WITH THE COMPLETION of the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Israel’s long-term plans for the West Bank have come into sharp relief. These plans are most clearly exemplified in the ongoing construction of the massive West Bank separation wall/barrier complex, which is unilaterally defining what may become permanent borders and making possible the biggest land grab in Palestine since 1967.
The separation wall is the subject of two lengthy articles in the current issue of JPS, both of which situate it in a larger context. Michael Lynk analyzes the June 2004 ruling on the wall by the High Court of Israel, which upheld the wall’s legality under international law even while mandating changes in its route, and compares it to the roughly contemporaneous ruling of the International Court of Justice, which unequivocally found it illegal. From a wider perspective, however, the case is used to show how the Israeli court applies its own interpretation of international law to support the broad goals of the Israeli occupation. Graham Usher uses a similarly wide lens, placing the wall—the latest manifestation of Israel’s policies of separation and exclusion—in the continuum of the entire Zionist project since the late nineteenth century. The strategic function of the wall, and its relationship to the Gaza disengagement, is further highlighted in two fascinating interviews (in the documents section), the first with Israel’s just-retired chief of staff and the second with a key advisor to Sharon on strategy.
Relevant to our understanding of how the wall and other occupation-related issues may play out in the United States is a report by Duncan Clarke on the movement to divest from Israel among mainline Protestant denominations. The report provides an interesting counterpoint to recent attention to the close alignment of some evangelical denominations with the Israeli right wing.
A second theme of this issue is structured around the late eminent British historian and doyen of Middle Eastern studies, Oxford University’s Albert Hourani. Early in his career Hourani was research director of the Arab Office in Jerusalem, and in that capacity testified before the Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry of 1946. In this issue, JPS makes available for the first time the full transcript of that testimony, which presciently sets forth the long-term problems Hourani predicted would result from the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The document is accompanied by Walid Khalidi’s part-personal reminiscence, part-historical narrative highlighting the ten years of intra-Palestinian, regional, and international politics that led to the formation both of the Anglo-American Committee and of the Arab Office, a long-forgotten institution that represents the first Arab body created to present the Arab case to the west.
—Rashid I. Khalidi