A MOVING TARGET like the effort of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians is difficult for a quarterly journal to deal with. The Journal nevertheless proposes four commentaries by Palestinian observers on Kerry’s initiative at the end of the nine months allotted to it. Mouin Rabbani addresses the overall political framework; Diana Buttu writes about the new demand for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; Samia al-Botmeh discusses the implications of Kerry’s proposals for the Jordan River Valley; and Raja Khalidi analyzes Kerry’s economic initiative. While none of these commentaries represents the last word on a process that is likely to be resurrected in some form, they all provide signposts to the obstacles that face any attempt at a just resolution of the Palestine problem.
This issue includes two historical assessments of long-term aspects of the Palestine question. The first, by Elizabeth Brownson, examines the educational policies of the British mandatory authorities, demonstrating how these deliberately kept Palestinians politically and educationally underdeveloped, hindering their efforts to engage in state-building efforts that could have matched those of the Zionists.The second,byFaroukMardamBey,analyzesthe positionsofFrenchintellectuals on Palestine and shows how old European attitudes toward Islam and a newer sense of guilt about the Holocaust have produced ideological stances favoring continued Israeli colonial expansionism.
Responding to a growing controversy over moves towards an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, this issue includes a special documents file covering the American Studies Association’s endorsement of such a boycott, and the fierce backlash that this provoked. The file includes an article by Noura Erakat assessing the controversy, documents from the boycott endorsement itself, and anti-boycott congressional and state legislation that attempted to stifle the decision. This pressing topic will undoubtedly continue to provoke interest as it develops.
The annual Congressional Monitor rounds out the conversation on U.S. policy, presenting all the bills and resolutions introduced in Congress during 2013 on Palestine, Israel, and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. In the opening session of the 113th Congress, 124 legislative measures were introduced, a 50 percent increase over the period covered by the previous Congressional Monitor (JPS 168). Accounting for this are two main factors: the escalation of the conflict in Syria and heightened political unrest in Egypt on the one hand, and the fact that opening sessions of Congress generally consider a larger number of bills than closing ones, on the other.
Sara Roy contributes a moving tribute to the memory of Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, who was a Gaza-based psychiatrist and one of the most eminent leaders of Palestinian civil society. Given his clinical expertise, Dr. al-Sarraj provided a humanist perspective on the horrors that occupation, siege, bombardment, deprivation, and the lack of opportunities for human and societal development inflicted upon Gaza’s civilian population, especially its large population of children. The passing of this dignified, wise, and gentle man is a great loss for the people of Palestine, especially those in the Gaza Strip.
Finally, with this issue, the Journal introduces a new feature, Palestine Unbound, which reflects media and online conversations around Palestine that have generated interest, controversy, or otherwise refer to an event of cultural or political significance. This new section aims to fulfill the Journal’smission to document the history of Palestine, even as it unfolds.
-Rashid I. Khalidi