Petitioning for Palestine: refugee appeals to international authorities
In the second half of the twentieth century, stateless Palestinian refugees regularly submitted petitions to international authorities, particularly the UN. In these petitions, the refugees demanded their rights and invoked the UN’s liberal internationalist discourse to assert the justice of their cause. This article explores what these petitions reveal about contentious politics among the Palestinian grassroots in the refugee camps. In so doing, it recasts Palestinian refugee camp communities as actors consciously engaged with international politics, and key drivers in internationalising the ‘Question of Palestine’. By unpacking the petitions’ internationalist aspects, the article also situates Palestinian refugee history within the broader context of post-war global governance. Finally, the analysis presented here challenges the state-centrism of existing historiography on petitioning, which examines the practice largely in relation to the growth of the state. By contrast, the case study of Palestinian petitioning shows that the practice can also be important in a setting of statelessness. This article therefore makes a series of contributions to understanding not only Palestinian political history, but also the practice of petitioning and the dynamics of post-war internationalism.