This issue of JPS introduces new discourses, new looks at past events, and a new section. The aim, as always, is to challenge habitual ways of thinking about Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict. A few pious truths, for instance, seem to be at the center of the conventional discourse on Palestine. One is that the establishment of a Palestinian state is and should be the Palestinians’ chief goal; another is that this first supposed truth has been accepted by the Israeli state. Beshara Doumani argues that in spite of occasional lip service to the contrary, neither the Zionist movement nor the Israeli state nor their great-power backers have ever truly accepted the Palestinians’ right to viable statehood. In view of the obstacles that these powers have systematically erected over the course of nearly a century, Doumani suggests these presumed truths would benefit from critical reexamination by the Palestinians themselves.
The current crisis in Palestinian politics has roots in the refusal of great powers to accept genuine self-determination, and it has home-grown roots as well. Some of these lay in the nature of the personal, charismatic system of rule established by Yasir Arafat and the manifest inability of his successor, Mahmud Abbas, to fill his shoes. Ali Jarbawi and Wendy Pearlman use Abbas’s succession dilemma to help explain his weakness not only in the face of Hamas, but also of the Fatah movement he nominally leads, and of Israel and the United States.
Two authors deal with under-explored aspects of Palestinian history. Ricky-Dale Calhoun examines a key role played by a group of wealthy U.S. businessmen in the founding of Israel and the concomitant destruction of Arab Palestine. Laila Parsons uses previously unpublished private papers belonging to Syrian soldier of fortune Fawzi al-Qawuqji to expand what we know about this controversial figure who played a major role in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s.
This issue also includes three documents produced by Palestinian citizens of Israel that set forth demands for the transformation of that state into a fully democratic and inclusive one. Comprising about 20 percent of Israel’s population, this group has been largely ignored by Palestinian political formations elsewhere, and has been discriminated against by the state for nearly 50 years.
Finally, this issue presents the first installment of a new JPS section, the Congressional Monitor, which tracks U.S. congressional initiatives relating to Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict. These initiatives, listed together and with minimal commentary, powerfully illustrate the priorities of the United States’ elected representatives. This new section should form a substantive contribution to current debates over the influence of lobbies in American politics.
Rashid I. Khalidi