THE PREPARATION OF THIS ISSUE coincided with a peculiar U.S. presidential campaign that left foreigners, and many Americans, baffled at its twists and turns. The triumph of Donald Trump in winning the Republican nomination, and the sustained challenge of Senator Bernie Sanders to what had previously seemed the inevitable anointment of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, were only the most striking features of this unusual campaign.
For all its uniqueness, however, where the question of Palestine was concerned, this campaign was resolutely in keeping with a long chronicle of precedents. This was true in spite of the fact that Sanders offered the electorate a refreshing break from the otherwise monotonous conformity of U.S. politicians that routinely pledge undying devotion to Israel. One of the highlights of his campaign was a speech largely focused on Palestine, which Sanders delivered in Colorado. Strikingly, he did this instead of attending the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, a festive occasion where politicians dutifully troop to the podium to repeat the talking points thoughtfully provided to them by this most efficient of lobbying organizations. In its stress on the evils of Israel’s occupation, and its mild exhortations to Israel, Sanders’s speech would have been unexceptionable by European or international standards. In the U.S. political context, however, one of near unanimous fealty to whatever the Israeli government of the moment wants where the Palestine issue is concerned, it was exceptional.
In her essay on the campaign, Phyllis Bennis goes beyond the specifics of the actions and statements of Sanders to explore how much of an impact the Palestine solidarity movement has had on American civil society. She finds that the 2016 presidential campaign season has revealed that something fundamental has been changing in American public discourse, despite the Democratic Party platform being resolutely conventional in its treatment of Palestine and Israel, and the Republicans’ continued shift to positions that in some cases are more extreme than those of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. In particular, Bennis argues, demographic segments of great and growing importance to the future of the Democratic Party are becoming more critical of Israeli policies, and more sympathetic to Palestinian claims.
Josh Ruebner meanwhile offers an essay surveying the landscape in Palestine and Israel that will face the next president, whoever she or hemay be, as a result of the actions and inaction of President Barack Obama over the past eight years. He finds that the next incumbent of the White House will have to deal with the disappearance of any realistic hope for a two-state solution, in light of the relentless growth and entrenchment of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by successive Israeli governments, thanks to the unwavering acquiescence and support of the United States. Picking up a thread followed by Bennis, he argues that the next incumbent will also have to deal with an invigorated and more resolute movement for Palestinian rights anchored within significant groups among the American electorate, and with more pushback against unquestioning acceptance of official Israeli positions where Palestine is concerned.
The two articles in this issue are historical in nature. Both attempt to provide a perspective from below, in contrast to the elite-dominated narratives that have held sway in the writing of Palestinian history. One, by Rana Barakat, looks at the changed demography of Jerusalem during the Mandate period as the city grew to encompass the populations of adjacent rural areas; the author uses the prism of the 1929 Buraq Revolt, which saw the mobilization of these new city dwellers in ways thatfundamentally changed the politics of Palestine. This provides an original perspective on the fraught events of the 1929 uprising, and a novel approach to understanding the growth of Palestine’s Arab urban population during the Mandate. Kobi Peled’s contribution builds on “The Fall of a Village,” an article by the late Elias Shoufani on the events surrounding the capitulation of his native Mi‘liya that appeared in the very first volume of the Journal.1 Peled uses a range of sources to examine the interaction between the villagers and the fighters of Jaysh al-inqadh al-‘arabi, the Arab Salvation Army, during different phases of a little-known battle for Tal al-Ahmar (Red Hill) in the 1948 war. Both articles offer a view of major events through the lens of non-elite individuals of rural origin or in a rural setting.
The issue finally includes a remembrance by Khalil E. Jahshan of one of the leading figures of his generation, the intellectual, man of letters, diplomat, and journalist Clovis Maksoud. For his entire lengthy and distinguished career, Maksoud personified a commitment to an Arab nationalist perspective and to the Palestinian cause: in the current debased era of Arab disunity, with its artificially-fostered sectarian strife, Maksoud’s fierce critique has a particular relevance; and at a time when several Arab governments reach out to Israel as it continues to trample on the Palestinians and their rights, his clear voice on the issue of Palestine will be very sorely missed.
Rashid I. Khalidi