On Saturday, 10 February 2024, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and the Institute for Palestine Studies launched the Second Annual Palestine Forum in Doha. This year, approximately 70 peer-reviewed academic papers, selected from among 520 applications, will be presented in specialized sessions in four parallel tracks, in addition to several symposia. The Forum represents the world’s most prominent academic event dedicated to the Palestinian cause. The papers include a wide-ranging selection of topics related to Palestine, touching on history, international relations, the settler colonial and apartheid systems, and national liberation. The Forum has thus become a significant treasury of academic research on Palestine, attracting a diverse audience of those interested in the regional and global dimensions of the subject. It constitutes a unique meeting point to exchange knowledge and insights on related issues. Due to the large number of attendees, the majority of the forum is being held at the Sheraton Hotel, with some symposia taking place at the Arab Center. The public symposia will be livestreamed on the social media platforms of the ACRPS in English and Arabic.
Ayat Hamdan, ACRPS Researcher and Editorial Manager of the Ostour journal for historical studies, opened the Second Annual Palestine Forum. The opening session also 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 emphasized the continuation of joint efforts between the Arab Center and the Institute for Palestine Studies in examining the Palestinian question from different aspects since the 1948 Nakba, and through the successive and recurring tragedies. He underscored the ongoing efforts of both institutions to become a reference not only for the past but also the current situations. He concluded that it is necessary to launch new programs and tools to address the current situation in Palestine, which is the primary goal of this forum, taking place amid the tragic suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza and their resilience on their land. Therefore, the Forum serves as an opportunity to facilitate dialogue on the Palestinian question and acts as a catalyst for further action.
Bishara then started his lecture by discussing the evolution of Palestinian Studies and the threat that faces academic freedom in this field due to Israeli lobbies. He highlighted the pre-packaged accusation of anti-Semitism weaponized against critics of Israel, the settler-colonial and expansionist nature of the Israeli state, the Arab position on the Palestinian issue, and the development of the relationship between Israel and Western countries. Bishara also addressed the consequences of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, the crisis of the Palestinian national project, and the strategy that the Palestinians may have to follow to achieve sovereignty and independence. Finally, Bishara discussed the ongoing debate since 7 October 2023 regarding Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, and the issues related to civilian deaths, and the responsibility of the resistance.
Following the opening session, the first forum session began, covering four main themes in parallel panels. The themes were: Palestine and Arab solidarity movements, Palestine in the international context, the Palestinian right of return, and reclaiming the stolen archive.
Three papers provided different perspectives on Arab solidarity movements for Palestine. In his paper, “Palestine Solidarity Movements: The Moroccan Case Study”, Omar Iharchane argued that there is a distinction, and in many instances an outright contradiction, between an official Morocco and an unofficial Morocco which continues to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, but whose interaction is tempered by multiple factors, foremost among which is the overuse of ideology and politics, the multiplicity of solidarity frameworks, and the difficulties of coordinating among them given all these needless complications. Ahmed Sarri, in a paper titled “The Palestinian Cause in Algeria between the Popular Position and Official Algerian Discourse: A Historical Approach”, focused on the popular position and official Algerian discourse on the Palestinian issue. In the same context, Mostefa Bousboua examined the reasons for the ultras’ support for the Palestinian cause through their verbal and visual discourses, demonstrating that this support is due to the intersections between the Algerian and Palestinian cases.
Three papers considered Palestine in the international context. Ilan Pappe’s paper, “Power, Money, and Morality: the Pro-Zionist Lobby on Both Sides of the Atlantic”, argued that Zionism was an evangelical Christian project before it became a Jewish one. According to Pappe, when the two Zionist lobbies, the evangelical Christian one and the Jewish one, fused into a single lobby on both sides of the Atlantic, it became powerful enough to influence British policy towards the Ottoman Empire in general and towards historical Palestine in particular. Mandy Turner discussed the struggle between the “social movement from above” that supports Zionism and Israel (made up of UK political elites and reactionary civil society groups) and the “social movement from below” (made up of members of the public and civil society groups) that is transforming how the Israel-Palestine “conflict” is understood in the UK. Jan Busse’s paper “Palestinian Diplomacy and the Making of the Global Order: The Impact of Contested States’ Diplomatic Practices on International Politics” assessed both the historic emergence and current developments of Palestinian international and regional diplomacy, and related them to overarching questions of global order.
