APPEARING AT THE TIME of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and a tiny portion of the northern West Bank, this issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies includes two long articles that put the event in some historical perspective, as well as a report and an essay devoted to its potential implications.
Hilde Henriksen Waage highlights Norway’s role in mediating the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO. Based on Norwegian diplomatic documents and interviews with participants in the secret Oslo talks, this article contributes to the history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to our understanding of the profound flaws in these accords. It also reveals Norway as mediator to have differed little from the United States in its heavy bias in favor of the stronger party, Israel, and makes for cautionary reading in light of the current American role as midwife to the disengagement plan.
Helga Baumgarten analyzes the progression in the Palestinian national movement from the dominance of the Movement of Arab Nationalists, to the hegemony of Fatah, to Hamas’s current bid for leadership. She shows how each movement grew in response to the perceived failures of its predecessor and limited its political objectives as it became more powerful in the Palestinian political arena, showing that the goals of all major Palestinian political actors increasingly have been shaped by Israel’s unrelenting pressure on the Palestinian people.
The two items directly devoted to the disengagement are Geoffrey Aronson’s dispassionate assessment of the implications of the plan for the international community, based largely on interviews with senior Israeli planners, and Sara Roy’s essay on the plan’s potentially devastating impact on the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Aronson’s report reveals the obsession of Israeli decision makers with retaining long-distance control over Gaza while renouncing responsibility for it before the international community. Specifically, Israel seeks to shed the label of occupier, although it will continue its de facto control of Gaza from without, via exclusive mastery of the air and sea, ingress and egress. Roy analyzes how the plan is intended to enable Israel both to escape responsibility for its thirty-eight years of de-development of Gaza and to secure further its control over the West Bank, with grave consequences for both Palestinian national aspirations and the prospects of real peace.
The issue includes documents on the controversy in 2004–2005 at Columbia University involving politically motivated accusations by a small group of students against faculty members in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures. The documents show the impact of this affair on academic freedom and how it fits into a larger campaign to muzzle discourse on the Palestine question on American campuses.
—Rashid I. Khalidi