Archive for the ‘new research’ Category

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.

Later this year, two new books (coedited by myself and Roula el-Rifai) will be published by Pluto Press on the Palestinian refugee issue. Compensation to Palestinian Refugees and the Search for Palestinian-Israeli Peace will examine the legal, political, and technical challenges of any future system of reparations to refugees for property and other losses suffered due to forced displacement during the conflict. The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for Resolution reviews a range of possible policy options for all sides in any future refugee negotiations. The emphasis here is on exploring the costs and benefits of different approaches, mechanisms, trade-offs, and linkages, rather than narrowly describing a single approach. The two volumes draw upon the contributions of a broad range of Palestinian, Israeli, Arab, and international experts.

In part, the studies emerge from more than a decade of past, Canadian-supported, semi-official workshops, research, and “track two” meetings on the refugee issue, sometimes known as the “Ottawa process.” It would be nice, of course, if the books were being released now because we stand on the cusp of a diplomatic breakthrough in the search for Middle East peace. We aren’t there, of course—on the contrary, prospects for the onset (let alone conclusion) of political negotiations on the refugee issue are very grim at the moment. Ironically, it is because of this that it becomes all the more important to document and distribute prior policy-relevant research in a way that assures its longer term “shelf life.” This is especially true given the remarkable institutional ability of actors to forget what they once knew, and to have to relearn the history of past negotiations whenever a glimmer of diplomatic hope returns.

If one believes—as we do—that the refugee issue will inevitably be a key component of any conceivable future peace negotiations, these analyses are of enduring value. Indeed, the argument can be made that diplomatic hiatus often provides a space for creative thinking and technical analysis that could prove useful in the future. Certainly one of the lessons of the 2008 Chatham House refugee negotiation simulation was that many technical aspects of a refugee agreement and mechanism are still quite poorly understood:

More work is needed on implementation issues – this would be a worthy area for further meetings and discussions. Several participants noted that the simulation itself had been one of the very few occasions on which the international community had engaged in any discussion as to how an agreement might be implemented. One long-time aid official commented, “It is rather a shame that after 17 years we still have these gaps – and in the meantime, we have failed the people on the ground.” The failure of knowledge management within foreign ministries and aid agencies was also highlighted as a serious obstacle to institutional learning and preparedness. One Israeli participant stated “I also came to the conclusion that we have overestimated the willingness and ability of the international community to implement the agreement.”

The search for just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians faces myriad challenges. We and our fellow contributors hope that the work in these two studies will help ease that path, however modestly, whenever serious and substantive negotiations are rejoined.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies (March 2012), Ghassan Shabaneh has a thoughtful piece on Education and Identity: The Role of UNRWA’s Education Programmes in the Reconstruction of Palestinian Nationalism. In it he examines the role that the Agency has played—often inadvertently—in the post-1948 reconstruction and transmission of Palestinian national identity among refugees. As the abstract notes:

Studies of specialized agencies of the United Nations in general and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in particular focus overwhelmingly on the humanitarian activities and bureaucratic structure of these institutions. Relatively understudied and less understood in the literature on UNRWA is the impact the institution has had on the ongoing reconstruction of Palestinian national identity over the last six decades. UNRWA unintentionally—and despite its humanitarian mandate—played a political role in its five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and Gaza. This study focuses on how UNRWA’s support of, and provision for, education in schools and camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and elsewhere helped in the continuation of reconstructing Palestinian nationalism and identity. In UNRWA schools, Palestinian students interacted with one another in ways that inadvertently preserved and cultivated an identity of nation and self among Palestinians amidst war and social dislocation. The main factor that had the unintended consequence of reconstructing Palestinian nationalism in the last six decades has been the use by UNRWA schools of extracurricular activities that reinvented many elements of Palestinian identity and nationalism (e.g. songs, plays, music, paintings, poetry). This article speaks to how UNRWA schools have been providing opportunities for Palestinian youth to articulate and enact Palestinian identity.

The article is especially useful in moving the discussion of this issue away from a politicized and rather misleading focus on textbooks and other aspects of UNRWA curriculum, and instead refocusing it on issues of spatiality, shared experience, and social interaction. Rather than being significant for some sort of top-down inculcation of political attitudes and identities, UNRWA schools (and, by implication, the camps too) have served to facilitate a bottom-up formation of political views and attachments by the refugees themselves.

The full article is behind the Oxford Journals paywall and requires an individual or institutional subscription to the Journal of Refugee Studies for access. I will, however, take the liberty of quoting the concluding section at length, since it summarizes Shabaneh’s argument very nicely:

UNRWA schools, vocational training centres, teachers’ colleges, and academic programmes have played a central role in reconstructing Palestinian nationalism by bringing refuges together from historic Palestine under the common umbrella of education and shaping student identity through interaction with other students and teachers. Students across class and geographical backgrounds studied, ate, travelled, and conversed together at UNRWA schools, creating a sense of shared national identity and paving the way for subsequent generations of refugees to assemble, remember, and share the past as well as their hopes and aspirations for the future. UNRWA schools and camps not only protected Palestinians, but also enabled them to resist assimilation and integration into host countries, fostering a greater sense of distinctiveness among Palestinians across the Middle East.

Despite the geographical fragmentation imposed on Palestinians after 1948, they have reconstructed their identity and nationalism as they saw fit. Throughout UNRWA’s networks, refugees have stamped the camps with a Palestinian identity to protect themselves from melting into the cultures of any of the host countries in the last six decades. Through narratives, refugees provided their children and grandchildren with a history that they will never forget. Palestinian children understand what happened six decades ago. Second- and third-generation refugees will likely impart the same messages to their children, keeping the story of the Palestinian exodus from their homeland alive until a just and comprehensive solution is reached.

