For more than 50 years, the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) has provided a depth of analysis on Palestine and Palestinian politics that is unmatched. Here we dive into the archives to highlight both historical and recent MERIP articles that provide key context for the current crises in Gaza and Jerusalem as well as important background for understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the mobilization of Palestinians inside Israel.[Many more articles can be found on our website by using the search page or through browsing by topic. Click here for a list of all articles about Palestine and here for articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.]
The Conflict Over Palestine
Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar, “Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer” (Washington, DC: Middle East Research and Information Project, 2014)
MERIP’s concise and clear primer on the origins and development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict covers a wide range of topics.
“The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist (now Israeli) Jews is a modern phenomenon, dating to the end of the nineteenth century. Although the two groups have different religions (Palestinians include Muslims, Christians and Druze), religious differences are not the cause of the strife. The conflict began as a struggle over land.”
“Fifty Years of Occupation,” Middle East Report Online, June 5, 2017
In 2017 MERIP contemplated the meaning and impact of 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights with this forum by authors Maha Nassar, Ilana Feldman, Zachary Lockman, Noura Erakat and Joel Beinin.
Colin Powers, “Palestine on the Brink of Crisis,” Middle East Report Online, June 6, 2020
Powers provides a detailed analysis of the economic contraction and fiscal crises in the West Bank and Gaza, a prelude to the current crisis.
“Absent a stimulus package of historic magnitude, it is reasonable to anticipate that the Occupied Territories’ ongoing de-development will accelerate and intensify. In Gaza’s case, international sanctions and Israeli collective punishment, such as the 13-year land, sea and air blockade, ensure that Hamas will be unable to mobilize any such package. For different reasons, the PA also lacks the capacity to spend at the scale needed to pull the West Bank out of the recession that is now consolidating.”
These six readings provide deeper context for today’s Gaza crisis, from the first Intifada to the current COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises.
Anita Vitullo Khoury, “Uprising in Gaza,” Middle East Report 152 (May/June 1988)
In this 1988 report, Khoury documented the Gaza dimension of the first Palestinian Intifada and Israeli responses.
“Israeli officials refer to the demonstrations as “riots” and defend their repression as necessary to preserve ‘law and order.’ But there was no violence of Palestinian against Palestinian, and there was no sense of mindless abandon. The protests showed restraint and rationality, which stemmed from a Gaza Strip-wide sense of community and of purposeful resistance.”
Sara Roy, “Economic Deterioration in the Gaza Strip,” Middle East Report 200 (Fall 1996)
Economic crisis in Gaza is, unfortunately, not new. Sara Roy explains how the political economy of Gaza was affected by Israeli closures and Palestinian Authority monopolies, to the detriment of the population.
“The overwhelming majority in the Gaza Strip have been left with no source of daily income. Many can no longer adequately feed their children. The struggle — no longer against Israel or even the Israeli occupation — is now against hunger and humiliation.”
Graham Usher, “Gaza Agonistes,” Middle East Report 218 (Spring 2001)
During the second Intifada Graham Usher reported on the daily life struggles of Gazan Palestinians, from one end of Gaza to the other.
“To walk through Gaza is to penetrate the heart of the Palestinian uprising, to realize why it happened and why, sporadically, it endures.”
W.S., “Gaza Notes,” Middle East Report Online, July 18, 2014
What is it like to be in Gaza under bombardment? This short and poignant piece discusses life under fire in Gaza during the previous bombing campaigns.
“No place is safe in Gaza. The Israeli drones make ears buzz. F-16 missiles suck air out of lungs. People who live close to the sea (like me) have constant headaches and knots in the stomach from the growl of the warships offshore. The death is not the story. The story is experiencing the death every moment. The words become hollow when you live under fire.”
Ilana Feldman, “Gaza as an Open-Air Prison,” Middle East Report 275 (Summer 2015)
Feldman examines the proposition that Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison.
“Observers have been regularly describing Gaza as an open-air prison at least since the late 1990s. The term has been used by activists in the Palestinians’ corner (such as Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader), by not-so-sympathetic officials (such as former World Bank head James Wolfensohn), by humanitarian and human rights organizations (such as Médecins Sans Frontières and B’Tselem), by reporters writing for a range of outlets and, perhaps most importantly, by Palestinians themselves.”
Salam Khashan and Danya Qato, “Voices from the Middle East: COVID-19 Threatens Disaster in Blockaded Gaza,” Middle East Report Online, April 2, 2020
Even before the latest war and bombardment, Gaza was already in severe crisis due to the global COVID-19 pandemic—a situation now made far worse following the bombing of medical facilities in Gaza.
