The ACRPS and the Institute for Palestine Studies organized the first round of the Annual Palestine Forum in Doha on 28-30 January, 2023. Under a general theme, this round brought scholars together from around the globe to share work relevant to the Palestinian question. The presentations addressed topics related to the history of Palestine, the Palestinian cause, apartheid and settler-colonialism, and Palestine in Arab and international relations, among other topics.

Around 60 peer-reviewed research papers were selected from a total of 375 submissions, out of which 140 papers were accepted, to be presented in themed sessions. In addition to the research papers there was a number of specialized and general workshops related to current issues concerning the Palestinian question. Over 100 academics will present their papers and participate in workshops to discuss different themes related to Palestine studies during the forum. In addition, the forum gathered over 300 attendees who are active in their involvement with the Palestinian cause as activists, journalists, lawyers, politicians, and intellectuals. Due to the large number of attendees, the majority of the forum was held at the Sheraton Hotel, with some workshops taking place at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. The public workshops were livestreamed on the social media platforms of the ACRPS in English and Arabic.

 Day One

The forum began on Saturday 28 January with an opening session chaired by the main organizer, Ayat Hamdan, ACRPS Researcher and Editorial Manager of the Ostour journal for historical studies, and included remarks from Tarek Mitri, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Palestine Studies, and an opening lecture by Azmi Bishara, General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.

Mitri started by thanking the attendants and organizers of the forum and highlighting the partnership between the ACRPS and IPS as being “a natural relationship built on strong pillars.” These pillars are three: the attention both institutions dedicate to the Palestinian cause; the Arab character of both institutions which emphasizes the centrality of the Palestinian cause for all Arabs; and the intellectual independence of both institutions. Mitri stressed the role of the forum in supporting and strengthening Palestinian national unity.

Bishara then started his lecture by outlining the main reasons for establishing the Annual Palestine Forum, before emphasizing the importance of being persistent in discoursing about the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people at a time of increasing passivity towards, and more recently, blatant normalization with, the occupation on part of regional governments. This is especially true given that this discourse has become hollow through its repetition, and eventual abandonment, by national leaders uninterested in taking any action against the occupation.

Following the opening session, the first session of the Forum began. The first session covered three main themes in sub-sessions which ran in parallel to each other. The themes were: settler colonialism in Palestine, Palestine in international law, and Palestine in the international context. Eleven papers revolving around these themes were presented.

Four papers looked at the first theme and provided different perspectives on the study of settler colonialism. In his paper, “Landlords and Tenants in the Jewish State”, Nadim Rouhana looked at how the surge of far-right Zionist parties in the last elections was accompanied by a resurfacing of the concept of ba’al habayit, a concept that represents the colonizer’s view of themselves as a landlord and of the colonized subject as tenant. Mark Muhanna Ayyash, in a paper titled “Zionism, Nationalism, and Settler Colonialism”, argued for an analysis that looks at Palestinian experience as revealing the logic and nature of Zionism rather than to illustrate “unintended consequences” of the Zionist project. In her paper, “Settler Colonialism and the Erasure of the Other”, Caroline Lund discussed how Israel’s terrorist narrative around Palestinian civil society allows it to legitimize its erasure of the identity of the other. In her paper entitled “Identity Annexation”, Zeina Jallad looked at the selfhood annexation of the Samaritan minority population by the Israeli occupation.

Three papers considered Palestine in international law. Elhoucine Chougran’s paper, “Compensation for Environmental Damages in Occupied Palestine”, highlighted the opportunities offered by international mechanisms for securing the right for Palestinians to live in a sustainable environment. Saif Yousef’s paper titled “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Right of Return as Enshrined in the UN Resolution No. 194” looked at how durable solutions by the UNHCR can put the Palestinian right of return at risk. Mohamed El Ouadrassi focused on the obstacles that faced ICC investigations in the Palestinian territories in his paper “Constraints on the Application of International Criminal Justice in Palestine.”

