From the Preface:
This study of Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals was conceived during more optimistic times. It was based on the premise that they had contributed in some way to what was hopefully an "irreversible" peace process, and would play significant roles in shaping longer term political and social processes subsequent to the apparently imminent final status accord. The failure of the peace negotiations and the renewed descent into violence in September 2000 forced a reevaluation but did not alter my belief that the activities of thinkers, writers and educators of the two adversarial communities remained worthy of study. The anger and frustration voiced by each side's intellectuals towards the other's during the last two years confirmed that they themselves believed that their actions still counted for something, their lack of military divisions notwithstanding.
Defining who exactly intellectuals are has always been elusive. It may be that one should avoid wasting precious energy and adopt Justice Holmes' famous comment regarding pornography: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it". In this case, I have spread my net wide, including university-based academics, writers and other men and women of the "spirit" in what is clearly an amorphous group. But the focus of this inquiry is on the "secular", left-of-center intellectuals who represent important streams of public thought in both communities. In the Israeli case, I would argue that they represent the central stream; the standing of secular Palestinian intellectuals within Palestinian society is more ambiguous. In any case, secular leftwing and liberal intellectuals on both sides of the divide are important in an additional way, since they, more than others, engaged their counterparts in "conversation".
Permit me a few caveats. My concentration on these groups clearly gives short shrift to persons located on other portions of the spectrum, whether left or right, secular or religious. Even within these "streams", my choices of subject may seem arbitrary and overly impressionistic at times. In addition, this study does not preface include a treatment of Palestinian intellectuals who are Israeli citizens, nor does it examine the future of Jewish-Arab relations within Israel. The events of the last two years, particularly the death in October 2000 of 13 Israeli Arab citizens at the hands of Israeli security forces, may well have been a watershed in these relations, and the whole subject, including the intra-Palestinian aspect, deserves a full examination of its own. Finally, my study covers developments up through the summer of 2001. Even by then, the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation had morphed into a kind of 'war', and could no longer be characterized as an intifada, whose connotation was one of a popular, mass uprising. Since then, the sharp escalation of violence has further rendered the term intifada obsolete. Still, Palestinians continue to use it, and the recent growing Palestinian self-criticism of their conduct of the conflict includes calls for a renewal of the "popular"/"mass" modes of action which characterized the first intifada during the late 1980s and, to a lesser extent, the initial stages of the current round of conflict. In any case, owing to its wide use by both the Palestinians and Israeli sides, I have chosen to use the term to characterize the renewed, violent Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, at least in its first phase, while recognizing that some may thus criticize me for adopting the Palestinian discourse.
I have received valuable input from a number of individuals, whom I would like to acknowledge here. My thinking on the subject of intellectuals and politics, in general, and Palestinian intellectuals, in particular, was enriched by exchanges with Nadim Mseis. Ofra Bengio, Musa Budeiri, Adam Garfinkle, Meir Litvak, Kanaan Makiya, Edie Maddy-Weitzman, Ken Stein, Asher Susser and an anonymous reader all provided insightful feedback on various draft versions of the text. The Tami Steinmetz Center was generous with funds that made this research possible, and patiently waited as I repeatedly extended the deadline for completion. I hope that the final product will be deemed as having been worth the wait.