Jerusalem Story: Squaring the Circle

This review of Jerusalem Story (www., a website created by Qatar’s Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, doubles as a measured critique of philosophical, historical, and existential affects including fatalism, teleology, and pathos. The website project may have arisen out of the once and future unification of Palestinian resistance around Shaykh Jarrah in 2021, which encapsulated the overarching centrality of Jerusalem to Palestine’s past, present, and future. Heacock notes that while the site has multiple entrance points and is brilliantly illustrated, the question remains whether the population studied is sufficiently inclusive. Certain issues are skirted, probably due to the multiplicity of themes it already evokes. The review compares Jerusalem Story to two notable existing websites, the Institute for Palestine Studies/Palestinian Museum’s “Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question” – Palquest, and Palestine Remembered, and places it alongside other sources, written, oral, and pictorial. The reviewer sees in the website a tendency to evaluate essential milestones (Jordan’s severance of ties in 1988, the Oslo accords, the apartheid wall) teleologically as cynical, failed, or sadistic decisions from the start. Such interpretations are treated as axioms, rather than hypotheses requiring sober analysis. Absent are Jerusalemites’ issues involving each other in addition to their colonial oppressor. Despite the site’s discursive tendency to treat their condition as one of sheer suffering bereft of that dynamic agency which has kept them firmly resilient and fiercely resistant, the review concludes that the site adds a great deal to our knowledge and empathy.

Author biography: 

Roger Heacock is a professor of history at Birzeit University and member of the university’s Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies. He is on the editorial board of the quarterly Confluences Méditerranée and the board of the Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes Méditerranée Moyen-Orient (iReMMO), both headquartered in Paris. With Ala Jaradat he co-authored and co-edited Intifada 1987: A Nation Transformed (in Arabic by IPS, 2020). Forthcoming publication: La Palestine dans le temps long (Institut du monde arabe).

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