Chaos reigns in the occupied territories, the prison’s inmates turning on one another while their jailors look on smugly. It is hard not to feel anger, especially at those responsible for the incarceration of the Palestinian people (now in their fortieth year of occupation), but also at those nominally responsible for the fate of this people, who are failing dismally. Along with the anger there is frustration at the powerlessness of people of good will to affect this tragic situation or to reverse the broader regional drift toward more war, internal strife, and injustice.
There are few rays of light. One is a developing backlash against attempts to silence those critical of Israeli policies. This has been most evident in the uproar over Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which says things that partisans of the status quo between Israel and Palestine have found uncomfortable. Despite hatchet-job reviews, stage-managed resignations, and much posturing, Carter’s book has remained for weeks on the New York Times and Amazon.com best seller lists. Less high-profile was the attempt to silence NYU professor Tony Judt, which is the subject of a Special Document File in this issue of JPS.
In spite of ceaseless attempts to marginalize it, the question of Palestine remains one of the enduring moral issues of our time. In this issue, Harvard political economist Sara Roy, who herself has produced much enlightened scholarship on Palestine, examines some of these moral questions, linking writing on this issue to humanism and the nexus between scholarship and politics. Norman Finkelstein’s analysis of Dennis Ross’s account of the failed 2000 Camp David negotiations in Ross’s recent book examines an entirely different kind of writing that subordinates a normative framework of rights to the “needs” of one the parties as Ross defines them, with entirely predictable consequences.
Three other items round out this issue. An article by Johan Franzén about the struggle within the communist movement from the 1920s until the 1940s over how to relate to Zionism and an article by Steven Glazer about the Histadrut’s “Hebrew Labor” campaign against Palestinian workers in the 1920s and 1930s both provide valuable background to current debates on the Israeli state’s relations with its Arab citizens. The current critical conjuncture of these 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel also gives added significance to the issue’s final piece, an interview with Shaykh Ra’id Salah, who as a leader of the Islamic movement in Israel has faced harsh repression. While much has changed between the era depicted in Glazer and Franzén’s articles and that of Shaykh Ra’id, some things are unchanged.
—Rashid I. Khalidi