As demonstrated most recently by the events of spring 2021, change in Palestine often comes from the grassroots when it is least expected. That was the case with the First Intifada in 1987, which surprised the Israeli occupiers, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership, and the world. It was also true of the emergence of the armed resistance movements of the 1960s that seized control of the PLO and revived the Palestinian national movement by the end of that decade. And so too the Great Revolt of 1936–39, which grew out of a general strike that similarly caught the British colonial authorities, Zionist colonizers, and the traditional, conservative Palestinian leadership unawares. At a time when the Palestinian cause appeared to have hit a particularly low point as several Arab states welcomed close relations with an ever-more oppressive Israel colonizer, Palestinians were deemed demoralized and disorganized. But young people across Palestine surprised the world this past spring, deploying a range of resistance actions to the status quo that involved every part of the country, as well as many exiled Palestinians in neighboring Arab states and beyond.
As emphasized by several authors of the essays that follow, the Palestine-wide events of spring 2021 are not comparable in scale to the great upheavals that shaped modern Palestinian history. Nevertheless, like other major revolutionary ruptures, they confounded the expectations and hopes of the enforcers of injustice and oppression in Palestine and mobilized new sectors of the Palestinian people to resist their ongoing dispossession by a relentless settler-colonial project. The essays included in this cluster all make these points forcefully in different and original ways.
The essays were solicited by the editors of the Journal from mainly younger writers, activists, and scholars who have been closely following, and are themselves involved in, the evolution of the struggle over Palestine. Other reflections will appear in future issues of JPS. Such essays contribute to widespread discussions about how to unify the Palestinian people, envision the future, and nourish the movement for liberation from an always-changing but persistent status quo of domination, dispersal, and division that benefits only the colonizer.