As this issue went to press, prospective Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered himself of a glaring series of gaffes and insults about the Palestinians in a speech in Jerusalem whose level of pandering led even some of the mainstream media to wince, and the Daily Show (31 July 2012) to gleefully exploit his blunders. Romney grossly misstated the per capita GDP of both Palestinians and Israelis (a strange misstep for a candidate whose claim to fame is his business acumen), and ascribed the yawning economic gap between them to “culture” and the hand of Providence. But his failure to mention forty-five years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as a factor holding the Palestinians back economically is lamentably not anomalous for an American politician. Romney is only one among many engaged in a dizzying race to the bottom when it comes to pandering to the most extreme Israeli positions and denigrating the Palestinians. Ignoring the elephant in the room, whether it is the occupation, or the failure of a so-called “peace process” to deliver peace for more than two decades, is par for the course in American political campaigns where Palestine is concerned.
This issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies examines the extreme but depressingly predictable positions on Israel and the Palestine question adopted by nearly all of the leading contenders for the Republican Party’s 2012 nomination for president. Lawrence Davidson analyzes the stands of each of these candidates, including Mitt Romney. One need look no farther than the rhetoric on these issues emitted by seven of the eight to understand that not only one of the two major American political parties, but virtually the entirety of the country’s mainstream political discourse, is so totally skewed as to make the United States a major cause of the perpetuation of the Israeli-Arab conflict, rather than being a potential part of the solution to it. If further confirmation were needed, one has only to peruse the Congressional Monitor, published annually in the Journal, which details the equally unedifying positions on these same issues taken by many members of Congress.
Naturally unmentioned by Romney in his speech, the conditions in the Gaza Strip, where over 1.5 million Palestinians languish in the world’s largest open air prison, have rarely received their due. This issue makes up for this deficiency in some measure with two probing articles, one by Nicholas Pelham on Gaza’s tunnel economy, and the other by Tamer Qarmout and Daniel Béland exploring the politics of international aid. They reveal that, paradoxically, the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, supported by the United States, the European Union, and most international agencies under their influence, have had effects far different from those intended. The thriving tunnel economy and the entrenchment of the Hamas regime in Gaza are only the most striking of these effects.
This issue also includes brief appreciations authored by Jehan Helou and Elias Khoury of two figures who are not well known, except to those who were involved in the world of the Palestinian resistance of the late 1960s and 1970s. These were Abu ‘Umar and Dr. Mahjub ‘Umar, the noms de guerre of a Palestinian academic and an Egyptian doctor who immediately after the 1967 war abandoned comfort and professional security to play key roles as cadres in the resistance. The former disappeared while on a mission in 1976, and the latter passed away earlier this year. These portraits of men who were humble, conscientious, politically astute, and effective in serving the Palestine cause provide a striking contrast to some of the far less appealing figures who strut the Palestinian political stage today, and recall a nearly forgotten era in the history of the Palestinian national movement.
—Rashid I. Khalidi