Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi
Head of PASSIA, Jerusalem
PASSIA, a think-tank and non-profit organization, proud of its independence, has devoted a major part of its work to empowering Palestinian identity and culture, preserving Palestinian history and heritage, and to building bridges with others. This volume comes as part of our ongoing documentation endeavors and with an attempt to portray the story of Palestinians.
In a conflict as complex as the Palestinian-Israeli one, where every year so many events unfold, so many statements are given, so many decisions taken, so many violent acts committed, so many speeches, conferences, political initiatives, memorandum, announcements, declarations and so on are made, it is impossible to catalogue everything that happened during a particular period of time. It is always necessary to choose, to filter, and to condense material and select those events, which carry particular significance for oneself.
Every chronology that is produced is thus someone’s "version of events," and as such, PASSIA is presenting here its story of 2001. The episodes one chooses to select tell much about his/her agenda and ideological standpoint. Similarly, the pictures one chooses to include and to place on the front cover convey a message. Nothing is in this chronology by accident; the PASSIA team has argued over the best way of acknowledging and recognizing the most important events in a way that both reflects our Palestinian interpretation and viewpoint as well as present facts in an as objective manner as possible. In order to achieve this end, we consulted, in some cases, other historians and researchers for advice.
By producing this chronology PASSIA is recording the history that Palestinians have lived through and witnessed throughout a particular year, 2001, hoping that the resulting volume will help all those interested to remember the year’s events and convey them to others.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has always been also a battle of memories and over narratives. Both communities have their own perceptions and stories and thus their own versions of history. This struggle over history is far more than an academic exercise as it determines who is listened to and who is able to recruit allies for his/her cause. Moreover, it shapes the conflict in the minds of those who live in distant countries and are unaware of the day-to-day misery and struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and independence. The side, which succeeds in persuading others of the validity of its version of history, is the community whose perception of events will dominate the viewpoints of others.
The aim of this chronology is not to judge events nor analyze or explain them. It is an invitation to those who are interested to trace the issues as they unfolded and utilize the provided information to understand who was involved and in which capacity, why and how things developed the way they did, and where the relevant venues were. As history has no end, historians will always be challenged with the burden of facts, figures and information, and with questions of how to portray them, for whom, and for what purpose.
The year 2001 was one of many traumatic years for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the occupation began in 1967. This year saw Ariel Sharon elected as Prime Minister of Israel, a man who for Palestinians and Arabs in general is synonymous with violence and murder. The Israeli army stepped up its savage repression of the Intifada that began the previous year, invaded and reoccupied Palestinian cities whilst tightening its stranglehold on the population via checkpoints, roadblocks and curfews.
2001 was also the year in which Palestinians lost one of their most tireless and steadfast leaders, Faisal Husseini, who had devoted his life to the struggle for Jerusalem. His untimely death on 31 May, after suffering a heart attack whilst in Kuwait, has left a deep gap in the hearts and minds of not only the Palestinians but also of many others who had known this man. Tens of thousands joined the funeral march from Ramallah to Jerusalem, and the absence of a visible Israeli military presence prompted the saying that "Jerusalem was liberated the day of Faisal’s funeral." He was buried in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound next to his father, the late Abdel Qader Al-Husseini.
With regard to the peace process, 2001 will probably be remembered as the year that the Oslo process finally died. In January, the unsuccessful Taba talks marked the last round of official talks between the two sides, while all other initiatives and efforts to bring about a resumption on negotiations - whether the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal, the Mitchell Report or the Tenet plan – failed to produce the desired results.
On the global stage, events were overshadowed by the attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11th. Hijackers, allegedly part of the Al-Qaida network, seized control of civilian airliners and flew them into these landmark buildings leaving thousands dead. President George W. Bush used these unprecedented terrorist attacks as a stage for the new "Pax Americana" which began at the end of the year with the invasion of Afghanistan, while the Israeli government used the diverted world attention to accelerate its assault on the Palestinian people.
In reporting these and the many other events of 2001, we have tried to be as accurate as possible, but inevitably there will be errors. We apologize in advance for any mistakes the reader may encounter. It is our hope that readers will nevertheless come away from this volume with a clearer understanding of the Palestinian perspective on the events that shaped not only the year 2001 but also future episodes yet to unfold.
Heartfelt thanks go to the PASSIA team members who continue to carry the responsibility and the burden of work and whose professional integrity I am very proud of. Thanks also go to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Jerusalem for their kind support, without which this volume would not have been possible.