Editor on the Journal of Palestinian Refugee Studies Volume 5/2
It is ironic that ‘Internationalisation’ should be a ‘theme’ for this edition. Choosing themes often has the implication of being a recent development or a trend that needs to be covered. Internationalisation of Palestine, meaning the adaption of Palestine as an issue by the international community, has been at the heart of Palestine and therefore, the centre of the experience of Palestinian refugees.
The very division of Palestine came out of a process of internationalisation after World War I and Jewish refugees to the land; and global politics has been highly in favour of the Israeli cause, led in many ways by Britain and taken forward by the American presidency supporting the need for a Jewish homeland.
However, Palestinian concerns have always been kept at the table but most preoccupation has been in the realm of humanitarian needs rather than political. Global involvement in the political dynamics of the region has done Palestine no favours. It has simply created an enabling environment for Israel to act with impunity and done nothing to end the impasse between Palestine and Israel. The failure of the Oslo Peace Process, expansion of Israeli settlements and endless Gaza incursions is testament to that and has ultimately displaced millions of Palestinians, internally and abroad and impeded the realisation of the right of return.
Hence the involvement of global actors and international institutions, initially the League of Nations and then the United Nations, has determined the fate of this region, originally defining the borders and granting each party, or not, with statehood. In fact the League of Nations was borne with the duty of creating the Jewish Homeland when it was passed the Mandate of Palestine and whereas it also had the obligation of ensuring a homeland for the ‘Arabs’ of Palestine, it’s preoccupation with preserving the Jewish Homeland, in addition to all of Israel’s allies, has undermined realisation of rights for Palestinians.
This internationalisation does not just exist at diplomatic levels but has trickled down to the grassroots, to the media and also the humanitarian community. Collectively, activism, the confused communication war and development and reconstruction efforts has defied international law.
Take activism from the Zionist point of view, we often hear that the ‘Jewish lobby’ is strong in keeping politicians on the side of Israel and money has a large stake in this. However, recently the extent of Christian Zionism, particularly in North America, is exposing itself through investigative journalism and research, uncovering funding sources of endeavours that help preserve and expand the occupation. The Jewish Homeland not being prophesised by only Jews, but evangelical Christians that believe it is a necessary step before the coming of the Messiah. This theological basis of support for the creation of a Jewish state goes far in explaining its spread to Britain in the early 20th century and the influence British politicians had on them. It is now a bedrock in the US but can it be overcome?