Three papers discussed the Palestinian right of return. Presenting his paper, titled “The Right of Return for Palestinian Refugees and Attempts to Circumvent It”, Abdelhamid Siyam discussed the UN Right of Return Resolution 194 (1948) for Palestinian refugees, focusing on international, Arab, and Palestinian attempts to modify, circumvent, or annul the resolution. In a paper titled “Denying Palestinian Refugees’ Right of Return as a Crime against Humanity before the International Criminal Court”, Nasser Thabet discussed the hypothesis surrounding the potential prosecution of the Israeli leadership for their ongoing denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, considering it a crime against humanity within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Nawras Almanassra examined the case of the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, located to the southwest of the city of Bethlehem, whose people were forced to leave it in 1953 by the Israeli occupation under the pretext of its being a “border village”.
Three papers were presented on the theme of reclaiming the stolen archive. Azza El Hassan’s paper “Hands on Visual Remains: A New Methodology to Explore Media Objects That Have Survived Colonial Plundering” argued that the systematic looting and destruction of Palestinian films and photos by the Israeli state affects not only the plundered objects, but also the images that survive the violence, altering how Palestinian society and culture relate to their own photos and films. Nazmi Jubeh presented the areas in which the archives of the Department of Antiquities under the British Mandate in Palestine can be used in writing and studying Palestine’s modern and contemporary history, including tracking the names of sites before they were distorted and falsified. Rula Shahwan discussed her paper “Stolen Palestinian Archives as a Theme of Israeli Documentary Production,” shedding light on the role of archives as a source of knowledge production, including documentary films produced using raw archival materials and montage techniques.
The second session of the Forum was centered on four other themes: the Nakba and archival insights, Israeli settlements, politics of erasure and resistance in Jerusalem, and the Israeli apartheid system and colonial hegemony.
Three papers were presented in the first track of the second session titled “The Nakba: Archival Insights”. Bilal Shalash highlighted a particular aspect of Palestinian self-criticism during the 1947-1949 war through the voices of fighters in the central region, their view of their position in the war, and the limits of the Arab role therein. In his paper, Mahmoud Muhareb addressed Israel’s recruitment of the largest possible number of both Jewish settlers in Palestine and Jews from around the world into the Israeli army during the 1948 war. Hashem Abushama used the story of the depopulated village of al-Tantura to demonstrate how Zionist brigades enlisted Palestinian prisoners of war from al-Tantura for war labour, subjecting them to coercive conditions.
On the theme of Israeli settlements, Mtanes Shihadeh and Inas Khateeb presented their paper “A State Alongside a State: Israeli Economic and Social Policies towards the West Bank Settlements since 2009,” arguing that Israel employs various socio-economic policies that fulfil the needs of the settler colonial project. Malakeh Abdellatif focused on religious settlement in Jerusalem as a phenomenon that has grown out of the centrality of the current of religious Zionism in recent times by studying the EL'AD association that performs educational and tourist roles to achieve this. The third paper was presented by Feras Qawasmeh, who found that the structural change in the Ministry of Defence where Bezalel Smotrich became a deputy minister supervising the Civil Administration was merely a tool with which to implement his deeply held belief in the necessity of radically expanding settlements in the West Bank.
In the track “Jerusalem: Politics of Erasure and Resistance”, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian drew on everyday aspects of Palestinian life to introduce and analyze the concept of ihala, a practice against Palestinians that exposes the racialized political work of violence and settler-colonial dispossessive brutality. In the same context, Kate Rouhana traced Palestinian Jerusalemites’ opportunities, or lack thereof, to engage freely in local and national elections in order to choose self-representation. Espinosa Najjar’s paper titled “Civil Society and the Judaization of East Jerusalem” investigated the particular settler organization located in the Wadi Helweh neighbourhood in the village of Silwan and demonstrated how the gaze is being shifted from annexation-occupation to a sole Zionist Jewish heritage in Wadi Helweh instead.
Three papers explored the Israeli apartheid system and colonial hegemony. Nizar Ayoub examined the apartheid regime that targets the Palestinians in Israel, known as the 1948 territories, the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and the Palestinian refugees who are deprived of their fundamental, inalienable right to return to their homes. Sari Arraf examined the cases of Colonial Algeria, South Africa, and Palestine, combining comparative and historical legal analysis to trace the recalibration of racial apartness in the legal order of these settler colonies to give a contextualized account of apartheid in the modern era. Finally, Areej Sabbagh-Khoury unveiled the nature of interactions between Jewish settlers and the indigenous Palestinian population, and how Palestinians’ agency shapes the political landscape in Israel.
The Annual Palestine Forum will continue its proceedings for two more days, following a similar format with sessions running in parallel and symposiums in the evening (the forum agenda).