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April 26, 2012



back in 1917. This is even what they said before 1917, dinrug the days of Theodore Herzl, who was founder of the Zionist movement. He received a letter from an Arab Palestinian, a note that was saying, why are you coming to Palestine, don't come to Palestine. So from the very beginning. And you can understand them. And this is precisely a conflict which was, even back then, so difficult to solve. And this is how we reached war. I mean, what I'm telling you is an historical analysis. It's not saying who was right or who was wrong or this is a colonialist action or not. It doesn't advance us. The fact is that by 1947-48, the only way to go ahead with anything was by violence, unfortunately. Violence was inevitable. And historically, yes, the Arab countries combined, attacked the state of Israel, the young state of Israel, as soon as independence was declared on May 15, 1948.JAY: The rationale for attacking the state of Israel was?SEGEV: To prevent its establishment, to destroy it.JAY: The premise being that—.SEGEV: You don't attack anybody in order to make peace with him, right?JAY: No, but the premise being that there was no rational legitimacy to create the state here. That's the premise they have.SEGEV: My experience as an historian is that whenever you get into legal arguments, it's really unproductive, because I will give you 200 legal arguments why it was legal, the Arabs will give you 200 arguments why it wasn't legal. Legal arguments don't really help us to understand what happened, and for me it's more about understanding what happened and why it happened, rather than trying to find who was right and who was wrong. If you go on the Internet site of the Israeli foreign office, you will find so many good legal arguments that would really convince you. But then if you talk to a Palestinian, even a Palestinian lawyer, he will give you so many. It's not about law, really. It's not important what—it's legal or not legal. But for us I think it's more important to try and understand what happened and why did it happen and what, if anything, we learned from what happened, to create a better future.JAY: The fundamental Palestinian argument about '48 is thousands of Palestinians were expelled—SEGEV: That's right.JAY: —from their own lands.SEGEV: That's right.JAY: So this much is a fact [inaudible]SEGEV: [inaudible] we're talking about. Again, don't approach it from a legal point of view, okay? Approach it from a humanistic point of view. It's a human tragedy.JAY: But why doesn't international law matter?SEGEV: Let's assume that you can prove to me that it was legal. I would still tell you, so what if it was legal? It is something that haunts us to the present day. It's an open wound. It's something we have to deal with. It's something we have a responsibility, at least an historical responsibility for, that tragedy. This is a tragedy that determines everyday news to the present day. This is what it's all about. So let's assume it's legal. So what? The Israeli foreign office will tell you it's not legal, Israeli official historiography will tell you it was legal, and the Palestinians will tell you that it was not legal. So what difference does it make? This is my attitude to international law. We have a human tragedy that is still with us today. It's an open wound. This is the important thing about it. This is why we need to know how did it happen. Now, you will find, I think, very few official Israelis, Israeli officials, or official history, even in textbooks, Israeli textbooks, you will find very few who will tell you, yes, half of them were expelled. We have all kinds of historical lies and historical mythology to justify this tragedy and explain how it happened. No. They were expelled. Hundreds of thousands of people were expelled. So this is not such a long time ago. Some of these people are still alive. There is a second generation and a third generation and a fourth generation of people who suffer from that tragedy. These are not professional refugees, people who gain, who have something to gain—let's say they get UN support or whatever. No. These are people, and you've seen them. You are coming from Beirut. Some people are living in refugee camps, where the alleys between the houses are so narrow that two people can't walk next to each other [inaudible] So the problem is open, and that's the important thing. ..

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