Yael Dayan: I think the marking of 50 years is a little artificial, because celebrating 50 years does not mean that every 50 years is really a turning point. I would say that the years from 1948 to 1967 were one era and the 30 years of occupation of the Palestinians another era in our lives. I do not feel guilty about 1948 or about 1967, but I certainly do not think of the years of occupation or of Israel's missing the opportunity for peace after Oslo, as among our finest hours. I think of the decade between the start of the Second World War and 1948, and I know what tragedy and what effort Israelis and Jews went through in order to establish this state. And it was not in our minds to replace or displace the Palestinians, for the state was born with the intent of accepting partition. The first 20 years were years during which, in spite of external threat, we were concentrating on state-building, absorbing immigrants. I am very proud of those years between 1948 and 1967. However, I am very upset about the last ten years of the occupation, which I regard as a missed opportunity.

Ibrahim Dakkak: Yael was saying that, as regards the establishment of Israel, she does not feel guilty. I can understand that in a way.

Khaled Abu Aker: That is the question for the Israelis. How can they live with such feelings about times when other people witnessed such a different fate, when they were forced to leave their land, and suffered as displaced people, living in tents as refugees? Maybe we can begin by talking about that 50th anniversary. The Israelis are celebrating 50 years of independence, or 50 years since the birth of Israel as a state. The Palestinians consider this the Nakba, or Catastrophe. How can we find a balance between the Nakba from the Palestinian perspective and the existence of Israel?

Ibrahim Dakkak: It seems to me that the Nakba and independence or the birth of Israel are really one story seen through the eyes of two different peoples. What has been a success for one party has been a failure for the other party, and here is the problem. There is some kind of paradox in the whole thing, some kind of irony. How could one people celebrate their independence and the other celebrate their Nakba? How did this develop?

Yael Dayan: Because in the preceding years, the whole world was not very involved with our own enormous Jewish tragedy. So the question is, how can people not be sensitive to other people's tragedies. I do not think it was fair to reproach us, certainly not in 1948, when we were emerging from one of the greatest tragedies of humanity which the world did not do much to avoid.

Nazmi Ju'beh: This does not relieve you of responsibility.

Yael Dayan: Our sensitivity, like yours, comes from the ashes. We were building what, for us, was a minimal corner where we could hide from a terrible fate and find shelter. I am explaining why, certainly at the time, there was no guilt or sensitivity. Now you can ask me how, today in 1998, we can celebrate when other people, today in 1998, do not yet have their homes. As a result, I am certainly not celebrating the way I would like to. But in 1948, when people came as refugees, they did not have the capacity to be sensitive to other refugees.

Ibrahim Dakkak: You are confusing two things. You are talking about your survival from the ashes in Germany and Europe, which we know about, and your wanting shelter, which is a normal human need.
But at the same time, you were not asking only for shelter. You were asking for a state, a polity by all means. And it was only possible to establish that at the expense of the indigenous people. I find it difficult that somebody conscientious would really not feel some kind of guilt. Now, if you do not have that feeling of guilt, and we have our still very vivid memory, how can we compromise between your lack of feeling guilty and our vivid memory?

Mordechai Bar-On: Your problem, Ibrahim, is with the word "state" because you immediately qualify my rights for self-determination. For us, shelter was one element. We believed - like you believe now that you deserve a state like every other nation - that the only way to end the trouble of the Jews throughout the years was to have a state. We looked upon that as a basic right supported by the norms and values of the world at that time.
We do not feel guilt, but this does not preclude my feeling very sorry about what happened to your people. My father came to this country in 1924 and I was born here. For me, in 1948, this became a zero-sum game. You win, I lose. That was the reality. You did not want us to have a state. You did not want us to have the basic autonomy that people deserve to have, as you deserve now.
The guilt only begins when you decided to stop the zero-sum game back in 1988, when you decided in favor of a two-state solution. Then you became the just side and we the unjust side - we as a nation. But everybody who does not accept the two-state solution loses his moral basis in this conflict.

Ibrahim Dakkak: Let's stop at 1948 and the story of shelter. The Zionist movement, which was a political movement aiming to establish a state, began long before 1948. That you came in and wanted shelter, I can understand.

Yael Dayan: My parents were both born here, so I don't come from anywhere. When you say indigenous, that is me as well.

Ibrahim Dakkak: I agree, but I am trying to differentiate between a shelter and a movement which was aiming to come and establish a state in a country that meant the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians.

