This is not a post where I intend to get intensely pro-Palestinian, since I believe it should be a basic maxim of our foreign policy that the squabbling of other peoples over small patches of land in small, relatively unimportant Mediterranean countries should properly have nothing to do with the United States (we are not deeply exercised by the continued occupation of northern Cyprus, nor are we much troubled by disputes over Ceuta), but this report almost makes me want to start talking about al-Naqba and playing “Ya Quds” by Nawal al-Zoghbi:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews published Friday that Israel would not allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to what is now Israel, and that the country bore no responsibility [bold mine-DL] for the refugees because their plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on Israel when it was a fledgling state.

This is, of course, the standard story of the 1948 war, which every good American has learned by heart (along with the justifiability of the “pre-emptive” 1967 war, in which there was also no attempt to sink the USS Liberty).  However, I am earnestly trying to think of another example where a modern government that engaged in deliberate and conscious ethnic cleansing has been allowed to tell the story in such a way that it can claim that it not only will not take back any of the people it forced out (which might simply be a political reality) but that it also bears no responsibility for the plight of those refugees because the state was under foreign attack. 

This would be like the government of Croatia, after having expelled the Serbs of the Krajina, declaring that they bore no responsibility for this act because they had been attacked by federal Yugoslav forces.  The Croatian government probably has made this claim (indeed, I have to assume that it has at some point), but I doubt that a lot of non-Croatians are tempted to believe this self-serving propaganda (except to the extent that Washington was also culpable in the expulsion of the Krajinan Serbs and so also has a vested interest in confirming this distorted view).  It is, in fact, the logic of the Turkish position on the Armenian genocide: we were under attack, “stuff happens” in war and that’s too bad, but we are not responsible for anything that may or may not have happened.  (For the record, in case this last comparison gets on anyone’s nerves, I am not saying that the Palestinians are victims of an attempted genocide.)  The Turkish government can advance this view all it likes–virtually no one else believes it, much less does anyone consider it a legitimate, defensible position. 

This statement by Olmert may be nothing more than a negotiating posture, but even for something related to politics it stinks to high heaven.