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Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of
International Studies (IALIIS), as part of the activities of the 2nd
week, 11-15 June 2011, of its summer course, hosted two guest speakers addressing
issues concerning Palestinian refugees, and the opportunities that might emerge
for the benefits of Palestinians due to the Arab revolutions.  

Dr. Rashid Khalidi was hosted in
three lectures, one lecture was part of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolutions
course, the second was part of Psychological, Social and Existential Dimensions
of Refugee Life course. In addition, (IALIIS) organized a roundtable discussion
headed by Dr. Khalidi addressing the Arab revolutions and its impact on the
Palestinian cause.  

Dr. Khalidi discussed the current
Arab revolutions, which represent a new era of the Arab political life, and
constituted new possibilities Arabs have not witnessed for a very long time. Led
to the overthrown of the dictatorial regimes in Arab countries.  

However, and as Dr. Khalidi
emphasized, the most difficult phase is yet to come, with demands of freedom,
dignity, social justice, economical prosperity, rule of law, accountability and

What happened so far in Tunisia and
Egypt should bring new possibilities for the entire Arab countries, this is
what Dr. Khalidi believes in, however, he points out that it is impossible to arbitrarily
apply what happened in Egypt and Tunisia in other Arab states, as each country
has its own nature that should be considered. For example, there are civil
society organizations in Egypt in addition to long legacy of the independent
judicial system. While in Tunisia, there are very strong unions, which are not
available for many other Arab states.  

Dr. Khalidi said that the interest
of the Arab leaders led them to brutally react towards such revolutions as
those leaders are so keen to maintain the status quo, to amass more wealth and gain
more interests. In order to overturn such revolutions, the dictatorial regimes
accentuate the Sunni and Shiie’ divisions, bringing up the Iranian interest in
the region and therefore its threat to widespread the Shiie’.

Talking about opportunities that
such revolutions might bring to Palestinians; Dr. Khalidi pointed out that
there are some positive signals such revolutions brought, the most prominent is
the change in the Egyptian foreign policy, especially towards Iran, as the
latter is no more seen or perceived as an enemy. Some changes already happened
towards  the Palestinian cause, through supporting
the reconciliation and its serious effort to reconcile the Palestinian

Moreover, Dr. Khalidi said that the
Egyptian revolution opened up new independent political horizons for Arabs. The
new improvement in the Arab revolutions is the public movement that was absent
for long time, which also paved the way for youth to play greater roles in forming
their democratic systems and the overall regimes of their countries.            

In the roundtable discussion; Dr.
Khalidi, talked about the possibility of utilizing the Arab revolutions, especially
the Egyptian one, to break the deadlock in the Palestinian cause. The new regime
in Egypt is important for that cause, since the Egyptian regime is the
guarantee for the continuation of the Israeli hegemony in the region. This
comes through the role Egypt plays in guarding the Israeli borders. He also referred
the failure of the Palestinians reconciliation to the x-Egyptian government, since
one of its main  goals was to maintain
two divided authorities in the West bank and Gaza Strip.  

Dr. Khalidi talked about the refugees issue as
a negotiation topic within a rational political solution. In his view, the
appeal for the right of return that happens now, is a legal appeal for the
resolution number 194, and not an appeal for the natural and moral right.
Therefore, in case of applying this resolution, refugees should return to live
peacefully with their Israeli neighbors, and to abide by Israeli law and

He also mentioned that the Palestinian
negotiators should be clear in terms of the concept of return. Does it mean to return to the forthcoming Palestinian state within
1967 borders, or return to their villages and cities of origin, the majority of
which had been completely destroyed? Dr. Khalidi mentioned that the Israeli
community is becoming more and more extremist, which affects the right of
return. In the same vein, Dr. Khalidi believes that the Palestinian negotiator so
far made enormous mistakes in negotiation, and it is time to reconsider such
mistakes for better achievements. Particularly the Palestinian concessions that
exceed the Israeli ones. Finally, Dr. Kahlidi strongly recommended that
Palestinian negotiation delegation should be equipped with experts in international

Dr. Abbas Shiblak, discussed with
the students of the same course “Psychological, social and existential
dimensions of refugee life”, the topic of statelessness of Palestinians. As a
matter of fact, as he said, the Palestinians considered the largest stateless
people in the world. Mentioning the impact of statelessness on their life,
since nationality is the key to life inside or outside one’s country, which
allows “citizens” to enjoy the  services
countries deliver.      

While Arab countries impose
restrictions and complicated regulations in terms of nationality. He explained
three ways of getting nationality, through the father, being born in the
territory, or through nationalizing. While there are two kinds of
statelessness, de jure and de facto.       

Finally, Dr. Shiblak presented the phases
of development of the Palestinian nationality due to the successive governing
regimes, starting from the Ottoman era 1860, ending up with the Palestinian
Authority. He pointed out that some countries use the issue of nationality as a
political tool by granting it for some refugees under the condition of
depositing huge amount of money in the banks of the hosting country for long
periods of time without withdrawing it.