Palestine for Beginners

by Joel Beinin , Lisa Hajjar
published in MER154

After World War I, the League of Nations (controlled by the leading colonial powers of the time, Britain and France) carved up the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The territory now made up of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan was granted to Great Britain as a Mandate (a quasi-colonial form of administration). In 1922, Britain established the emirate of Transjordan (east of the Jordan River), still part of its mandate but administratively distinct from Palestine.

When Britain assumed control of Palestine, over 90 percent of its population was Arab. A small indigenous Jewish population had lived there for generations, and a newer, politicized community linked to the Zionist movement had begun to immigrate to Palestine in the 1880s.

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The Significance of Stones

Notes from the Seventh Month

by Joe Stork
published in MER154

Visitors to the West Bank and Gaza get a very immediate, sensory grasp of the significance of stones. In the West Bank, the main cities and towns and many larger villages lie along the ridge of hills and plateaus running north to south and forming a sort of geological spine between the Mediterranean coastal plains and the Jordan rift valley. It is a land made of equal measure of stone and soil. The inhabitants and their ancestors have used the stone to hold the soil to the hillsides in order to provide rooting ground for their olive and fruit trees. The hill country of the West Bank is a subtly sculptured landscape of terraces that testify to uncounted generations of unobtrusive settlement, rows of rough stones piled patiently and mended every several seasons.

The Islamic Resistance Movement in the Palestinian Uprising

by Lisa Taraki
published in MER156

By the beginning of the first week of October 1988, as the Palestinian uprising moved into its eleventh month, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas) had issued its thirtieth communiqué. Hamas appears to be engaged in a competitive race with the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising for direction of the daily struggle of the people of the Occupied Territories. Yet despite the fact that Hamas is six communiqués ahead of the Unified Leadership, it is another matter altogether whether it can command the kind of legitimacy and influence required to direct the Palestinian struggle against occupation.

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From Intifada to Independence

by Edward Said
published in MER158

The nineteenth session of the Palestine National Council, formally entitled the “intifada meeting,” was momentous and, in many great and small ways, unprecedented. There were fewer hangers-on, groupies and “observers” than ever before. Security was tighter and more unpleasant than during the 1987 PNC session, also held in Algiers; Algeria had just brutally suppressed its own intifada, so the presence of several hundred Palestinians and at least 1,200 members of the press was not especially welcomed by the Ben Jadid government, which paradoxically needed the event to restore some of its tarnished revolutionary luster.

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Enduring Intifada Injuries

by Rania Atalla
published in MER161

The nightmare started when 24-year-old Ahlam, from the village of Ya’bud in the Israeli-occupied territories, joined a march to commemorate the martyrdom of a fellow villager.

“The situation was so tense that the Israeli army could not enter the village,” she recalled from her hospital bed in Amman. “A helicopter started throwing tear gas onto the 8,000 or so peaceful demonstrators.”

One of the canisters landed close to Ahlam. She attempted to kick it away, but within a minute she lost consciousness from tear gas inhalation.

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Health as a Social Construction

The Debate in the Occupied Territories

by Rita Giacaman
published in MER161

Three basic theoretical formulations frame the state of the health debate among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The biomedical/clinical framework is generally espoused by the majority of the medical and allied health care establishment, most of whom have been trained in the Western medical tradition. This biomedical framework views disease as a malfunction of systems and organs that can be corrected by technical intervention on the part of qualified health care providers. By this conception, medical care and healing occur almost solely within the limits of the clinic, the hospital, the laboratory and the pharmacy. Causal relationships are clear-cut and unidimensional. [1]

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Muhawi and Kanaana, Speak Bird, Speak Again

by Ann Barhoum
published in MER164

Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana, Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989).

Speak, Bird, Speak Again, a collection of 45 Palestinian folktales, represents the largest selection of Palestinian folklore in English. The tales were recorded by the editors over a two-year period in the West Bank, Gaza and the Galilee, then carefully and painstakingly translated into English. The excellent introduction explains how oral tradition has been an essential and lively part of Palestinian society and family life.

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Prison Text, Resistance Culture

by Barbara Harlow
published in MER164

The Israeli prison apparatus is a critical and contested site in the manifold struggle to control communication and information in the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. During the two decades of occupation before the intifada, prisons in Israel and the Occupied Territories housed an average of 4,000 Palestinian political detainees at any one time. Since the start of the uprising this number has increased dramatically, with over 40,000 arrests. This put great pressure on the prison facilities and necessitated the opening of new prison camps such as Ansar III (Ketsi’ot) in the Negev desert, and detention centers like Dhahriyya, just outside of Hebron.

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Forbidden Territory, Promised Land

by Ammiel Alcalay
published in MER164

Ilan Halevi, A History of the Jews (trans. A. M. Berrett) (London: Zed Books, 1987).

Shlomo Swirski, Israel: The Oriental Majority (trans. Barbara Swirski) (London: Zed Books, 1989).

Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1989).

Religion and Political Identity in Bayt Sahour

by Glenn Bowman
published in MER164

In 1989, the West Bank village of Bayt Sahour made international headlines by staging a successful tax strike against Israeli military authorities. My introduction to Bayt Sahour came six years earlier, in late December 1983, when I attended Latin Christmas Eve celebrations at Manger Square in neighboring Bethlehem. In mid-afternoon, Palestinian scouts in colorful uniforms, carrying banners and playing bagpipes and drums, marched into the square to greet the Latin Patriarch on his arrival from Jerusalem to prepare for Midnight Mass.

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