Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi
Head of PASSIA, Jerusalem
This was 2004 was not designed to serve as a dry, historical book but rather a rich and valu-able resource capable of helping the reader recall the unfolding events of the year 2004, which will first and foremost be remembered as the year in which PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat passed away.
This was 2004 reminds us, therefore, in a fresh and reader-friendly manner, of the various incidents and episodes associated with 2004 that helped in shaping both Palestine and the Palestinians. It is hoped that it will consequently prove invaluable, both now and in the future, in terms of helping those with an interest in the region in their attempts to look at those inci-dents and episodes retrospectively, search for connections, and assess their repercussions vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This volume is part of a series of documents, all of which are relevant in some way to the his-tory of Palestine. Motivated by the need for dependable research material, PASSIA collected, edited, and then published the information included herein in a bid to present to the world an honest, accurate picture of the unfurling of the Palestine Question in general, with its local, regional, and global dimensions, and the ‘Jerusalem Question’ in particular.
The year 2004 witnessed further settler-initiated takeovers of Palestinian property in Jerusa-lem, mainly in Silwan, the issuing of tenders relating to the construction of hundreds of new housing units in the city’s settlements, numerous house demolitions, and the further isolation of the city from its West Bank hinterland through the building of the separation barrier.
Locally, the main events associated with 2004 involved the loss of several leaders, including but not limited to the eternal father symbol Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, and his successor, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, who, like Yassin, was assassinated by Israel. Also associated with 2004 is Israel’s perpetration of unabated grave breaches of International Law, which involved, amongst other things, an escalation of its attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the continuation of the building of the controversial sepa-ration barrier in the West Bank, and Prime Minister Sharon’s disclosing of his Disengagement Plan. Against this background, the PA continued throughout the year with its various reform ef-forts, the most notable of which were the replacing of a number of top security officials and the launching of a voter registration drive for the new elections.
On the regional level, a German-mediated prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hizbullah that took place in January attracted much attention, as did the Palestinian-Egyptian talks on security arrangements following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.
With regard to the international arena, Palestinians received a blow when President Bush stated on 8 May that the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005 was «not realistic.» In July, however, they scored a victory when the ICJ in The Hague determined that the building of the separation barrier contravenes International Law and that Israel should consequently dismantle it and pay suitable compensation to the Palestinian owners of the property confiscated by Israel in order to make way for its construction. Yet another victory was scored when following the casting of votes at the UNGA, its members demanded that Israel obey the ICJ ruling.
As in previous years, the keeping track and recording of the contemporary history of Palestine was no easy task, in part, because of the complex nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the huge number of speeches, statements, resolutions, decisions, violent acts, reconciliatory moves, political initiatives, announcements, declarations, etc. associated with the conflict. We are well aware that this volume represents our version of 2004 and that others may have included different material or excluded some of that found here. We have tried, however, to uphold our deep commitment to truth and accuracy and can only apologize in advance for any errors that the reader may encounter.
My deep appreciation goes to my colleagues at PASSIA, whose integrity, loyalty, and professionalism are a source of great pride to me. Heartfelt thanks also go to the Finnish Representative Office in Ramallah for its kind support, without which the publishing of this volume would not have been possible.