THIS ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL carries an article, a report, and three essays which share a focus on recent events, as well as two substantial articles on historical topics with continuing relevance, about the Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities of Palestine.
Graham Usher, a seasoned observer of Palestinian politics, writes from the United Nations about developments around the first stages of the Palestinian application for membership in the world body. Although he sees this as representing a new departure, he is skeptical whether it can produce results without greater mobilization of the Palestinian people around a common program, and a greater engagement with emerging democratic forces in the Arab world. Writing about the other wing of the divided Palestinian national movement, Margaret Johannsen focuses on the rocket arsenal of Hamas, arguing that without accepting that this organization has a role to play, no change in the unsatisfactory status quo in and around the Gaza Strip is possible.
In a pair of essays, Alain Gresh and Gilbert Achcar address issues relating to Palestine that are of growing salience in the West. Gresh writes about the slowly growing attachment to the Palestine cause, combined with the increasing treatment of Muslim immigrant communities as scapegoats, and the way all of this relates to the question of anti-Semitism. Achcar assesses Holocaust denial in the Arab world, examining it in relation to the same phenomenon in the West, and finding that the former is closely linked to a sense among some Arabs that the Holocaust is exploited to buttress Israeli hegemony. Both perspectives serve as a corrective to the reductionist and specious treatment of these phenomena in some sectors of American and European public discourse, notably via describing opposition to Israeli policies or to Zionism as anti-Semitism. Finally, in his review essay of an edited volume on the Goldstone Report, Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights reflects from his broad experience on the controversy surrounding it, and on the Israeli attack on Gaza of 2008–09.
The historical articles, by Laura Robson and Bedross Der Matossian, examine two important Christian communities of the Holy Land, and the challenges they have faced, some of which are still with us. Robson shows how the long-standing division between Palestinian Arab Orthodox laity and the largely Greek upper hierarchy of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has played out over more than a century. She examines how this led leading figures in the Palestinian Orthodox community to become pioneers of Arab and Palestinian nationalism in the decades before 1948. The gulf between upper clergy and laity, which endures to this day, continues to have an important impact. Der Matossian paints a remarkable picture, one of the first available to scholars in English, of the growth and development of the Armenian community in Palestine following the end of World War I, when there was an influx of destitute survivors of massacres in Anatolia. It is a striking success story of integration and economic growth, shadowed in the end for Armenians as for others in Palestine, by the Nakba of 1948.
—Rashid I. Khalidi