International Conference on Palestine in a Changing World

Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University held on May 6th and 7th, 2017 an international conference entitled “Palestine in a Changing World” to discuss the question of Palestine under the current changes in the region and the international system. A number of local and international academics, researchers and officials participated in the conference.

The two-day conference, supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, tackled three main issues: a characterization of the international context, including changes in the nature and influence of significant world powers and their effect on Palestine over three decades, an examination to specific world powers and their attitude towards Palestine such as the United Stated, Russia and the European Union, in addition to an analysis of the prospects of achieving breakthroughs in the quest for the realization of Palestinian national goals.

Birzeit University President Abdullatif Abuhijleh pointed in his welcoming remarks to the major changes that occurred in the international system, which make it vital for academic institutions to discuss and analyze the effects of these changes on the Palestinian cause, especially that the country is located in the center of the complicated and tense regional and international systems.

Abuhijleh assured that this conference comes in line with the university’s mission to offer a platform for scholars, academics and diplomats to focus on the main challenges that face Palestinians.

The Director of Konrad Adanauer Stiftung Marc Frings talked about the long-standing relationship with Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, assuring that future development can only be achieved through exchanging and sharing perceptions between experts and students.

The Director of Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies Lourdes Habash said that this conference offers a panoramic view to the changes that are currently occurring in Palestine, the region and the world.

“The conference comes in time where major transformations are happening across the globe, such as the rise of public governments in Europe, the emergence of non-state actors, and the bloody wars in the middle-east. The effects of these changes cannot be excluded from the general context in Palestine, starting from the Palestinian’s prisoners’ hunger strike, to the stagnation of negotiations, and the expansion of illegal settlements,” Dr. Lourdes stated.

One of the main focuses of the conference was a collective analysis of the prospects of the world on Palestine in the 21st century. The panelists spoke about the changes and alterations that are currently occurring in the world and an overview of the position of Palestine today.

Nicolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General saied that global and regional transformations cannot be discussed without addressing the problem of social inclusion that that Arab people are facing. “Analysists should take an in depth look to the question of dignity, identity and people’s political representation.”

The Professor of Political Science and international studies at Birzeit University Ahmad Hamad said that the world is no longer a polarized system. “We are in the era of non-polarization. The United States might be the most powerful country in the world but it is not the only one. The changes in the types of actors and threats, the world’s moves towards regionalism and the emergence of international organizations are all indicators that the world is no longer polarized.”

Hamad emphasized that the states are going towards the politics of identity, where states are struggling to emphasize their values, norms and ideologies.

Commenting on the two papers, Professor of Political Science and the Director of MA Program in International Studies at Birzeit University Ali Jarbawi, said that Non-polarity cannot be reflected to the Palestinian cause amid the dominant role of the United States on this dossier. “Other States and non-state actors do not want to challenge the United States’ hegemony, and even the international law.”

The Panelists in the second session examined the role and attitudes of world powers towards Palestine, such as the United States, examined by the director and senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Michele Dunne, the foreign policy of Russia towards Palestine discussed by the Director of the newspaper online OrientXXL Alan Gresh.

Examining the Palestinian Question within the historical changes and the tensions of the region, researcher and analyst Mouin Rabbani said that the phenomenon of normalizing the relations with Israel that first occurred after the Camp David Treaty, led to the rise of Israel in the region.

Rabbani concluded by emphasizing that the actions that Palestinians take and do not take determine their future.

Professor at Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies Ibrahim Fraihat said that the Palestinian question is not going away as a major regional and international issue. “It is a cause which has maintained an existential hold on Arab identity.”

The prospects for a possible breakthrough in the Palestinian cause were the focus of the concluding session of the conference. Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine in the United Nations Riyad Mansour said that Palestinian officials must examine and make policies within broader and deeper contexts. Palestinians, according to Mansour, should build on the international resolutions that condemn settlements, and promote the European campaign that calls for boycotting Israeli settlements products.

Professor of Cultural Studies and International Studies at Birzeit University Ghassan Khatib examined the means of boosting the Palestinian image within the international community. Palestinians, according to Khatib, should choose the symbols that reflect their identity carefully and represent them as moral actors.