The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) was established in Beirut in 1963 as an independent non-profit research institution, unaffiliated with any political organization or government. The creation of the institute, the first of its kind in the Arab world, occurred at a time when the Palestine Question was regaining its central place in inter-Arab politics and when Palestinian identity was regaining its vitality. Three Arab intellectuals, Constantine Zurayk (Syria), Walid Khalidi (Palestine) and Burhan Dajani (Palestine), sought ways to confront the challenge brought about by the creation of the State of Israel on the greater part of Palestine, the expulsion of its inhabitants, their enduring Nakba, and the expanding threat posed by Israel to the Arab world. In an environment where Israel and its supporters had a virtual monopoly over the Israeli-Palestinian narrative, they considered that their specific role pertained to the realm of knowledge and values, and thought it necessary to initiate a sustained collective effort that would preserve, develop and disseminate an accurate account of the conflict from its origins in the nineteenth century onwards, and provide a powerful case for Palestinian historical rights.
Their vision, which was enthusiastically endorsed by eight Lebanese and Palestinian intellectuals and public figures, led to the founding of IPS. Since its inception, the Institute has passed through several stages of development, some initiated by the Institute itself, and some triggered as responses to challenges posed by major political events in Palestine and in the region.
First Stage (1963-1970): Documenting Palestine, Addressing Occupation
During this stage, the founding members expanded IPS's board of trustees so as to include Arab public figures and business people from all over the region. The production of several documentary collections (pre-1948 documents, UN resolutions, annual series as of 1964) in both Arabic and English was launched, as well as a yearbook and short monographs. Particular attention was given to constituting a specialized library and collecting archival materials related to Palestine. However, IPS activities had hardly begun when the 1967 war broke out. The Institute immediately added new dimensions to its research production, chronicling Israeli practices and popular Palestinian resistance in the newly occupied territories with a special emphasis on developments in East-Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
Second Stage (1971-1981): Consolidation, Flagship Publications
Though marked by the 1973 war, the civil war in Lebanon and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, this period witnessed the consolidation of IPS. The Institute undertook for the first time in the Arab world the translation of Hebrew language materials (Zionist Congresses, Knesset proceedings, weekly selections from the Israeli press) in order to enable a deeper grasp of Zionist-Israeli decision-making process. IPS also took a leap forward through initiating original analytical research projects that aimed at identifying the factors influencing the policies of actors involved in the Israeli-Arab conflict. One of the vehicles of this approach was the launching of the Journal of Palestine Studies (JPS) in Autumn 1971, followed by the creation of a new policy-oriented series (“IPS Papers”), the convening of international seminars, and in Autumn 1981, the issuing of the French-language quarterly Revue d'études palestiniennes (REP). In order to deal with its diverse and rich programs, IPS management established a research committee and four research departments: international affairs, Arab and Palestinian affairs, Israeli studies, military affairs. And, thanks to generous donations, IPS acquired in 1976 an 8-storey building in Beirut where its offices are still located.
Third Stage (1982-1989): The Institute Under Threat, Meeting the Challenge
This stage was triggered by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath, which was characterized by highly precarious security conditions, sensitive internal Lebanese political developments, and the departure of many of IPS researchers from Lebanon. This threatened IPS's very existence and led to a muted and downgraded presence in Beirut. However, IPS leadership responded quickly and transferred the publication of REP to Paris and that of JPS to Washington where, one year later, it acquired a building bought on its behalf by a Board of Trustees member. It also opened a logistics office in Nicosia to print the Arabic manuscripts that were prepared in Beirut. Though IPS had to put an end to publishing some of its collections (such as the yearbook and annual document series), the Beirut office continued to cover current events and translated major historical works from Hebrew. As for the Paris and Washington offices, they undertook producing publications in French and English respectively, in addition to publishing REP and JPS. In order to plan and ensure coherence and unity of direction, a reconstituted research committee met regularly in London.
Fourth Stage (1990-2003): New Publications, Jerusalem/Ramallah Link
In Winter 1990, the Institute launched a quarterly in Arabic, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya to serve, inter alia, as a discussion forum for Palestinian and Arab intellectuals. The Majallah came at a crucial time, as a wave of major military and political developments swept the region shortly afterwards: Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the 1991 Gulf War and the beginning of the Madrid-Washington peace process. IPS subsequently embarked on covering the main issues at stake in the Israeli-Arab negotiations and, after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, focused far more than previously on Palestinian society, economy, and politics. Pursuing an active approach of taking advantage of any development in its environment, IPS opened in 1994 an office in Jerusalem, under the name of Institute of Jerusalem Studies, which served as an overdue link between Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel, on one side, and the Palestinian diaspora and the Arab world, on the other. In addition, in Spring 1998, the Jerusalem office inaugurated the first issue of a second English-language journal, Jerusalem Quarterly. However, Israel's tightening closure of Jerusalem compelled IPS to transfer the office to Ramallah at the end of this period.
Fifth Stage (2004-2016): Financial Challenges, New Directions on the Web and in Occupied Palestine
This period was marked by two contradictory phenomena. A steady decrease in donations, in sharp contrast to Arab donors' enthusiasm vis-à-vis the Palestine Question during the previous periods, had to be addressed. IPS took up the challenge, multiplied fund-raising efforts, adopted several protective measures but, painfully, suspended publishing REP in 2008. In 2013, the Washington office was registered as a U.S. corporation with 501(c)3 tax free, public charity status. At the same time, IPS vigorously expanded its research activities, gave special attention to Israeli social and political dynamics, initiated in 2006 an online daily digest of the Israeli press and developed an extensive online presence, including in social media. The Ramallah office, in particular, played a pivotal role in enriching the archives, organizing seminars and conferences that focused on the Palestinian national agenda.
Sixth Stage (2017-): Continuity and Creativity
In 2017, IPS entered a new phase in its relatively long life, marked by continuity in its mission and major tasks, and creativity in its approach. In this, it returns to the original vision of its founder, Walid Khalidi, building a stable and growing institution but constantly renewing its vision and activities to confront new dynamics in the international and regional political environment and tepid advances in communication technology.