Archive for the ‘new publications’ Category

PRRN refugee books on sale at Pluto Press

Posted: June 28, 2015 by Rex Brynen in new publications


Two of the books I coedited with Roula el-Rifai—Compensation to Palestinian Refugees and the Search for Palestinian-Israeli Peace (2013) and The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for a Resolution (2013)are currently on sale at the Pluto Press website with a 40% discount.

Click here to access the website to have the 40% discount automatically applied, then search “Brynen” to find them. You’ll also find several other books on Palestinians, refugees, and Palestinian refugees on sale too.

The sale ends July 10.

palestine_state_pic_6_1Asem Khalil (Birzeit University) has a thoughtful piece in a recent issue of Middle East Law and Governance 6 (2014), asking “Is Citizenship a Solution to the Palestinian Refugee Problem?”

In this paper, I first argue that, since the British mandate, citizenship regulations in Palestine contributed to dispossession of the rights of Palestinians, thus laying the seeds of the Palestinian refugee problem and its eventual consolidation. I then argue that citizenship regulations in host countries were exclusionary towards refugees in general, and Palestinians in particular, making it impossible for Palestinians to integrate in host societies. The so-called “Arab Spring” did not bring about any change in that sense. Finally, I argue that the narrative of statehood, although often separated from that of the “right of return”, constitutes but one narrative, and one from a com- pletely different angle than the narrative of a “right of return”, where the ‘just solution’ creates the possibility of establishing a homeland for Palestinians where they, and in particular the stateless refugees, can be converted into full citizens. What was part of the problem for refugees is presented as part of the solution. This discussion is very important in today’s Palestine, which was just recently accepted by the un General Assembly as a non-member observer state. The importance of that move is the official Palestinian insistence on the need for a state on the 1967 borders, and the willingness to accept the formula of a two-state solution. Discussion related to citizenship and refugee status, and the right of return, are all back at the center of political and legal discussions.

As of the time of posting the issue isn’t online yet at the Brill website, but will be so soon.

Crisis_Group_poster_cmyk [ConveThe International Crisis Group has just released an excellent report on the Palestinian refugee issue. It is must-read stuff for anyone interested in the issue, or the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace more generally.

I’ve posted the executive summary below. The full report can be found at the link above.

Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question

Middle East Report N°1569 Oct 2014


The Palestinian refugee question, like the refugees themselves, has been politically marginalised and demoted on the diplomatic agenda. Yet, whenever the diplomatic process comes out of its current hiatus, the Palestinian leadership will be able to negotiate and sell a deal only if it wins the support or at least acquiescence of refugees – because if it does not, it will not bring along the rest of the Palestinian population. Refugees currently feel alienated from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which they regard with suspicion; doubt the intentions of Palestinian negotiators, whom they do not believe represent their interests; and, as one of the more impoverished Palestinian groups, resent the class structure that the PA and its economic policies have produced. As a result of their isolation, refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are making demands for services and representation that are reinforcing emerging divisions within Palestinian society and politics. There arguably are ways to address refugee needs, both diplomatic and practical, that are not mutually exclusive with core Israeli interests. This report examines what could be done on the Palestinian side to mitigate the risk that the Palestinian refugee question derails a future negotiation.

The Palestinian refugee question, since its emergence in the late 1940s, has first and foremost been a national question. Because the establishment of Israel – in what Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe) – transformed the vast majority of Palestinians into refugees, the contemporary Palestinian national movement is largely a product of their desire to reverse their dispossession. The issue retained its salience after the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) formally endorsed two states in 1988 as well as after the Oslo agreements starting in 1993, because its fair resolution was considered crucial to legitimate any two-state settlement. Today, the reduced international visibility of refugee affairs notwithstanding, the issue retains its place in Palestinian national consciousness. For Palestinian leaders to do anything that smacks of abandoning refugees, and especially of renouncing their claims, is to cross a redline that touches at the core of national identity.

Though Palestinians disagree on whether the refugee question can be resolved within a two-state framework, the failure of negotiations has rendered this debate largely theoretical. For a time after the beginning of the Oslo process, it seemed to Palestinian elites that a basic trade was in the making: in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including from settlements and Arab East Jerusalem, Palestinians would sacrifice unrestricted return to their former homes – the traditional Palestinian conception of the right to return; instead, it seemed, they would accept a compromise, “just solution” based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, permitting the return to Israel of only a small portion of the overall refugee population.

