“How many years before they are no longer refugees?”
is the wrong question. It’s a question asked from a perspective of privilege, it interprets time as clock time rather than the time of the dispossessed, which is an ek-static anticipatory awaiting for the redemptive moment. Israelis, because they have restored their empire, live in a fundamentally different experience of Time than Palestinians.
Fundamentalist Jews and Ultra-Zionists mimic the time of the dispossessed by wrongly asserting that their redemption arrives only with the complete expulsion of Arabs and the building of the “third temple”. They are the worst kind of oppressors because they use the logic of the oppressed and resistance to justify oppression against the oppressed.
But for the majority of Israelis, the occupation is “the most humanitarian occupation in the world”, it is the indefinite postponement of the “Palestinian statehood”, the prospect of which justifies the occupation and the continued expulsion of the refugees. The position of the Israeli is the one who waits for peace, because they offer peace – a bullshit peace, but peace nonetheless. And this is what all victorious armies do – offer a bullshit peace to a defeated people, and call it humane and merciful. And they believe their own rhetoric. So they wait, they don’t understand why Palestinians don’t accept it? Why do they keep proposing the statehood when they aren’t ready to give up East Jerusalem and all the good parts of the West Bank, which is obviously the pre-requisite to peace?
And so it goes… we wait, and while “nothing happens” the West Bank continues to be carved up by settlement expansion, Israeli agression continues to prompt Palestinian “terrorism”, and the Israeli people become bored with war, bored with peace, just bored.
And therefore, talking with them is rarely redemptive. They might have a great analysis of the situation. They might have truly dedicated themselves to trying to end the occupation. But when it comes down to it, they don’t experience the stress of the occupation, or the temporality of dispossession. They are bored, and revolutionaries are not made of boredom.