Palestinian Refugees. (Introduction)

Article excerpt

"Due recognition," writes Charles Taylor, "is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need." (1) The history of Palestinian refugees is very much about the vital yet elusive quest for recognition. Palestinian refugees have struggled to be heard and understood since approximately one-half of the Palestinian population was displaced from historic Palestine in 1948. Though they remain scattered around the world, Palestinian refugees have steadfastly refused to allow their individual or collective identities to be swept into the dustbin of history.

Refuge's decision to dedicate this volume to Palestinian refugees represents a scholarly landmark in Canada. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first Canadian journal to focus an issue on Palestinian refugees. With this fact in mind, the editors of Refuge had two goals in bringing together the authors represented in this volume. First, we sought to create a space where Palestinian refugee voices might be heard. Second, we sought to create a place where contested narratives and policies can be examined. Taken collectively, the papers that comprise this volume testify that recognition is indeed more than a due courtesy we owe people. Recognition is intimately connected to identity, narrative, time, space, power, justice, and nation.

Hillel Cohen focuses on identity, narrative, time, space, and power with his examination of the policies governing the lives of Palestinian refugees who remained within Israel after 1948. Although they eventually took up Israeli citizenship, many of the displaced who remain within Israel have not cast off their refugee or Palestinian identities. Cohen documents how Palestinian history and geography was obliterated from Israeli textbooks in an attempt to obliterate "Palestinianness" from the minds of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. He also points to ways in which the Israeli national identity is inextricably linked with denial of Palestinian identity. Such denial, however, has proven impossible in part because it has met with resistance within Palestinian communities who have demanded recognition of their complex identities.

While Cohen writes from a perspective that is external to the Palestinian refugee experience, Mahmoud Issa situates himself squarely within it. A son of Palestinian refugees, Issa's roots are in Lubya, a small Gallilee village that was demolished in 1948 when its Palestinian inhabitants were uprooted and dispersed. Drawing on interviews with over seven hundred individuals as well as archive material, Issa documents the narrative of Lubya's refugees. He concludes that "for teenagers, the middle-aged, and the elderly alike, Lubya is an identical central image, a theoretical and subconscious point of reference, a cultural framework, and a past and present mental image that shapes, inspires, and impacts their personal lives today." At the same time that Issa's paper documents the Lubyans' "struggle to preserve the history of the self against the ravages of time and forgetfulness," it also clearly participates in that struggle.

Mohamed Kamel Dorai builds on the themes of geography, identity, and history. His study reveals how Palestinian identities, developed in local Palestinian space, transcend both time and state borders to endure as transnational migratory networks. Specifically, his paper analyzes how Palestinian refugees living in Lebanese camps have used migration to develop new forms of solidarity with Palestinian communities scattered in different regions of the world. Dorai's work identifies the extent to which local identity structures such as village and familial groupings intersect with and negotiate the increasingly complicated social, temporal, and spatial borders of our globalized word.

While Dorai focuses on the structures that allow Palestinians to exchange information and resources between them, Catherine Burwell deals with Palestinian attempts to control the information that is conveyed about them. …