Four papers discussed Palestine in the international context. Presenting his paper, titled “Native Struggles against Settler Colonialism”, Michael R. Fischbach detailed Indigenous and Latinx activists’ support for the Palestinians in the US beginning in the 1960s. In a paper titled “The Interconnected Colonial Projects in Palestine and Kashmir”, Abdulla Moaswes highlighted how the world economy benefits from and contributes to the racialization and subjugation of Palestinians and Kashmiris. Nugh Newi Asanga Fon probed the evolving relationship between Israel and Africa from 1950-2022 and the Palestinian response to these changes when presenting his paper, “Complicated Partnership: The Evolving Trajectory of Israeli-African Relations”. Muna Awadallah’s paper, “The Problem of Democracy in Colonial Entities According to John Rawls’ Theory of Justice”, argued against the facade of democracy presented by the settler-colonial regime through a Rawlsian analysis.

The second session of the Forum was centred on three other themes: colonial security in Palestine, Palestinian patterns of resistance, and Palestine in academic/intellectual discourse.

Four papers were presented on colonial security in Palestine. Yousef Munayyer presented his paper “Transnational Repression: The Israeli Repression Network”, which looked at how Israel partners with NGOs to seek repressive outcomes in developing countries targeting dissent against Israeli government policy. Pietro Stefanini presented his paper “COGAT and the Humanitarian Mode of Settler Colonialism”, focusing on the humanitarian aspect of settler colonial governance. Nur Arafeh examined the range of Palestinian presence in the world and tackled the problem of a lack of data on this issue when presenting her paper, “Entrenching Privilege and Promoting Local Agency in Counter-Insurgency”. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury’s paper “Jerusalem, the Settler Colonial Condition, and Anti-Colonial Resilience” focused on methods of control practiced on East Jerusalemites.

Four papers were presented on Palestinian patterns of resistance. Tareq Radi’s paper “No Face, No Case” gave a financial account of indigenous resurgence in response to the imperially enforced insecurity. Khaled Anabtawi presented his paper “A Sociological Perspective on the Dignity Uprising and the Metamorphoses among Palestinians in the 1948 Territories” arguing that the Dignity Uprising was articulated at a point of intersection of a dialectical transformation occurring at three levels. Ahmad As’ad’s paper “Uprisings of Attrition - ‘Your Projects Won’t Pass’” presented an analysis of Palestinian resistance patterns from 2013-2022. Mustafa Sheta and Ayman Yousef presented their paper “Reconceptualization of Cultural Resistance in Palestine in the Context of National Theatre”, which looked to relocate the concept of cultural resistance as an authentic part of the contemporary Palestinian national movement.

Four papers were presented on Palestine in academic and intellectual discourse. Ilan Pappe’s paper “Palestine Studies: Achievements and Future Orientations” provided a review of the accomplishments of Palestine Studies over the years and reflected on what should be the focus of future research. Bilal Salaymeh’s paper “How Has Palestine Been Academically Constructed in Turkey?” looked at how Palestine has been constructed in political science departments in Turkey. Abdullah Abulouz looked at the narrative surrounding Palestine and the Palestinians in Saudi Arabian school curricula. Saja Torman presented her paper “Public Policy Research in Palestine under Colonisation” and provided a critical analysis on the discourse of development and institution-building employed by NGOs in Palestine.

In the afternoon, the Forum hosted two workshops. In the first workshop, titled “Palestine in Opinion Polls,” Shibley Telhami focused on the changing attitudes of the American public towards the Palestinian question and the effect this change is having on policymaking. Next, Mohammad Almasri drew on Arab Opinion Index data to illustrate trends in Arab public opinion on the Palestinian cause. The second workshop, titled “Palestinian Division and Reconciliation Prospects”, featured interventions from Mohammad Abu Nimer, Lourdes Habash, and Tamer Qarmout.

Day Two

On the second day of the 2023 Annual Palestine Forum 20 papers were presented and two workshops were held. The main highlights of the second day included the launch of the Palestinian Memory Project, as well as the commencement of the Ostour Symposium.

