1967 was a year of setback for the Palestinians not only because Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also because the new occupation effectively set the older one of 1948 in stone. As political attention quickly turned to the newly occupied areas, it became more difficult to mount challenges to the earlier stages of the occupation, or even to name them occupation. The “occupied Palestinian territories” became the name of the Palestinian areas occupied in 1967, not in 1948. While Israel, in many of its official narratives, refers to the events of 1948 as occupation, the reference to 1948 as occupation dropped from the international vocabulary, effectively naturalizing the existence of Israel and concealing the violence constitutive of its creation.Chilling is the great Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani's look at what we might be commemorating on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war:
Since then, attempts constantly to “catch up” with new forms of Israeli subjugation shaped much of Palestinian politics, as Israel consistently raised the stakes on its dispossession of the Palestinians. If the settlements and green areas were the main vehicle for dispossessing Palestinians and confiscating their lands, soon the networks of highways and the separation wall became new mechanisms. But among many Palestinians, this “catching up” produced tragic politics characterized by amnesia. For, if the Palestinians were expected to respond systematically to the newly enacted empirical ends of the occupation, they had to suspend their responses to previous ends. The trouble was that new ends were always being introduced.
June 5, 2007 may well be the last time we commemorate a further decade of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the rate things are going -- the accelerated colonization of West Bank territory most visibly represented by the wall that Israel is building, and unprecedented levels of international neglect/support for such policies -- these are unlikely to remain occupied territories for much longer.As a generally pro-Oslo person in my student days in the 1990s, I increasingly believe that another regional war over Israel is not only likely but perhaps the only way to resolve the conflict. But because of the festering occupation and international irresponsibility towards Israel (from both the US and EU), it is probably going to be resolved in a bloodier and more radical way than any of the previous conflicts over that wretched piece of land.
Prolonged military occupation lasting successive decades was an untenable proposition to begin with, and has been sustained only by international law, the refusal of the international community to formally recognize Israel’s territorial claims and, most pertinently, the presence and resistance of the Palestinians in the form of individual communities and, until recently, a coherent national movement.
By 2017 that is likely to change. How the international community seeks to accommodate Israel’s claims to strategic portions of the West Bank while maintaining effective control over the rest, and how the Palestinians and others in the region will respond, are interesting questions. The answers are likely to combine elements of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries: the colonialism and ethnic structures of the first, the formal adherence to independence of the second, and the belief of the third that advanced technology can resolve the political challenge resulting from the inherent contradictions of the first two.
Absent drastic changes, remaining doubts about the feasibility of a two-state settlement are also going to be removed in the coming years. Many believe the point of no return has already been passed. Most view it as imminent. The one certainty is that the two-state settlement paradigm is not going to be replaced by that of a secular democratic state -- desirable as the latter may be. Rather, the more likely scenario is a regression toward existential conflict, on a more bloody scale than seen thus far and probably with a greater regional dimension than in recent decades.