Nazmi Ju'beh: Yael, there is just one problem in your shelter theory, and it is that those who came to escape the Nazi massacres fit exactly into the well-planned political program of 50 years before. They were just one small element in the building of the Jewish state. They did not come just to find shelter, but to implement this program.

Khaled Abu Aker: The Palestinians in general understand it that way.

Mordechai Bar-On: The idea that the Zionist plan was mapped out 50 years earlier is absolutely wrong. There was no map or plan. Even if you end up concluding that my father was a villain when he came here in 1924, that still would not help to make me feel guilty because, in 1948, as you well know, the question was either that you would have a state and we would remain a minority - and you know how this minority would have felt here - or we would have partition. We would have half the country with a state, and you would have your own state. That was the question in 1948.
I think until the 1936 Palestinian rebellion, most of the Zionists, not all, honestly believed that we could come here and build something together. They should and could have known better. The idea that they must have a state was only that of Jabotinsky for a long time. It was only in 1936, 1937 that most of the mainstream Zionists also understood that there had to be a partition of the land. It was clear that we could not have a state on all of the land.

Ibrahim Dakkak: I do not think that your father was a villain. I know you are an indigenous person. To go back to two points: One is that even the Balfour Declaration spoke about a shelter, a home.

Mordechai Bar-On: A national homeland, yes.

Ibrahim Dakkak: That did not mean in any way a state. But things developed, or were fabricated in one way or another, to develop into a state. The other point, related to the establishment of the state is that, while the Jews were running from massacre in Europe, they created a similar situation here in one degree or another. This is not an accusation in the absolute sense, but while they were trying to salvage their position or liberate themselves from their catastrophe, at the same time they created a catastrophe for others. How can you reconcile the sufferings of the Palestinians with the success of the Zionists?

Khaled Abu Aker: Israel became a reality in 1948, and Palestinians became refugees. Many massacres were committed against them. How do you explain this?

Mordechai Bar-On: I can tell you my formula. You ask about moral obligation or moral responsibility. The Nakba occurred as a result of inevitable processes in which we, the Israelis and the Zionist movement, played a very important part, including the weaknesses of your leadership. But certainly, if not for us, it would not have happened. Therefore, of course we were a very important factor in creating your suffering. But I cannot feel regret or guilt because that would imply that I could have avoided it. I had nothing to do but defend myself. But I certainly can recognize that my existence here, and the Zionist movement, caused you a great evil. Evil happens whether you are guilty of it or not, or whether the picture of how you see that evil occurred is more complex.
We Israelis should certainly feel a moral obligation, to begin as quickly as we can to rectify the evil, above all by allowing you a state and by stopping settlements in the territories, which have nothing to do with Zionism. For me - and for many people - Zionism ended with the creation of the State of Israel and my agreement to divide this country into two. The reason I am in the peace movement is as a result of my feeling of moral responsibility as part of what happened here.

Danny Rubinstein: I have a question for our Arab colleagues. Do you think the 1948 rejection by the Palestinian side of the UN resolution to partition or divide the land here was a mistake? Would things have looked different now if the Palestinians had accepted it at that time?

Ibrahim Dakkak: I am not a historian, and to assess historical facts like this one is very difficult. Now, at this moment, I can see it was a mistake, but the burden of that mistake should not be shouldered by the Palestinians.
Actually, others were more responsible for that than were the Palestinians.

Nazmi Ju'beh: It is always easy to ask this question after 50 years. I actually asked my father this question several times because he lived in that generation. He said, "Somebody comes to your home and occupies one room of your two-room apartment. You are challenged to lose the whole house or to give up one room. You don't want to give up your rights. At that moment you are under great pressure and emotionally unable to take an objective, fully-thought-out decision." So I think now, looking through the eyes of the status quo and the present political situation, that it is easy to say, Well, it was a mistake not to accept the partition of the land at that time. But as I said, let us try and see it also through the eyes of the generation who lived here, which had struggled for 30 or 40 years for independence at that time.
Now, I do think it was a mistake. But if you ask me how I understand the Zionist claims at that time, I would say that it would not have made any difference whether we had accepted the division of Palestine or not.
Reading the Jewish Zionist literature of that period, the plan was clear. It was not just to accept the division of the country between the Palestinian and Jewish populations, but rather what they had in mind was the expansion of Jewish control over the whole country. Even had the Arabs accepted the partition proposal, the Jewish forces would have expanded in order to unify the areas of Jewish control.

