Palestinian Refugees: Mythology, Identity, and the Search for Peace

By Robert Bowker | Go to book overview

Introduction

A nation is a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past
and a hatred of their neighbours
.

—Ernest Renan

If [we] are ever to gain a modicum of control over international reality,
we will need to include in our studies how people's perceptions, mean-
ings and values are shaped and changed, as it is only by changing other
people's views that our own ideas may transform reality
.

—Dominique Jacquin, Andrew Oros, and Marco Verweij,
[Culture in International Relations]

Notions of identity bear heavily on the capacity of Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve their historical conflict. This book examines the role of memories and mythologies in Palestinian society and politics, particularly in regard to Palestinian refugees, and the challenges that issues of identity pose to building a secure and sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

My focus is one of the primary and seemingly more intractable dilemmas of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wherein external parties have not succeeded in reshaping the political environment between the two sides. I will also examine the impact of Palestinian refugee mythologies on an important regional institution, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). For over five decades UNRWA has been the key United Nations agency dealing with Palestinian refugees.

The analytical concerns addressed in this book fall under two general headings. In the first instance, study of how Palestinian refugee memories and mythologies are affected by political developments raises the wider question of whether political mythologies, in the Palestinian refugee context at least, are susceptible to change or to being overtaken by new priorities. It leads to the question of whether such mythologies can coexist with approaches that, in important respects, seek to ignore or to contradict them.

Second, analyzing Palestinian political mythologies and UNRWA in general involves examination of Palestinian refugee society, history, and politics; the relationship between those matters and perceptions of the Palestinian political leadership; perceptions of the objectives of host governments and donor countries supporting UNRWA; and the role of UNRWA itself.1 Consideration of the relationship between Palestinian refugees and

-1-

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Palestinian Refugees: Mythology, Identity, and the Search for Peace
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • I Am from There xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Political Mythologies in the Palestinian Context 11
  • 2: Political Culture 35
  • 3: Refugees 61
  • 4: Refugee Memories and Mythologies 87
  • 5: Unrwa's Place in Refugee Mythologies 123
  • 6: Mythologies and the Palestinian Leadership in the Oslo Period 155
  • 7: Political Mythologies in Action 181
  • 8: Mythology, Identity,And the Future 215
  • Acronyms 237
  • Selected Bibliography 239
  • Index 255
  • About the Book 267
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