The first session of the forum’s second day covered three main themes: the sociology of Palestinian identity, development discourse in Palestine and colonial violence, and Palestine in a historical perspective. Eleven papers focused on these themes were presented.

Four papers looked at the sociology of Palestinian identity. In his paper “Trans-Territorial Sumud: Refugee Responses to Multiple Systems of Oppression in Bourj el-Barajneh Camp”, Rami Rmeileh offered an alternative conceptual framework to understanding the concept of ṣumūd. Nour Bader, in a paper titled “Spatial and Temporal Sociology of Camp Identity: Al-Wehdat - New Amman as a Model”, deconstructed the spatio-temporal identity of the Wehdat Camp. In their paper “Settler Colonialism and the Birth of New Prisoners: Migration from the Gaza Strip”, Ahmed Mamoun and Zahraa Shabana discussed how Israel attempts to depopulate the Gaza Strip through its blockade. In her paper “Between Ruins and Remnants: Religious Renewal among Christians in West Bank Palestine”, Elizabeth Marteijn examined Palestinian Christian thought and practice in relation to the changing political and social context of the West Bank.

Four papers looked at colonial violence in development discourse on Palestine. Hasan Ayoub’s and Eleyan Sawafta’s paper, entitled “Development and Settler Colonialism: Perpetuating Neo-Colonial Domination and Apartheid”, discussed the relationship between the conceptual framing of Israel in the Palestinian territories and development practices. Ashraf Bader’s paper, titled “A Critical Reading of the Neoliberalism of the Palestinian Authority under Zionist Settler Colonialism”, looked at the neo-liberalization of the Palestinian political economy. Abdelrahman Murad focused on the proliferation of a counter-discourse on development from Palestinian civil society in response to the neoliberal policies ostensibly put in place for the development of the OPT in his paper “The Construction of a Counter-Hegemonic Discourse on Economic Development: A Critical Analysis of Palestinian Policy”. Marta Parigi presented her paper “The Effect of Israeli Settlement-Related Structural Violence on Palestinian Food Security” on how structural violence entrenched in settlements hinders Palestinians’ ability to access healthy, nutritious food items.

Three papers discussed Palestine in a historical perspective. Presenting his paper titled “Transformation of Collective Identity from Ottomanism to Arabism”, Adel Manna drew on an analysis of the life and works of Ahmad Helmi Pasha (1882-1963). In a paper titled “The Palestinian Cultural Scene during the British Mandate: Al-Karmel and Filastin Newspapers as Examples”. Johnny Mansour drew on an analysis of cultural advertisements in newspapers to understand better the Palestinians cultural scene during the British Mandate in the cities of Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. Ali T. As’ad provided a historical overview of Palestinian exhibition-making through his paper, “Palestine and the National Sensorium: Exhibition-Making in the Twentieth Century”.

The second session of day two was centred on three other themes: Palestinian economy, Palestinian demography, and Palestinian memory.

Four papers presented studied the economy in Palestine. Raja Khalidi and Islam Rabee presented their paper “Prospects for Palestinian Economic Cooperation and Complementarity across the Green Line”, which gave an in-depth examination of the economic relations that connect Palestinians in the territories occupied in 1967 with those in Israel. Rabeh Morrar and Rand Jibril presented their paper “Promoting the Development of the Startup Ecosystem in Palestine and its Potential Effects on Public Finance”, focusing on the effectiveness of the PA’s policies in encouraging the development of a startup culture and economy. Areen Hawari and Sami Mahajna’s paper “Split in Two Parts: The Dynamics of the Commercial Relationship between the Palestinians from within the Green Line and Jenin” focused on the impact of the daily economic interactions of Palestinians across the Green Line on Palestinian society, its social fabric, and its national unity.