Twenty years later, this formula has unravelled, and with it, in the eyes of many Palestinians, the premise of the two-state framework. In the 1990s, the refugee question was a lightning rod in Israel largely because it was thought to threaten the Jewish majority; today, Israel’s final status positions have hardened, its objections to refugee return as much principled as statistical. When coupled with the Israeli demand for recognition as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Palestinians believe that, instead of being offered a just solution, they are being asked to renounce what they see as an inalienable right in exchange for less than their irreducible minimum on other final status issues. When compared to the deal the PLO originally foresaw in 1993, they are being asked to concede more on refugees in exchange for less on everything else.

Many factors lie behind this shift. The second intifada, inter alia, shifted mainstream Israeli political thinking toward the right, which puts greater emphasis on the Jewish narrative. On the Palestinian side, the national movement’s centre of gravity moved, after Oslo, from the diaspora to the Occupied Territories, and more recently has been circumscribed to the West Bank. While refugees continued to be well represented in the power structure – indeed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself is one – refugee affairs are less prominent. With the Palestinian people increasingly fragmented, both politically and geographically, each of its constituent groupings has become relatively isolated and ever more consumed by its own problems.

For the Palestinian leadership, the main priority must be to reclaim representation of the majority of refugees, for without their acquiescence it will be exceedingly difficult to implement any comprehensive agreement with Israel; this therefore should be a concern of all who seek one. The growing chasm between the political elites and the refugees also portends greater instability, particularly should refugees or their advocates, despairing of the diplomatic process, seize the political initiative. But stability in and of itself is no answer: the marginalisation of refugees within their host societies has left them with little choice other than to fantasise about returning to their former homes in Israel.

This will be a significant challenge, especially since an ever-dwindling number of Palestinians – refugees or not – support the leadership’s political agenda. Nevertheless, much can and should be done:

  • Calcified refugee camp leadership committees ought to be renewed, whether by election or selection. While their predicament is largely a reflection of the dysfunction of the overall political system, the relative isolation of the camps could facilitate a more representative local leadership. Particularly given the limited resources of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the PLO/PA, credible local leadership is needed. While some, particularly in Israel and among entrenched Palestinian elites, might see empowered local leadership as a threat, the risks of instability absent such structures are far greater.
  • Donors should continue to fund UNRWA. Its support cannot solve the refugee predicament, but the precipitous decline of services could exacerbate it and provoke regional instability.
  • The Palestinian political elites could undertake measures to improve daily life for refugees and ensure that ongoing economic reforms in the Occupied Territories benefit rather than further marginalise them. Development done properly, in consultation and coordination with camp leaders, can overcome suspicions among refugees that its purpose is, as often charged, the “liquidation of the refugee question”.
  • Palestinian elites, in the camps and beyond, and particularly in the West Bank, should combat the notion that refugee political claims can be maintained only through the relative isolation of camps from the broader social fabric. Refugees increasingly have come to realise that socio-economic deprivation is not the only way to maintain identity; reinvigorating the political structures to nurture it and further their aspirations would be more effective and humane.
  • The current suspension of negotiations should be used as an opportunity to reconstruct the Palestinian national movement on a genuinely inclusive and representative basis. Crucial for reaching a two-state agreement, it is particularly important for the refugee question: individual refugees, in any foreseeable reality, will not all be afforded the unrestricted possibility to return to their original homes and villages. But they can be afforded a voice in their movement’s positions on the refugee question. With significant contradictions between the traditional Palestinian approach to the refugee question and the two-state paradigm, this is perhaps the only mechanism for identifying a compromise approach. Given the gap between private PLO negotiating positions and popular opinion, concessions on the refugee question, without bringing the public along, could prove fatal to the leadership’s weakened credibility.

These palliative and preparatory steps focus on the Palestinian side, not Israel, despite the fundamental role that it would play in any resolution of the refugee question. Like the report as a whole, they address what the Palestinian leadership and international community can do now, not only to improve the lives of refugees but also to prepare for eventual final status negotiations. Many of these measures cannot be undertaken without Israeli acquiescence, so Israelis seeking to advance a resolution of the refugee question – some options for which are touched upon in the report, but which of course will require refinement once talks begin – should seriously consider the steps proposed herein.