Mordechai Bar-On: I think to say that something that happened in the past was a mistake is only legitimate if it could have been avoided. A mistake is something that, had you been more clever than you were at that time, you could have avoided. From this point of view, I think the word "mistake" for the Palestinians is irrelevant. It was not a mistake because there was no way they could have reacted differently. You mentioned the emotional side, but it was not only that. We, the Jews, were not sure we could win that war. Why would the Palestinians assume they would lose if they went to war? They had a good chance in February or March of 1948.
Had I been a Palestinian leader, calculating that we are double the number, we have all the Arab states around us, Britain partially standing by our side, it was not crazy to think they could overcome the Israeli attempt to establish a state. And in March, the United States withdrew from support for partition. So I do not think that any human being could then have foreseen and understood what would actually take place.

Ibrahim Dakkak: Whatever the old generation did, good or bad, we should now deal with what we have today and what we can see for the future. How can we transform the Nakba into something different, and the jubilation on the other side to be more realistic about the facts on the ground?

Nazmi Ju'beh: The declaration of the State of Israel was the result of a long, long march for many decades by the Zionist movement. The Palestinian struggle against the British Mandate and early Jewish settlers in Palestine at that time ended in catastrophe, that was the Nakba for us, not just the declaration of the State of Israel. It was the failure of our struggle to reach its aim of a Palestinian state during that period.

Mordechai Bar-On: The struggle between Zionists and Arab Palestinians was completely unavoidable. We wanted to believe otherwise for a long time. But when you think about it now, there is a tragedy of the Zionist movement having come to life under a set of values which were colonial in their general nature. The world, the Western world for sure - the Third World as a political factor did not exist then - did not think much about the implication of the Jews coming back here. So what if there were some Palestinians? That was very much the psyche of colonial thinking at the time. And it happened in so many other parts of the world, why not here? Why do the Palestinians deserve a state of their own? The Arabs already have so many.
Then, the Palestinians developed their own national thinking. The resulting clash was unavoidable and could not have been settled in a different way. Our history is part of our identities. You want to maintain your separate identity, and justly so, and the Nakba will remain a very important part of your identity. The problem is, how can we each incorporate the suffering of the other into our thinking about the past. I think this is possible.

Khaled Abu Aker: I would like to ask Dr. Ju'beh to explain why the Palestinian national movement was defeated.

Nazmi Ju'beh: It is a very complicated question, for the Palestinian people was associated with different political streams, like Pan-Ottomanism, Pan-Arabism, Greater Syria, etc. I think we began increasingly to see the development of a Palestinian national movement with a specific kind of political program during the uprising of 1929 and onward. At that time, the Jewish Zionist program was at least 30 years ahead of us in its political planning and I do not accept Bar-On's analysis, because I think there was always an aim of establishing a Jewish state. I see the Palestinian movement as insufficiently mature, even till the end of 1948, to lead us at that moment to any kind of independence. The nature of that movement, its origins and the ideology it was presenting were bound to lead us to defeat.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the independence of Israel, especially on Israeli TV with T'kuma and other such programs, and I think some license has been taken with what happened in 1948. You talk about the Arab armies that invaded the small Jewish community of Palestine, and you know how many Arab armies there were. But they had fewer weapons than the Jewish forces. Abdul Qader Husseini, one of the most prominent and practical leaders of that period, had 300 weapons under his supervision. A few months before his death, he went with money from the local population to the Arab world bargaining for weapons and came back empty-handed. As for Haj Amin Husseini, his leadership was inadequate. His political program was not clear. His slogans were empty and simplistic. So I do not believe that, even had he got more military support, he would have been capable of leading us to any success.

Yael Dayan: I would like to put this in another dimension because we are talking about you and us. Let us examine, for a moment, Israel within the international context and the Palestinians in Palestine within the international - including Arab - context. What comes to my mind is that, in 1948, and especially between 1948 and 1967, it was not just us against you. It was not our leadership against your leadership. After this big defeat in 1948, why did your leadership not begin to correct itself in the next 20 years? You had East Jerusalem. You had the holy places.

Ibrahim Dakkak: Who is we?

Yael Dayan: Indigenous Palestinian people. Did you fight the Jordanians the way you were willing to fight us? What I am asking is, you experienced one defeat in 1948, but as a defeated movement, there followed 20 years when we were out of the picture; you existed under Jordan, and as refugees in Arab countries, but you also existed in Jordan and in Egypt, more or less in the context that we are talking about today. There was a possibility of Palestine when, for 20 years, the State of Israel existed within the 1948 borders.
I am asking - not just to be controversial - what happened to your movement during the years that Israel was a fact and Palestine was not born yet? What happened to the movement, to the leadership, to the struggle? Was the defeat 20 years' long or 50 years' long? And we are to blame for all of it?

