This issue of JPS contains two historiographical interventions and several items on political developments in Palestine in the recent past and present, including an exclusive interview with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.
The first two articles appear at a time when the historiography of Palestine and of the Arab-Zionist conflict is beginning to feature a variety of new perspectives, both in Middle East history generally and within the growing field of Palestine studies. Ilan Pappé shows how, over the past decade, there has been a swing back in the Israeli historical establishment from the so-called “New History” of the late 1980s and 1990s toward a new Zionist orthodoxy, which he calls “neo-Zionism,” in line with the distinct rightward shift of Israeli politics over the same period. By contrast, Walid Khalidi offers an entirely new paradigm for understanding the course of more than half a century of Zionist history, from 1897 to 1947, as paralleling aspects of the Reconquista of Spain from the Muslims during the Middle Ages, particularly in terms of irredentism, land hunger, and callousness toward the indigenous population.
The interview with Prime Minister Fayyad, conducted by the Institute for Palestine Studies’ Ramallah office in two sessions four months apart, is unusually frank. Although its main focus is Fayyad’s plans for building state structures under occupation, a careful reading affords interesting insights into the different approaches within the Palestinian Authority—especially, but not solely, with regard to the peace process. (Other recent JPS interviews with Palestinian political figures include Hamas’s Khalid Mishal [ JPS 147 and 148] and the exiled Israeli Palestinian leader Azmi Bishara [ JPS 151].)
The issue also offers a translation of an interview with the late Shafiq al-Hout, originally published in 2004–2005 by our Arabic-language sister publication, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, as well as my own remembrance of the former PLO leader. In the interview, al-Hout, who passed away in August 2009, reflects on the generation of Palestinian leadership that is now leaving the scene and comments astutely on his peers and on the situation as he saw it as a leading member of that generation.
A number of important documents also appear in this issue, including several with direct relevance to the Fayyad interview, among them speeches by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fayyad himself, each laying out the program of his respective government.
—Rashid I. Khalidi