Although UNRWA is not solely responsible for reconstructing Palestinian nationalism, the agency played a major role in the development of Palestinian identity. Through its historical involvement as a relief agency, UNRWA succeeded in delineating spaces, sites, and places where all refugees, regardless of background or class, shared their experiences. Given this support, refugees resisted assimilation and integration and instead reconstructed their own tradition and with that their own national identity.

In a recent blog post on last month’s Chatham House meeting on Palestinian refugee issues in Minster Lovell, I noted that:

The session on implementation mechanisms was anchored by an excellent presentation on the issues involved, summarizing the work of a multi-year project undertaken by a major international organization. The most difficult and complicated elements of this concerned any future compensation refugees, with the presenters underscoring the difficulty of sorting out multi-generational claims (for example, what inheritance laws would apply if claimants live in multiple legal jurisdictions) as well the substantial risk that available resources fall far short of refugee expectations.

The authors of that report, Norbert Wühler and Heike Niebergall, have made a pdf copy of their presentation slides available. You can download them here, or by clicking the image above. The work was largely financed by the International Development Research Centre.

Palestinian Political Forgiveness

Posted: April 9, 2011 by Rex Brynen in new research

Glen Pettigrove and Nigel Parsons have a piece in the October 2010 issue of Social Theory and Practice that explores “Palestinian Political Forgiveness: Agency, Permissibility, and Prospects.”

The Israel-Palestine conflict stands at the heart of tensions in the Middle East and, more than that, at the heart of tensions between the West and the Islamic world. It is sometimes suggested that the resolution of this conflict will require forgiveness on the part of both Palestine and Israel. However, what such forgiveness would involve has not been adequately explored. Our aim is to remedy this gap in the discussion.

While there has been quite a bit written about the normative and non-tangible elements of the Palestinian refugee issue (and the conflict more generally), this is the first piece I’ve seen that embeds all that in a broader discussion of  the political and ethical dynamics of “forgiveness.”

I’ll admit that I’m personally rather doubtful of the emphasis that the authors place, towards the end of their article, on future infrastructure investment in a Palestinian state as a “transcendental representation” of Palestinian selfhood” that would ease the process of reconciliation. I don’t think it would work at a political and emotional level. I’m especially dubious about the “Arc” concept that RAND has proposed and which  Pettigrove and Parsons point to as one such possibility (the Arc seems to me to be enormously impractical in the real world of development).

Still, the authors do a service by opening up the issue of “forgiveness” as an conceptual and practical issue for discussion.

h/t Mick Dumper

The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation has just published  Zoom In: Palestinian Refugees of 1948, Remembrances, a book  in which six Israeli and Palestinian scholars analyze university student comments to archival photographs. According to IHJR:

This innovative account of Palestinian and Israeli students encounters with their common past takes the reader on a unique visual and historical journey.

“Zoom in” touches upon topics such as the Nakba, loss of homeland, internally displaced people, remembrances, collective identity, victimization from historical, sociological and anthropological perspectives.

The book is  published in English/Arabic and Engish/Hebrew editions. To mark its, there will be a book-launching at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem on 4 April 2011, featuring two of the authors, Menachem Klein and Mahmoud Yazbak. Another of the coauthors, Ihab Saloul, will be speaking at the at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague on April 11. Further details can be found on the IHJR website above.

The latest issue of the Journal of Peace Research has a piece by Rafi Nets-Zehngut (Tel Aviv University) on “Origins of the Palestinian refugee problem: Changes in the historical memory of Israelis/Jews 1949–2004.”

The major historical issue in the Israeli–Arab/Palestinian conflict is the causes for the 1948 Palestinian exodus. Among the Israelis/Jews there are two main narratives regarding this issue: the Zionist one – the refugees fled, for various reasons; and the critical one – some fled while others were expelled by the Jewish/Israeli security forces. This article explores the way the Israeli/Jewish historical memory (i.e. the Israeli/Jewish research community) related to this historical issue from 1949 until 2004. According to the findings, until 1957 this memory exclusively presented the Zionist narrative. However, from 1958 to 1976 this Zionist trend largely continued but was accompanied by considerable critical studies. Later, from 1977 to 2004, this memory was characterized by the almost exclusive adoption of the critical narrative (with major increase in its significance since 1988). These findings contradict the way the literature relates to this memory as almost exclusively Zionist until the late-1980s. Other aspects of this memory are also discussed, such as the explanations for its characteristics, the significance of non-academic scholars, the contribution of scholars who reside externally to the given country, state–research community relations, the influence of present interests on the portrayal of the past, and gender issues. The findings have theoretical implications for collective and historical memories.

In the study, the author examines “studies [of the refugee issue] published as books, articles in academic journals, or chapters in edited volumes”  written in Hebrew or English by Jews (only), whether living in Israel or abroad. Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced that research work by scholars is necessarily a good proxy for measuring historical memory, or indeed any other sort of attitudes—the views of MESA members on the Middle East would track fairly poorly as a measure of US public attitudes, for example. Consequently, it would have been nice to have seen some integration into this analysis of the (admittedly limited) public opinion data on Israeli Jewish attitudes to the refugee issue. A much more rigorous content analysis might have been undertaken as well. Still, the article does show the shift in (academic) narratives on the refugee issue over time.

In future, when new academic articles or books appear on the Palestinian refugee issue appear, I’ll try to post a note here on the PRRN blog. Consequently, if readers come across something recently published that I’ve missed, please drop me a line to let me know.