Three papers were presented on demographic research on Palestine. Youssef Courbage and Hala Naufal’s paper “Demography of the Palestinians” gave a general overview of the growth of the Palestinian population globally and the political weight of this. Mohammed Duraidi presented his paper “The Palestinian Population in the Palestinian Territories and the Palestinians within the Green Line: Demographic Status and Population Projections”, arguing that there are unique patterns of population components among residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Palestinians within the Green Line. Thayer Hastings’ paper “On the Crisis of Demographic Balance and Majority in Jerusalem” proposed to identify demography as an institutional location from which to examine the conditions and contradictions of a colonial biopolitics.

Three papers were presented on Palestinian memory of the Nakba and of refugees in different camps. Azadeh Sobout’s paper “War-Memoryscapes and the Grassroots Agency for Justice: Re-Searching the Truth-Memory Practices of Palestinians in Nahr el Bared” provided an exploration of the narratives, stories, and memories that focus on destruction, siege, the postponed home, the need for return, memorialization, and reconstruction. Reham Amro’s paper “The Moment of the Nakba: The Erasure of the Palestinian People, the Keys to Stolen Doors, and the Duality of the Intellectual and the Peasant” analysed the personal testimonies of Palestinian peasants (fallāḥīn). Rola Sirhan focused on how Arab regimes have manipulated the memory of the 1967 defeat in her paper “Memory of Defeat and Palestinian Social and Political Imaginaries: Dominance without Hegemony”.

In the afternoon, the Forum hosted two workshops. In the first workshop, four speakers –  Osama Abuirshaid, Ahmed Abuznaid, Malia Bouattia, and Majed Abusalama – discussed the challenges faced by activists for the Palestinian cause in the Western context. The second workshop featured the launch of the Palestinian Memory Project website  and the relaunching of the Jerusalem Story website by Mueen Al-Taher, Kate Rouhana, and Khaled Farraj.

Day Three 

The last day of the 2023 Annual Palestine Forum consisted of 15 presentations and two workshops. The last workshop also served to wrap up the forum’s discussions by directing participants’ and attendants’ attention toward reflecting on the future of the Palestinian project. This was also the last day for the Ostour Symposium, whose sessions were conducted in parallel to the forum.

The first session of the forum’s third day covered three main themes: the legal and linguistic dimensions of settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing, gender perspectives on Palestine, and Palestine from a historical perspective. Nine papers focusing on these themes were presented.

Three papers looked at the Israeli settler colonial regime from a legal and linguistic lens. In his paper “Ethnic Cleansing as a Tool for Consolidating Settler Colonialism and Apartheid in Jerusalem”, Nizar Ayoub studied the policy of systematic ethnic cleansing as a tool of the Israeli settler colonial regime to maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Lena Obermaier, in a paper titled “Disablement and Debilitation during Gaza’s Great March of Return”, examined Israel’s policies of deliberate disablement of Palestinians in the Great March of Return as part of a settler-colonial “logic of elimination”. In his paper “Linguistic Rights of ‘48 Palestinians”, Saul J. Takahashi focused on the right of access to judicial proceedings in the struggle for Palestinian’s linguistic rights, drawing on the case of road signs as an example.

Three papers focused on the theme of gender and Palestine. Hà Bao Ngan Dong’s paper, “Not Allowed to Play Under Zionist Colonization: The ‘Speed Sisters’”, presented an analysis of the “Speed Sisters” car racing team, based on the documentary by filmmaker Amber Fares. Camelia Ibrahim-Dwairy’s paper, titled “The Case of Single Palestinian Men in Israel: Between Patriarchal and Israeli Oppression”, examined the discourse of single Palestinian men living within the Green Line amid a patriarchal society. Suhad Daher-Nashif and Areen Hawari focused on the daily lives of Palestinian women, particularly those from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who are married and live inside the Israeli state in their paper “The Lived Experience of Married Palestinian Women from the Palestinian Territories Occupied in 1967 Residing within the ‘Green Line’”.

