For those who have been wondering, the book I’m coediting with Roula el-Rifai on The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for Resolution (Pluto Press) was delayed a little at our end—but will be published soon. In the meantime, the Canadian International Council has interviewed me on the book, the project, and the state of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”:
Refugees remain one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Camps once assumed to be temporary have become cement fixtures in the desert landscape a. The difficulties confronting many Palestinian refugees have been exacerbated by the war in Syria, where thousands are caught in the crossfire. OpenCanada spoke to Dr. Rex Brynen, political science professor at McGill University and middle east conflict, security, and development specialist, about some of the issues explored in his newest edited volume on the Palestinian refugee crisis, and the current political situation in the Middle East.
You are the co-editor of a new anthology examining the Palestinian refugee crisis. What did you hope to accomplish with this project?
This project is the culmination of many years of work, dating back to the onset of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s when Canada was assigned the gavel of what was then known as the “Refugee Working Group.” It soon became apparent that there was a real lack of technical knowledge about Palestinian refugees and that no one had really thought through the modalities of a possible agreement on the issue. This continued to be so even during the heyday of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2000-01. Indeed, there was a real risk that because of this lack of knowledge, negotiators might agree to arrangements that were counterproductive or unworkable.
Both the International Development Research Centre and my own project (Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet) have spent several years encouraging policy-relevant analytical work on the refugee issue in conjunction with Palestinian, Israeli, Arab, and international scholars. Over the years we’ve had a lot of encouragement from the Palestinian Authority, Israel officials, regional governments, and the international community. Our joint work resulted in conferences, workshops, briefings for governments, and research papers, as well as two previous edited volumes, Palestinian Refugees: Challenges of Repatriation and Development (published by I.B. Tauris and IDRC in 2007) and Compensation to Palestinian Refugees and the Search for Palestinian-Israeli Peace (published by Pluto earlier this year). A third and final volume, The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for Resolution, will also be published by Pluto soon. All three books are co-edited with my colleague Roula el-Rifai.
We’ve tried to avoid setting forth a single way of addressing the various components of the problem. It is up to Israelis and Palestinians to work those out one day, at the negotiating table. However, we have identified various possible approaches, and the associated cost and benefits. I think it is fairly clear to everyone that any just and lasting Arab-Israeli peace will require addressing the situation of everyone who has been subjected to forced displacement and exile during the conflict.
You’ll find the full interview at OpenCanada.org.