Editorial introduction: Although the idea of a Palestinian state has now been accepted by the U.S. government, it is clear that any serious response to the bloodshed in Israel/Palestine must go beyond such token recognitions. On one side, it is necessary to understand why Washington maintains its undiminished material support for an expansionist Israel. On the other, we need to get a fuller sense of the actual forces at work within the region. It is to the latter task that the following essays are addressed. Taken together, they introduce several crucial aspects of the conflict that are widely ignored in the U.S. media. Notable among these are: 1) the political factors that shaped the now largely defunct “peace process”; 2) the links between alternative scenarios and corresponding assumptions about the kind of state(s) that can accommodate them; 3) the extraordinary weight of the cumulative burdens and deprivations that have been imposed upon the Palestinian people; and 4) the focus and intensity of resultant Palestinian popular demands.
The essays originated as talks at the Brecht Forum/New York Marxist School; only the film review was added later. The talks, which were spread over three sessions in February 2001,* were largely organized by Mary Boger (from whose introductions our “Notes on Contributors” are taken). In some cases, the transcripts were revised by the authors; in others, they were edited by Liz Mestres and/or myself. Where the texts clearly refer to conditions that no longer obtain, this has been noted by means of bracketed insertions reflecting essentially the interim change of Israeli leadership (from Barak to Sharon) and the drastic escalation in the level of violence.
While the essays add a crucial dimension to what is commonly made available in the U.S., their collection needs to be understood as part of an unresolved dialogue on the world stage, which may eventually require the participation of many beyond the immediately affected peoples. As Amira Sohl notes, the “right of return calls into question the foundation of the state of Israel.” While the democratic credentials of any such religiously-grounded state may deserve to be thus questioned, this does not diminish the political challenge of working out an alternative that all the peoples in the region can live with.
*The extraordinary complexity of this challenge is what may compel the involvement of others as well. We should hope that these “others” will not be confined to global and regional powers, but that they will come to include organized popular movements sensitive to the social implications of any course of action. V.W.