Ibrahim Dakkak: You were always in the picture simply because of the refugee problem. We had our memory. Our history was not absent from our minds.
Nazmi Ju'beh: I want to go back to what I think is a very dangerous statement that Yael made. In Kurdistan, the national movement for independence made tremendous mistakes. They failed throughout their history to establish a national state in Kurdistan. But that does not give anybody else the right to establish a state on their land because they made a mistake.

Yael Dayan: I am talking about what happened between 1948 and 1967.

Nazmi Ju'beh: Maybe we did something wrong. Maybe we did not fight in the proper way against Jordanian occupation. But that does not legitimize Israeli occupation on the one hand, and on the other hand, it does not take our rights away.

Yael Dayan: Certainly not.

Khaled Abu Aker: How can we compromise at the expense of people who still dream of returning to their homeland? They still have the key to their house. They left their village, their town, their city, but they still keep their key and they still dream of returning to their home.

Nazmi Ju'beh: The Nakba is not over. Yesterday I drove from Erez to Nablus. Along the road all the settlements are still under construction. New houses are being added from Beit-El to Kdumim. They are building settlements everywhere.
So the Nakba, in my feelings, in my physical, tangible, daily life is still there. It is not fair to ask me to stop thinking about the Nakba as long as such activities are still taking place. When we have an answer for someone who has been sitting in southern Lebanon in a refugee camp for 50 years, then I will be ready to finish with the idea of Nakba.

Yael Dayan: We agree, but if you tell me these people from southern Lebanon have to go back to Acre, I will tell you that reality prevents it. If you tell me that we have to put an end to Kdumim and Beit-El, I agree with you.
The question is how far back you want Israel to go. On the one hand, you are saying it is irreversible. Israel is there. On the other hand, I agree with you absolutely that settlement in the territories after 1967 is not only illegitimate, not only unjust, but has to be removed or undone. Is this what your Nakba is today? Is Kdumim your Nakba today? Or the compensation or acceptance of a certain number of people back to pre-1967 borders?

Khaled Abu Aker: Which means the Right of Return according to the United Nations.

Yael Dayan: Yes. But we are not talking about a million Palestinians coming back to pre-1967 borders because our reality is also irreversible and cannot be undone. So we are back to where we are today. Only this government is not moving toward peace and maybe it has to be forced to move. We are back to agreeing that some things are irreversible and what we have to agree on is what should be made reversible, and there, we together will have full international support on borders, on refugees, on the division of water, on settlements and on other subjects.

Mordechai Bar-On: I do not have any demand that you should forget your Nakba. But I think you have to permit me to differentiate between the Nakba that you suffer now and the Nakba of the past, because until 1967, the situation was completely different. From 1967 on, slowly, slowly, larger numbers of Israelis have begun to understand that the time has come to stop the suffering of the Palestinian people. Since 1988, since 1993, since Oslo, half of the people do not want settlements and are prepared for a Palestinian state.
You cannot blame me now for what Netanyahu and his colleagues are doing. But if you have a dialogue with me and not with Netanyahu, then you have to realize that there is a great difference between what is happening now - when we certainly agree to a large degree with what you say - and what happened in the past. And as for what happened in the past, I for one do not think you should by any means give up your memories of disaster. We are not going to give up our memories of the Holocaust. It is part of our upbringing, part of our identity. There is no question here in this room that we all agree that, unless there is a Palestinian state and a solution one way or another to the refugee problem and Jerusalem, the story is not at an end and the Nakba continues. We agree on that.

Ibrahim Dakkak: I believe the Israelis should plead guilty for what has taken place here in Palestine. They cannot run away from that because we have our memory which is the other side of the guilt feelings that you deny.
I am not saying you are villains. There were Jews here before your father and grandfather. They were living here all the time and they were part of Palestine and they were Palestinians. Then the West started to think - among them Herzl himself, who was a westerner - of dominating this part of the area. Jerusalem was the gate through which they wanted to come. In part, the Jews were part of a whole process whereby different European countries, Western countries, collaborated to create this situation which we call the Nakba and you call liberation.

Yael Dayan: Is it reversible?

Ibrahim Dayan: It is not reversible, in my opinion.

