In this issue, JPS addresses many elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestine question that appeared to be immutable certainties but have recently come into question. One such element is the feasibility, and indeed the desirability, of a two-state resolution to the conflict. Many of those who feel that such an outcome is desirable have come to the conclusion that it has been rendered moot by Israel’s ceaseless creation of facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This growth of new thinking about Palestine and Israel is reflected in this issue’s Open Forum section, which contains two pieces, one by a Swedish diplomat and another by an Israeli academic, that offer new alternatives and modifications to the well-known one- and two-state models for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Another certainty has been the monolithic nature of the support of the U.S. Jewish community for whatever policies are adopted by successive Israeli governments. However, fissures in the previous consensus over this issue along generational and other lines have recently become impossible to ignore. Sara Roy’s essay argues that a much more robust discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the U.S. public sphere has developed as tactics of bullying and intimidation, which in the past chilled dissent, have come to have less and less effect. Most notable has been the rise within the U.S. Jewish community of a willingness among young people to rethink and challenge the old pieties on which they were raised.
A third element has been the idea that Israel, with its current prosperity, high growth rate, and relative internal stability, can and should maintain the existing status quo. However, there is now a plethora of Israeli voices warning that this is not in fact the case and a deep underlying anxiety in Israel about whether the status quo can or should be maintained. The situation of Israel and its internal discourse was the subject of an Institute for Palestine Studies panel held at the annual Middle East Studies Association conference in Boston in November 2009 that brought together presentations by four specialists who outlined some of the ways in which things appear to be changing inside Israel, sometimes in ways quite contrary to the trends that are apparent.
One element that triggered much rethinking, recrimination, and resistance in Israel was the Goldstone report on Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008–2009, which is the subject of a special document file. This issue finally also contains an article by Matthew Hughes on the abuses perpetrated by British forces against Palestinians during the brutal suppression of the 1936–39 Palestinian revolt. This constitutes a reminder, against the background of the Goldstone report, that although many things appear to be changing, some are quite constant. —Rashid I. Khalidi