Alexander Schölch, ed., Palestinians Over the Green Line (London: Ithaca Press, 1983).
This collection of essays on “the relations of Palestinians on both sides of the 1949 Armistice Line since 1967,” the two groups of Palestinians remaining inside Palestine, promises a wider framework of analysis than the many existing separate studies of the two groups already published. The joint research team from the universities of Essen and Birzeit was able to undertake this project in a way that overcame both some of the weaknesses of foreign researchers and the difficulties of local scholars, such as lack of access to resources, problems of publication and restrictions on movement. The core of the project is contained in two of the studies analyzing an attitudinal survey conducted by the research team of sample groups of elites and workers on both sides of the Green Line. Emile Saliyyeh of Birzeit University and Ibrahim Dakkak of the Arab Thought Forum (Jerusalem) do a good job of analyzing the data, but this was gathered from a fairly small sample (due partly to the widespread unrest and repression in the spring of 1982). Thus it yields few conclusive or surprising results. The starting point of the analysis — that the June 1967 war led to a reemergence of Palestinian identity in both groups — is by now indisputable. The question of whether this reemergence has led or will lead to a relinking of these two segments of Palestinian society remains unanswered. Dakkak concludes in his survey of attitudes of Palestinian wage earners that “the developing interdependence [of the two groups] reveals, on a material basis, that it barely exists.” Dakkak aptly suggests that the term “identification” rather than “interdependence” best describes the current relation. Emile Saliyyeh points out some interesting divergences in the opinions of the two groups. One is that “only a small percentage” of Palestinians in Israel expect to join a future Palestinian state, while the majority of West Bank respondents assert that Palestinians in Israel would join such a state.
Survey techniques, which necessarily require narrow formulations, may not be the most appropriate method for approaching the problem. A focus on current attitudes as a main indicator of the nature of the relationship between the two groups is quite restrictive. A broader approach, but more ambitious and time-consuming, would include the historical aspect, with a deeper look at the intersecting effects of the Jordanian and Israeli occupation experience of the two groups.
The most original contribution is Ibrahim Dakkak’s “Back to Square One.” This is an insider’s look at the emergence of the Palestine Patriotic Front (also known as the Palestine National Front) in the West Bank in 1973. Its demise in 1977 was partly due, as Dakkak explains, to PLO policy and to the subsequent emergence of other formations such as the National Guidance Committee II. Dakkak convincingly poses the struggle for leadership of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in terms of conflict between progressive (the PPF) and conservative forces (pro-Jordanian for the most part). His account of the gradual ascendency of the conservatives (trailing behind the shift in the PLO as a whole) is particularly illuminating at the present juncture.
In 1975, Dakkak writes, “One of the CC [the Central Council of the PLO] members conveyed a message from Beirut in 1975 requesting that the PPF limit its activities to the signing of memoranda in support of the PLO policies and against anti-PLO activities. The message suggested that PPF literature be prepared ‘outside’ and smuggled to the ‘inside’ for distribution.” What lies behind this, in Dakkak’s opinion, is the view of right wingers in the PLO that the Front was made up of “leftists and controlled by communists.” In fact, West Bank communists did play a substantial role in the PPF, and the refusal to include them in the Palestine National Council continues to sour the West Bank political scene even today. The demise of the PPF and an upsurge in Jordanian influence in the occupied territories in 1977 came after the PLO instituted first secret contact and then direct negotiations with the monarchy. Dakkak’s analysis of this period is subtle — he gently mocks the “yearning” political groupings now display for the good old days of the PPF — and quite helpful in understanding the current political dynamics in the Occupied Territories.
In other offerings, Reinhard Weimer proffers an interesting if not entirely convincing thesis that economic, rather than ideological or security considerations, dictated Zionist policy toward Palestinians in Israel in the 1948-1966 period. Geographer Kamal Abdul Fattah’s meticulous list of destroyed Arab villages inside the 1948 borders is a valuable contribution. Alexander Flores looks at political influences across the Green Line, principally through newspapers, journals and leaflets, and notes that the “contacts are not so numerous or systematic as one would expect at first glance.”