Yael Dayan: If not, where do we go from here?

Khaled Abu Aker: Do you believe that the Israelis have to accept the fact that there is a kind of moral responsibility toward the Palestinians?

Yael Dayan: Not in 1948.

Mordechai Bar-On: A hundred percent, yes.

Yael Dayan: Moral responsibility is a different thing. People find the solution to moral responsibility by saying there was an offer of partition and the Palestinians treated it as a zero-sum game. I am being honest. I believe there is no guilt on the part of the Israelis. To say you should feel guilty, is an emotional process. Moral responsibility is a logical thing. So let's separate the two.

Ibrahim Dakkak: I would like to address the point which Yael raised concerning reversibility and irreversibility, which brings us to the present day. The problem that we face now is that there is no way to reverse certain things. For example, the State of Israel, for the time being, is here. We cannot say that it is not here and it has to disappear by a magic touch. But the maintenance of the State of Israel and the continuation of the Palestinians' inability to establish their own state and to solve the issues of the refugees and the settlements and other problems, will make the issue of reversibility a headache for the Israelis as well as for the Palestinians.
In other words, instability will continue in the area, probably forever. The lack of ability on the Israeli side to appreciate or to understand or to share in the feelings of the Palestinians about their loss is something which cannot be forgotten by the Palestinians. If there were ways by which we could forget, after 1967 it became impossible to forget. It became irreversible.
All the problems of Israel are our problems in the end, and our problems are your problems. We are in the same boat. If we cannot think positively in terms of trying to find some kind of compromise or reconciliation for our two positions, I think you will have to live in hell and we will have to share that hell with you.

Yael Dayan: I agree on the emotional side. I do not agree politically. I agree that compromises should be made. There are people among the Israelis - and among the Palestinians - who think we have it all or we will have nothing. The majority of both the Israelis and the Palestinians support compromise. We are not going to draw borders here, but we certainly agree that there must be a two-state solution and a sovereign Palestine, and there is no question in this room and among the majority of Israelis about that. But the other questions, the emotional questions, I think that is something that has to do with the education of both peoples.

Khaled Abu Aker: What do Israelis know about the suffering of the Palestinians and building the Israeli state at their expense?

Yael Dayan: I am saying what we have to do here is a reversal of the historical process. We will not have a proper relationship and peace if we wait another 50 years for the slow development of understanding and education. Let's have peace, acceptable to both sides and with compromises on both sides - on territory and refugees and water and so on - and then we will begin the real process of reconciliation.
We cannot achieve reconciliation on the basis of inequality. You accept Israel because it is a fact. But once you really accept Israel - and I really accept Palestine, once it is established - from there we should start working hard, maybe for decades, on rereading our own history and the history of the Palestinians. We have a lost generation. I go to a lot of Israeli high schools and I am disgusted at the reactions, the primitive thoughts, the lack of knowledge, the total ignorance and racism and hatred and fear. And anything that is based on fear cannot produce confidence, and the fear is there because of the extremists in both societies.

Nazmi Ju'beh: I think there is a problem with this argument in that you do not feel - till now at least you have not shown - any kind of responsibility for the Nakba. I am not talking about guilt feelings. I am talking about responsibility. If you, till now, do not feel responsible for 750,000 Palestinians who were deported in one way or another from their homeland, many of whom are still living in refugee camps as a result of the establishment of the State of Israel, then we have a problem. I am saying you have to show responsibility for the fate of those people.

Mordechai Bar-On: You do not have a problem with me. You are speaking to me as somebody in the peace movement in Israel.

Ibrahim Dakkak: Where can we go from here towards the future? To my mind, there are two starting points. One is that there is something which is irreversible. History has created something which we have to live with. My question is not how the Israelis feel about what the Israeli government is doing nowadays, but the moral responsibility connected with the principle of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.
Are we heading nowadays towards a situation like the one which existed in South Africa? I am trying to see the future. I want peace to prevail for the coming generations. How can we establish peace, peace of mind and security for the generations to come? This is our challenge.

Nazmi Ju'beh: I feel rather frightened about the future. I think Israel never dreamed of such acceptance in the region, recognition from the Palestinians, recognition from more or less the Arab world with very few exceptions, as was associated with Oslo. But this new stream in Israel with Netanyahu and his extreme right-oriented politics and coalition is leading us again to a pre-Oslo period. What Netanyahu did was reverse history. This means things are reversible. I do not know how deep the reversal is, and as I said, that is a very ugly perspective for the future.