From the Editor
The structures of Palestinian governance embodied in the Palestinian Authority (PA) that emerged from the Oslo process have been examined from many angles. For those who support the outcome of this process, these structures are seen as constituting the essential foundation for the future of the Palestinians (a potentially rosy one, as they see it). Emilio Dabed approaches these structures and the Palestinian constitutional process which underlies them quite differently. Dabed sees the legal debates over the shape of the Palestinian constitution as part of the struggle between the parties seeking to shape the future of Palestine. He argues that this struggle has produced a constitutional regime that bears the unmistakable marks of the neo-colonial reality under which the Palestinians under occupation have lived since 1967. Indeed, he argues that the structures of governance and current constitutional arrangements have reinforced the colonial nature of the existing Palestinian regime. Dabed’s article reinforces arguments that the PA serves to maintain and reinforce Israel’s regime of military control and ongoing colonial-settler expansion. Whatever future that portends for the Palestinians is not a rosy one.
Another central feature of the neo-colonial post-Oslo reality of the occupied Palestinian territories has been the progressive isolation of the Gaza Strip. In this grim context, Trude Strand examines Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip since the Disengagement Plan of 2005, diagnosing an intentional impoverishment of the population of the strip in order to punish and undermine its Hamas rulers. Strand comes to this conclusion by utilizing Israeli and U.S. government documents and materials from Wikileaks. She illustrates the impact of these policies in pauperizing a large portion of the nearly 1.8 million people living in the Gaza Strip today. This policy of punishing a civilian population that is still under occupation somehow escapes without diplomatic sanction, in spite of its manifest cruelty and egregious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
A third article shifts attention from the occupied Palestinian territories to Lebanon, where the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) has been stationed for over thirty-five years. Karim Makdisi considers the competing demands of UNIFIL’s mandate, laid out in Security Council Resolution 425 and revised after 2006 in Resolution 1701. These resolutions called on UNIFIL to simultaneously keep the peace on the Lebanese-Israeli armistice line, oversee an Israeli withdrawal, and help to restore the sovereignty of Lebanon’s government in the south of the country. Makdisi shows the impact of changing U.S. policies on UNIFIL’s actions, and also that of major events like the 2006 Israeli offensive against Lebanon, and subsequent internal conflicts inside Lebanon. UNIFIL has been pulled in different directions at different times by regional actors as well as the powers that dominate the Security Council, notably the United States. Therefore, it is not surprising that it has not been more effective either in controlling the situation along the southern Lebanese frontier, or in enhancing Lebanon’s contested sovereignty.
Finally, moving to one of the farthest outposts of the Palestinian diaspora, Cecilia Baeza considers the history of Palestinian migration to Chile. Most of those who consider themselves part of the Palestinian people today do not live in the area of former Mandate Palestine, the entirety of which is under firm Israeli control. Rather the majority of Palestinians live spread among several Arab countries, as well as much farther afield. Chile contains the largest population of Palestinian descent outside the Arab world. Baeza’s ground-breaking article explores the socio-economic trajectory of Palestinian immigrants to Latin America. Her study of Chile’s large and significant Palestinian-Chilean community illustrates crucial features of this extraordinary segment of the world-wide Palestinian diaspora.
Rashid I. Khalidi