No one asked the Arab Palestinians whether to accept or reject anything. If they had been asked, they would probably have rejected partition, since -- in their view -- it gave a large part of their historical homeland to foreigners. The more so, since the Jews, who at the time constituted a third of the population, were allotted 55% of the territory -- and even there the Arabs constituted 40% of the population.
The governments of the Arab states rejected partition, but they certainly did not represent the Palestinian Arabs, who were at the time still under British rule (as were we).
As a matter of fact, during the war there was no effective united Palestinian Arab leadership, nor was there anything even remotely resembling a united Palestinian fighting force.
One can interpret these facts as one wishes -- but they certainly do not paint a clear picture of "the Zionists accepted, the Palestinians rejected."
Yet this mantra is being repeated endlessly in newspaper articles, TV talk-shows and political speeches as self-evident truth. Prof. Avineri is only one of a legion of Israeli propagandists to repeat it.
ANOTHER MANTRA parading as the incontestable truth is that the 750,000 original Palestinian refugees left their homes in 1948 voluntarily, after being requested by the Arab leadership to do so, "in order to clear the way for the advancing Arab armies."
Any thoughtful person hearing this must come to the conclusion that it is utter nonsense. No advancing army would want to remove a friendly population. Quite the contrary. Needless to say, not a shred of evidence for this contention has ever been discovered. (There may be some doubts about local events during the conquest of the Arab parts of Haifa, but they do not change the broad picture.)
This mantra is compounded by the idea that in war, all the people on the losing side forfeit their country, their homes and their property. This may have been so in Biblical times, but in modern times it does not reflect international law or common morality.
There may be many different opinions about how to put an end to this tragedy. The Palestine refugee population has grown to over five million. The landscape has changed completely. Very few people, even among Palestinians, believe in a mass return of refugees. But this does not change the fact that the mantra sounds hollow. It is not even good propaganda anymore.
A NEW mantra is now gaining ground. Binyamin Netanyahu put it in simple words: "the Conflict is Insoluble." Many respected figures, including prominent university professors, now repeat it daily.
I am reminded of a late friend of mine, Samuel Merlin, a member of the first Knesset, who once took part in a public debate with Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former chief of army intelligence. At the time -- the era of euphoria between the 1967 and the 1973 wars -- Harkabi was a raving Arab-hater (after 1973 he repented and became a determined peace activist).
When his turn came to answer Harkabi's arguments, Merlin said: "I respect Professor Harkabi very much, but in order to utter such views you don't need to be a professor, you can be anyone on the street."