This report is one in a series by Crisis Group arguing that the peace process requires a fundamental re-conceptualisation, one that would begin with each of the two sides, as well as the mediator, re-evaluating and altering its own approach before resuming talks. Necessary steps include involving and addressing the needs of neglected constituencies; building a more effective Palestinian strategy, in which refugee agendas would play a clear role; and promoting a more diverse and capable mediation architecture. It behoves the three main sets of stakeholders – the Palestinian leadership, the Israeli government and the international community – to understand that their current approach, especially to the refugee question, is a recipe not only for failure and strife, but for undermining the two-state solution.

Jerusalem/Ramallah/Gaza City/Brussels, 9 October 2014

9780415715041Later this month Routledge is scheduled to publish UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees From Relief and Works to Human Development, a new volume edited by Sari HanafiLeila Hilal, and Lex Takkenberg:

Exploring the evolution of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), this book fills a lacuna in literature on the agency.

UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees employs recent fieldwork in order to analyse challenges in programmes and service delivery, protection, camp governance, community participation, and camp improvement and reconstruction. The chapters examine the way UNRWA is adapting to a changing social, political and economic context, mostly within urban settings – a paradigmatic shift from understanding the Agency’s role as simply a provider of relief and services to one comprehensively supporting the human development of Palestinian refugees.

Examining the refugee debate using new disciplines and research frameworks, this collection aims to emphasise the centrality of the Palestinian refugee issue for Middle East peace-making and to contribute a better understanding of a unique agency. This book will be a useful aid for students and researchers with an interest in Middle East Studies, Politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Part I: Meeting Challenges in Programmes and Service Delivery

  • 1 Realizing Self-Reliance through Microfinance – Allex Pollok 2 UNRWA’s ‘Traditional’ Programmes as a Catalyst for Human Development – Tjitske de Jong & Miriam Aced

Part II: Protection: From Concept to Practice

  • 3 Incorporating Protection into UNRWA Operations – Mark Brailsford 4 Advancing Child Protection in Jordan, Lebanon, Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syria – Laurent Chapius

Part III: Governance: The Camps and UNRWA

  • 5 From Chaos to Order and Back: The Construction of UNRWA Shelters and Camps 1950- 1970– Kjersti Gravelsaeter Berg 6 UNRWA as ‘Phantom Sovereign’: Governance Practices in Lebanon – Sari Hanafi

Part IV: Civic Participation and Community Engagement

  • 7 From Beneficiary to Stakeholder: An Overview of UNRWA’s Approach to Refugee Participation– Terry Rempel 8 Community Participation and Human Rights Advocacy: Questions Arising from the Campaign about the Right to Work of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon – Sergio Bianchi

Part V: Camp Improvement/Reconstruction and Development

  • 9 Dynamics of Space, Temporariness, Development and Rights in Palestine Refugees’ Camps– Mona Budeiri 10 Talbiyeh Camp Improvement Project and the Challenges of Community Participation: Between Empowerment and Conflict– Fatima Al-Nammari 11 Implementing the Neirab Rehabilitation Project: UNRWA’s Approach to Development in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps– Nell Gabiam 12 The Urban Planning Strategy in Al-Hussein Palestinian Refugee Camp in Amman: Heterogeneous Practices; Homogeneous Landscape– Lucas Oesch

Part VI: Palestinian Refugees and Durable Solutions: A Role for UNRWA

  • 13 UNRWA as Avatar: Current Debates on the Agency and their Implications – Rex Brynen 14 The Role of UNRWA in Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Issue – Leila Hilal

The book is based on a conference held  at the American University of Beirut in 2010, with contributions revised and updated for publication.



JPS169_Cover_Page_1 (565x800)

The delayed Autumn 2013 edition of the (redesigned) Journal of Palestine Studies has now been published. It includes a couple of items that will be of particular interest to scholars of the refugee issue:


Palestinian Refugees and the Response to Violence

Maria Holt 

Women in conflict zones face a wide range of violence: from physical and psychological trauma to political, economic and social disadvantage. And the sources of the violence are varied also: from the ‘public’ violence of the enemy to the more ‘private’ violence of the family. Maria Holt uses her research gathered in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and in the West Bank to look at the forms of violence suffered by women in the context of the wider conflict around them. Drawing on first-hand accounts of women who have either participated in, been victims of or bystanders to violence, Women and Conflict in the Middle East highlights the complex situation of these refugees, and explores how many of them become involved in resistance activities. It thus makes essential reading for students of the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as those interested in the gender dimension of conflict.

Maria Holt is Senior Lecturer in the Democracy and Islam Programme, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster. She is the co-author of Without Glory in Arabia: The British Retreat from Aden (I.B.Tauris).

