A COMMON THEME running through most of the articles in this issue is the daily struggle of ordinary Palestinians in the ever shrinking spaces to which they are confined. The West Bank town of Nablus and the entire Gaza Strip represent extreme forms of what over the past few years has become the wholesale imprisonment of the entire population of the occupied Palestinian territories in their cities, towns, and villages. This new, refined form of mass collective punishment represents the latest stage in the Israeli occupation’s Bantustanization of what remains of Palestine. The confinement also applies to refugee camps in places such as Lebanon, where the isolated refugee population has suffered more than any other diaspora community.
This issue of JPS contains two remarkable personal accounts highlighting the extraordinary situation of the besieged city of Nablus. The first, by Palestinian historian Beshara Doumani, the foremost expert on the modern history of Nablus, describes his recent return to the town and combines observations of everyday life with the analytical voice informed by long familiarity with the region. The second, by native son Amer Abdelhadi, recounts the fascinating transformation of the radio station he founded from a popular source of entertainment to an essential source of emergency information for the besieged citizens of the city. Both pieces, though different in focus and voice, convey the texture of daily life in this town hemmed in on two sides by mountains surmounted by Israeli military bases and on the other two sides by military checkpoints through which most residents are rarely allowed to pass. The picture painted by these accounts is reinforced by veteran Ha’Aretz correspondent Amira Hass’s article, reproduced in our Hebrew Press section, which describes the remarkable persistence of social order in Nablus despite the collapse of the political order.
These same themes of survival and everyday existence under siege and con- finement are approached from an artistic angle by Israeli professor of cinema and literature Nurith Gertz in her sensitive study of Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. Through her poignant descriptions of Masharawi’s poetic and metaphorical films, most of which are set in Gaza refugee camps, the reader gets a powerful sense of the suffocating reality lived by over a million Gazans cooped up in their small, hermetically sealed canton. Yet another perspective on the harsh conditions of Palestinian daily life is taken by Laleh Khalili in her study of grass-roots commemorations in the refugee camps of Lebanon. Khalili’s article, while bringing home the desperation of Palestinian camp dwellers, focuses on their strategies for surviving and ensuring the continuity of their communities.
Finally, the issue is rounded off by Raef Zreik’s provocative essay on the Israel–South Africa analogy and the limited applicability of the anti-apartheid model (and the rights discourse) to the Palestinian quest for justice.
—Rashid I. Khalidi