A History of False Hope: Investigative Commissions in Palestine

with Lori Allen & Arie Dubnov

IMES - History of False Hope

Lori Allen offers a provocative retelling of Palestinian political history through an examination of the international commissions that have investigated political violence and human rights violations. More than twenty commissions have been convened over the last century, yet no significant change has resulted from these inquiries. The findings of the very first, the 1919 King-Crane Commission, were suppressed. The Mitchell Committee, convened in the heat of the Second Intifada, urged Palestinians to listen more sympathetically to the feelings of their occupiers. And factfinders returning from a shell-shocked Gaza Strip in 2008 registered their horror at the scale of the destruction, but Gazans have continued to live under a crippling blockade.

Drawing on debates in the press, previously unexamined UN reports, historical archives, and ethnographic research, Lori Allen explores six key investigative commissions over the last century. She highlights how Palestinians' persistent demands for independence have been routinely translated into the numb language of reports and resolutions. These commissions, Allen argues, operating as technologies of liberal global governance, yield no justice—only the oppressive status quo. A History of False Hope issues a biting critique of the captivating allure and cold impotence of international law.

Dr. Lori Allen is Reader in the Department of Anthropology at SOAS University of London. Her book, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2013) won the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Book prize. Her articles on human rights, Palestinian politics, violence, and nationalism have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, American Ethnologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, MERIP, and other publications. Her latest book, A History of False Hope: Investigative Commissions in Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2020), offers a major reconsideration of the international political management of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by analyzing a century of Palestinian engagement with liberalism and international law.

Dr. Arie Dubnov is an associate professor of history and the Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies at the George Washington University. Among his publications are the intellectual biography Isaiah Berlin: The Journey of a Jewish Liberal (2012), and two edited volumes, Zionism – A View from the Outside (2010 [in Hebrew]), seeking to put Zionist history in a larger comparative trajectory, and Partitions: A Transnational History of Twentieth-century Territorial Separatism (2019, co-edited with Laura Robson), tracing the genealogy of the idea of partition in the British interwar Imperial context and reconstructing the links connecting partition plans in Ireland, Palestine/Israel and India/Pakistan. In addition, he published numerous essays in leading venues including Nations & Nationalism, Modern Intellectual History, Theoria u’vikoret [Theory & Criticism], Rethinking History, Jewish Social Studies, The Journal of Israeli History and more.