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

By Robert Bowker | Go to book overview

1
Political Mythologies
in the Palestinian Context

So how much myth is good for us? And how can we measure the dosage?
Should we avoid the stuff altogether for fear of contamination or dismiss
it out of hand as sinister and irrational esoterica that belong only in the
unsavory margins of [real] (to wit, our own) history? Or do we always
have to ensure that a
cordon sanitaire of protective irony is always
securely in place when discussing such matters? …

The real problem … is whether it is possible to take myth seriously
on its own terms, and to respect its coherence and complexity, without
becoming morally blinded by its poetic power; … of how to reproduce
the [other,] separated from us by space, time or cultural customs,
without either losing ourselves altogether in total immersion or else
rendering the subject [safe] by the usual eviscerations of Western
empirical analysis
.

Of one thing at least I am certain: that not to take myth seriously
… is actually to impoverish our understanding of our shared world.
And it is also to concede the subject by default to those who have no
critical distance from it at all, who apprehend myth not as a historical
phenomenon but as an unchallengeable perennial mystery
.

—Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory

Until political leaders have transformed the political environment between Palestinians and Israelis, negotiators will be unable to narrow the gap between competing fears and aspirations. Without an effective political process, negotiated agreements, even though they may be sound in a technical sense, are unlikely to be implemented in full, or they may have unintended consequences.1 Those who pursue regional security without dealing with the core political issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including settlements, refugees, and Jerusalem, will be condemned, like Coleridge's ancient mariner, to seek but not to find either peace or security.

In addition to the insights derived from interests-based analysis of political behavior between states, understanding the relationship between governing institutions and societies within states is of critical importance to

-11-

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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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