Three papers discussed Palestine from a historical perspective. Presenting his paper, titled “Towards Liberation from the Narrative of Biblical Archaeology in Writing the Ancient History of Palestine”, Mohammed Maraqten analysed several case studies of inscriptions that reveal the misinterpretation and misuse of linguistic data in the interpretation of historical and cultural events in ancient Palestine. In a paper titled “‘Mā kānsh fīh!’: Oral Narratives as a Missing Source for the Military Historiography of the Palestine War 1947-1949”, Bilal Shalash reviewed the outputs of two projects, a Birzeit University project on depopulated villages and the Nakba Testimony Program, which reflect the military history of the 1948 war. Mehmet Osmanli demonstrated the extent to which the Ottoman authorities began dealing with a Palestinian cause in the late nineteenth century in his paper “Aspiring to the Sympathy of His ‘Hümâyunic Shadow’: The Limits of the Ottoman Bureaucracy’s Perception of Jewish Immigration to the Land of Palestine”.

The second session of day three was centred on two other themes: the impact of settler colonialism on the environment and agriculture in Palestine, and Palestine in literary discourse.

Three papers presented studied the impact of settler colonialism on the environment and agriculture in Palestine. Kholoud Al-Ajarma presented her paper “Tobacco Cultivation in Palestine: Farmers’ Struggles over Land Ownership in the Context of Settler-Colonialism”, which provided examples of the daily struggles of Palestinian farmers and their active participation in land protection in the face of settler-colonialism. Rawan Samamreh presented her paper “Nature Reserves and National Parks: An Approach to Settlement Expansion and Control of Space” which investigated Israel’s settler-colonial exploitation of nature reserves and national parks as tools to manage and control the local Palestinian population and land. Yasmin Qaadan’s paper “Environment Meanings from the Language of Local Knowledge for the Movement of Palestinian Peasants” offered a political ecology perspective of settler colonialism through its ethnographic research of Palestinian peasants.

Three papers were presented on Palestine in literary discourse. Asaad Alsaleh’s paper “A Palestinian Women Looking for Place: Fadwa Tuqan’s A Mountainous Journey” which provided a new reading of Fadwa Tuqan’s text within the displaced autobiography subfield. Abdelrahman S. Abuaber presented his paper “The Stranger’s Mirrors: Place, Time, and Questions of the Self in Biographical Writing”, which aimed to give organic theoretical attention to biographical writing by Palestinians. Hosni Mlitat’s paper “Representing the Palestinian Cause in Contemporary Spanish Orientalist Discourse” explored the representation of the Palestinian cause from the perspective of contemporary Spanish orientalists Juan Goytisolo, Emilio Ferrín, and Isaías Barreñada.

In the afternoon, the Forum hosted two workshops. In the first workshop, four speakers – Khaled Hroub, Alain Gresh, Ben White, and Yousef Munayyer – discussed changes in the representation and news coverage of Palestine in Western and Arab media discourse. For the second workshop and closing session of the forum Tarek Mitri, Institute for Palestine Studies Board of Trustees Chairman, and Azmi Bishara, General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies opened the floor for a discussion for participants to reflect on the question of what is to be done and the future of the Palestinian national project. Bishara stressed the success of this forum in bringing together Palestinians from across the world to share knowledge from the field of Palestinian studies in an academic environment.

Bishara then introduced Marwan Barghouti, political figure and political prisoner for the last twenty-one years, whose partner, lawyer and politician Fadwa Barghouti, read a letter he had written from his cell. Barghouti discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian national project including: the struggle to return the unity of the Palestinian people through one national project, the unity of the Palestinian cause, Zionist settler colonialism, the emphasis on Arab identity, the humanitarian struggle, reinforcing the importance of resistance in all its forms, the crisis of the Palestinian national movement, and the struggle for women's right to equality and dignity, and a leading Palestinian force with a political culture that views the Palestinians as worthy of dignity, equality, and justice. Barghouti concluded by reflecting on the importance of this forum as a step that reinforces the unity of Palestinians and the unified aim of all those working for the Palestinian cause.