Palestinian families, for Palestinian children? The security of Israel should be derived from the fulfillment of a just peace and the recognition of the Palestinian national rights.

Between the Crisis and Corruption

Today, Israel is living a very deep crisis - political and ethical - that threatens and undermines democracy. People wonder about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's future, the investigations of the prime minister and the heavy charge sheet against a former finance minister; they wonder whether these investigations can affect the political process. It would seem that Olmert's political career is over, although his crisis is not just a personal one. It is a crisis deeply rooted in the Israeli reality of 41 years of occupation, settlements and exploitation of the Palestinian occupied territories. In their prolonged reliance on policies of trickery - instead of wisdom - aimed at preserving the occupation at any cost, the Israeli ruling elites have created a whole culture of deceit vis-à-vis the world and Israeli citizens alike. With the construction of settlements and bypass roads on confiscated lands, the Israeli establishment has built an infrastructure for bypassing international as well as Israeli law, and for bypassing democracy, ethics, human values and human rights. The first legalized assassination in the occupied territories added another brick to the building of the culture of corruption, deceit and the breach of international norms regarding human life.
The goal of the settlement project, from the very beginning, was to create obstacles to ending the occupation and the conflict and the possibility of achieving peace. This project soon became an unprecedented apparatus for political corruption and suspect relations between capital and government in Israel, and for a re-division of the national income. It is not the investigations of Olmert that are affecting the political process, but rather the absence of a real political process and real political alternatives in the Israeli ruling establishment that are producing the political, ethical and social crisis, as well as the infrastructure for corruption.
The Bush administration has tried to promote its grand strategies in the region by passing over the Palestinian question. Now after having sunk into the Iraq quagmire, the U.S., together with the Israeli government, is trying to salvage its strategies with the aid of the Palestinian question - using it without solving it.
There is no way to overcome these crises without the search for a just peace and a resolution to the conflict, with the ending of the occupation and the dismantling of the settlements. According to polls, a majority of the Israeli public - over 56% - accept the dismantling of the settlements in the West Bank. The problem is not public opinion; it is the Israeli political establishment.
The Palestinian National Minority in Israel

We the Arabs in Israel are a national minority, a part of the Palestinian people - the part that managed to stick to our homeland in spite of the Nakba. We are fully Palestinian, but we also insist on being full citizens of Israel. We are not citizens because we suddenly appeared at Israel's gates, but rather because Israel suddenly appeared in our homeland. We are a minority in our homeland. We have no other homeland.
Complex situations involve complex answers and definitions. We are part of the Palestinian people and part of the struggle for its rights; at the same time, we are part of Israeli society and an important part of the struggle for democratic change within it. The Arab citizens cannot bring about this change on their own, but no other force in Israel can achieve change without the Arab minority. Our political role, side by side with the Jewish democratic forces and the forces most committed to peace in Israel, is to change the situation, the mentality and the regime in Israel to genuinely democratic, peaceful and progressive ones. In this way, we can serve the just cause of our Palestinian people too.
There was a time when the Israeli establishment was afraid of the Palestinian component in our identity. They tried to forbid anyone from daring to think about it, and they tried to get rid of their Siamese twin by attempting to transform our national identity, to create a new national identity which they called the "Israeli Arab."
This policy was defeated. Since the end of the 1970s, the real concern of the Israeli establishment has not been the Palestinian component of our identity, but the civic component as citizens of Israel. When - together with the democratic Jewish forces seeking change in Israel - we insist on pulling our weight as citizens and attempt to suggest alternatives to the Zionist national consensus, the reaction is a mixture of racist demographic fears and plans for Arab transfer, which has become part of the legitimate discourse in Israeli politics. The civic component of the identity of the Arab citizens of Israel is expressed in their desire to attain equality as citizens and as a national minority in the state of Israel, and in their attempt to exercise their political rights and influence.

We Are the Palestinians of 1976, Not 1948

We are not the Palestinians of 1948. We worked hard to remain steadfast in our homeland, to defend our lands and our rights, and to replace the Nakba psychology - the mentality of 1948 - with the mentality of struggle and of fighting for our rights. The struggle of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel became the antithesis to the Nakba and the mentality of 1948. If one insists on associating us with a date, we choose to be the Palestinians of March 30, 1976, the first Land Day rooted and initiated in the Galilee, the Triangle and the Negev.
For 60 years, we the Arab citizens in Israel were required to express our loyalty to the state of Israel. For the most part we did not come out against the existence of the state of Israel, but we have struggled for the right of a sovereign Palestinian state to exist, and steering the discussion towards the question of Israel's existence is a dangerous attempt at eliminating the right of a Palestinian state to exist.
Also, for 60 years, we have been demanding that the state of Israel express its commitment to our right to equality and legitimate, indisputable citizenship. The Israeli establishment still relates to the Arab national minority as strangers in their homeland, as temporary residents. The problem does not come only from the extreme right that promotes plans for the transfer of Arab citizens and for population exchange. The Yisrael Beiteinu party's extremist leader, Avigdor Lieberman, who served as deputy prime minister for "strategic threats," is not and should not be portrayed as the problem of the Palestinian citizens of Israel only. He is a problem for human and democratic values anywhere. However, he is not the source of the problem, but rather the outcome of it. The problem is deeply rooted in the mainstream discourse at the center of Israeli politics. The politics of the racist "demographic danger" and the "preserving the Jewishness of the state" were initiated by the Labor Party rather than the extreme right, although on the eve of Independence Day, 2008, former Minister of Education Limor Livnat of the Likud party said in a TV debate on the strategic threats facing Israel on its 60th anniversary: "There is no real strategic threat from Iran, Hizbullah, or Hamas …. The only real strategic threat comes from the demographic danger that the Arab citizens of the state present."
Today it has become clearer than ever that ignoring the fact that Israel is not a wholly Jewish state but a state with a Jewish majority and a large Arab minority casts doubt on the accuracy of the definition of Israel as a "democratic state." As a result, the struggle for genuine equality and for democracy are intertwined, since equality for the Arab population is only possible in a more democratic Israel, and since Israel cannot be a real democracy as long as its discriminatory policy against a national minority prevails.