Michael R. Fischbach, professor of history at Randolph-Macon College, is the author of Records of Dispossession, a highly acclaimed historical study of the refugee issue. He is currently working on a book on Jewish claims for property lost in Arab countries. He was a grantee of the United States Institute of Peace in 2003–04.
The property abandoned by Palestinian refugees in 1948 is an acutely sensitive subject for Palestinians and Israelis alike, and wary negotiators have often steered clear of so impassioned an issue. But the failure to deal with claims for compensation or restitution has ultimately served only to undermine numerous peace endeavors. If peace is ever to break out, argues Michael Fischbach, negotiators need to heed the lessons of the past, especially of past secret plans to settle the property issue.
Written with policymakers, policy analysts, and diplomats in mind, The Peace Process and Palestinian Refugee Claims is modest in size but packed with information and ideas. After sketching the historical background and reviewing conflicting estimates of the amount of property involved, the volume investigates U.S. and UN settlement proposals developed—behind closed doors—in the 1950s and ‘60s. It then teases out the practical and conceptual problems bedeviling resolution, and explains how the peace process from Camp David I to Camp David II and beyond has actually hindered a settlement of property claims. The volume concludes by mining the historical record for ideas that can help peacemakers in future negotiations.
Highly readable, scrupulously researched, and remarkably evenhanded, The Peace Process and Palestinian Refugee Claims is an invaluable resource for anyone trying to get a grip on this nettlesome issue.