“We don’t have enough hospitals, or primary care centers, we don’t have essential medications—about 50 percent of essential medications and supplies are not available—and even basic medical equipment like gloves, glucose test strips, pulsometers, and more, are not available in sufficient quantity.”
Four vital readings from the MERIP archives help explain the situation in Jerusalem today.
Anita Vitullo Khoury, “Erasing Arab Jerusalem,” Middle East Report 175 (March/April 1992)
Written in 1992, Khoury shows that the roots of the current Sheikh Jarrah crisis and of Israeli policies in Jerusalem date back decades.
“Some plans, such as the forced takeover of Palestinian houses in the Old City, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods, are only made known in the middle of the night when police barricades are thrown up, barbed wire is strung and Palestinian families are flung out. But Israel’s view of the future is clear enough to Palestinian and Israeli alike. ‘You want to have one Jerusalem all right,’ Tufukji says to a group of Israelis who had been trying to coopt Palestinians into city planning, ‘but it is an Israeli Jerusalem.’”
Mike Dumper, “Jerusalem: Then and Now,” Middle East Report 182 (May/June 1993)
A comprehensive overview of Jerusalem, its geography and its significance, from ancient to modern times.
“A shift in Israel’s ‘non-negotiable’ position has to happen before serious negotiations on Jerusalem can start. For better or worse, Jerusalem’s recent history shows a direct interplay between the relations between states on an international or regional level and the facts on the ground in the city.”
Mahmud Muna and Mandy Turner, “The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus,” Middle East Report Online, May 16, 2018
In 2018, the Trump administration reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mahmud Muna and Mandy Turner examine the implications of this decision and its impact.
“In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin”
Thomas Abowd, “Jerusalem’s Colonial Landscapes of Loss: From Deir Yassin to Khan al-Ahmar,” Middle East Report 287 (Summer 2018)
Abowd examines how Jerusalem has been “reconfigured geographically and demographically” from 1948 to modern times.
“Over the last 70 years of Israeli governance, Jerusalem has been reconfigured geographically and demographically through policies designed to construct Jewish settlements on the ruins of destroyed Arab neighborhoods and villages. Analyzing the moving edge of Israeli colonialism across an urban center radically reconfigured since 1948 reveals the steady, grinding violence of settler-colonial urbanism.”
The ’48 Palestinians
Much writing on Palestinian politics focuses on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the broader Palestinian diaspora. Here are three MERIP articles that examine different aspects of life for the ‘48 Palestinians, those that Israel tends to regard as “Israeli Arabs,” living a tenuous existence within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
Hassan Jabareen, “Palestinians in Israel,” Middle East Report 217 (Winter 2000)
During the second Intifada, Hassan Jabareen examined the changing political consciousness of ’48 Palestinians, from “Israeli Arabs” to Palestinians once again.
“The new, vocal struggle of Palestinians in Israel, expressing a sense of collective, national belonging, threatens the identity of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian struggle has been transformed from a struggle of survival as ‘Israeli Arabs’ to a struggle for recognition of their Palestinian identity.”
Peter Lagerquist, “Recipe for a Riot,” Middle East Report Online, November 15, 2008
Lagerquist’s article explains the exact dynamics that have again played out recently in cities like Lydd and Akka, including the participation of settlers in attacks on Palestinians in Ad-Dakhil.
“The pathology of Acre is not that of a ‘little Bosnia,’ but some variation on Los Angeles of the late 1940s, as gangs of white youth patrolled the expanding boundaries of Central Avenue’s black ghetto, acting as the shock troops of municipal efforts to maintain effective segregation of white middle-class Los Angeles, at the very least, white Los Angeles, through zoning, deed registration and racially denominated block restrictions.”
Oren Yiftachel, “’Creeping Apartheid’ in Israel-Palestine,” Middle East Report 253 (Winter 2009)
In this detailed analysis, Oren Yiftachel examines the changing political geography and legal structures in Israel and their impact on Palestinians inside Israel’s borders as well as those in the occupied territories—including the thorny questions of apartheid and ghettoization.
“The Israeli regime system has long been ‘ethnocratic,’ that is to say, an overall logic of Judaization prevails in all regions under Israeli control despite the differences in their legal and political circumstances. Over time, however, the contradictions of ethnocracy have led to a deepening of the ‘separate and unequal’ conditions in Israel-Palestine.”