For a 30% discount on the book until 30 May 2014, download the flyer here.

9780745333380While it may never have the cultural and literary impact of Lord of the Rings, I’m pleased to report of the third and final book in Palestine Refugee ResearchNet’s trilogy on the Palestinian refugee issue has now been published: Rex Brynen and Roula el-Rifai, eds., The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for a Resolution (London: Pluto Press, 2013).

In this unique volume, leading analysts – many of whom have been actively involved in past negotiations on this issue – provide an overview of the key dimensions of the Palestinian refugee problem. Mindful of the sensitive and contested nature of the subject, none offers a single solution. Instead, each contribution summarises and synthesises the existing scholarly and governmental work on the topic.

Each paper develops an array of policy options for resolving various aspects of the refugee issue, written in such a way as to provide a broad menu of choices rather than a single narrow set of recommendations.

The book is the product of a longstanding collaboration between Roula and myself, and between the International Development Research Centre and PRRN. Our two previous volumes examined Palestinian refugee compensation (Pluto Press, 2013) and refugee repatriation and development (I.B. Tauris, 2007)

The book was published just in time for a recent Chatham House workshop on refugee compensation, where the chapters by Norbert Wühler and Heike Niebergall were invaluable. Many thanks to Pluto Press for rushing the first copies to Minster Lovell.


List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgements

1. Research, Policy and Negotiations and Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Problem
Rex Brynen and Roula El-Rifai

2. Implementation Mechanism: Policy Choices and Implementation Issues
Norbert Wühler and Heike Niebergall

3. Whither UNRWA?
Liana Brooks–Rubin

4. Return, Repatriation, Residency and Resettlement
Rex Brynen

5. An Offer They Can Refuse: Host countries and a Palestinian-Israeli Agreement on Refugees
Roula El-Rifai and Nadim Shehadi

6. Refugee Compensation: Policy Choices and Implementation Issues
Heike Niebergall and Norbert Wühler 

7. Addressing Jewish Claims in the Context of a Palestinian-Israeli Agreement
Michael Fischbach

8. Refugee Absorption and Development
Rex Brynen

9. Intangible Needs, Moral Acknowledgement and the Palestinian Refugee Issue
Michael Molloy, John Bell with Nicole Waintraub, Ian Anderson

10. Managing Refugee Expectations
Khalil Shikaki

11. A Never-Ending End to Claims
Geoffrey Aronson


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

A  piece today by Moe Ali Nayel at Electronic Intifada (“Palestinian refugees are not at your service“) should be required reading for anyone doing work on Palestinian refugees, or indeed anyone researching war- and disaster-affected populations:

“Are you enjoying filming our misery? Film: it’s fine, you are like the others. You show up in the camp, film, leave, and we are still here.”

I used to reply: but we want to tell the world about your story. Always, with the same sarcasm, is the reply: “how much are you getting paid to tell the world our story?”

Throughout my time working as a fixer with international journalists I never understood why people on the sidewalks of the camps’ busy streets always regarded our “humanitarian” mission with skepticism. But earlier this year I came to understand this skepticism of Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon….

This has been the Palestinian refugees’ dilemma since 1948: watching groups of people from across the globe stroll through the misery of their camps and and then leave. Making their personal plight and stories available to writers and advocates is for them a way to induce change and action and to advance their moral cause around the world.

But humanity is the key here. To tell stories and conduct research, one would do well to remember that refugees deserve our sensitivity when dealing with their hardships. It’s been 65 years and Palestinians in the camps are still clutching onto whatever crumbs of hope or aid they can. But ultimately they are left awaiting the day they can return to the place where their dignity and humanity can be restored: Palestine.

Read the whole thing at the link above.

9780745333366PRRN’s next volume on the refugee issue, Compensation to Palestinian Refugees and the Search for Palestinian-Israeli Peace (Pluto Press), is now in production, and will be available as of February 2013.

One of the core aspects of the Palestinian refugee question is that of compensation or reparations for Palestinian refugees forcibly displaced by the establishment of Israel.

Despite the importance of the issue, many of the complex technical issues compensation would entail have not received adequate attention. In this volume, a rich variety of contributors – including Palestinian, Israeli, and international scholars, analysts, and former officials – examine the topic from an array of legal, economic, and political perspectives.

In doing so, they cast new and important light on the way the issue has been approached in past negotiations, the structure of possible compensation regimes, and potential challenges and obstacles to implementation.

The book can be preordered from Pluto (click the link above), or via Amazon.