Palestinian public life is marked by the commemoration of a series of events of national importance. These range from the anniversary of the Nakba and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes on 15 May, to that of the 1967 war on 5 June, to less well known markers such as the commemoration of the Balfour Declaration on 2 November or of the UN General Assembly partition resolution on 29 November. With the exception of the commemoration of the battle of Karameh on 15 March and the launching of the Palestinian resistance on 1 January, instituted by the PLO, most mark defeats or setbacks, in keeping with the somber progression of Palestinian history, and consequently few are festive occasions.
There is nothing to be festive about today as Gaza teeters on the brink of civil war, as the Israeli blockade and the international financial siege of the occupied territories continue, and as the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, and perhaps with it the most recent iteration of the Palestinian national movement, may be imminent. A new Israeli offensive against Gaza or neighboring Lebanon in the near or middle term seems possible as well.
The latest issue of JPS touches on all these topics. From Tom Segev’s forthcoming book on the impact of the 1967 war on Israel, JPS is publishing a chapter covering previously little-known internal Israeli government deliberations on what to do about the Palestinian refugee population, mainly those in Gaza, that had just come under Israeli military occupation. It is particularly relevant on the fortieth anniversary of that occupation and as a reminder that this problem antedates the beginning of that occupation.
Another major segment of this issue is a lengthy interview with Timur Göksel, spokeman and senior advisor to the UNIFIL force in Lebanon from 1978 until 2003. He is undoubtedly the most knowledgeable foreign observer about developments in south Lebanon, including the different phases of Israel’s occupation of the region; the Palestinian presence there; the growth and development of Lebanese parties, including Hizballah; and the interaction of Lebanese, regional, and international factors in the Lebanese imbroglio. It is an indispensable document for anyone who would understand any of these ever more inextricably intertwined topics.
In an effort to remedy what amounts to a media blackout on the inhuman conditions prevailing in Gaza, JPS is publishing former Gaza resident Jennifer Loewenstein’s first hand account of life in the Gaza pressure cooker during Israel’s massive military assault last autumn. Finally, Jeff Halper’s essay on protest, activism, and true resistance provides important insights on the mechanisms through which the Israeli national consensus renders Palestinians invisible.
- Rashid I. Khalidi
Rashid I. Khalidi