Irish professor analyzes Palestinian and Irish national struggles as former British colonies

English and political science students, academics and researchers from Birzeit University explored the political situation of Ireland and Palestine as former British colonies and sites of national struggle in a talk by visiting professor Brendan Ciarán Browne, professor of Conflict Resolution at Trinity College Dublin, titled “Peacebuilding or Pacification? From the North of Ireland to Palestine,” on May 24, 2022. 

Speaking at the invitation of Birzeit University’s English Language and Literature Department, Browne stressed the solidarity between Northern Ireland and Palestine, critically reading the selective application of the Northern Irish “Peace Process” vs the “Conflict” in Palestine. 

Browne is currently a co-investigator of the project “Palestinian Bedouin at Risk of Forced Displacement: International Humanitarian Law Vulnerabilities, International Criminal Law Possibilities,” supported by the Arts Humanities Research Project. 

Browne argued that the exportation of a Northern Irish peace model to Palestine would promote the discourse of “peacebuilding” and Westernized notions of peace. This discourse, Browne asserted, is silent on colonization, marginalizes the legitimacy of Palestinian anticolonial resistance and prioritizes “peace” over international obligations to promote justice.

Drawing on his personal experiences growing up in Belfast at the time of the Northern Ireland “Troubles,” then moving to Palestine for his professional career, Browne showed his familiarity and understanding of both contexts. He shared an unpopular and critical viewpoint of the wariness of imposing a flawed example of peace from Ireland onto Palestine. He pointed out the limitations of the Irish peace model, with its components of “reconciliation,” “cross-community dialogue” and “sharing political power,” and how these components are highly contextualised and largely silent on colonial history.

According to Browne, the exportation of the Northern Irish peacebuilding model to Palestine promotes normalisation of the status quo rather than creating a catalyst for change. Browne stated how these practices are centred on language of reconciliation. Applying this language in the context of ongoing Israeli attempts at settler-colonial erasure silences Palestinian anticolonial resistance and acts to pacify the population.

Browne instead called for promoting the language of decolonization, placing significance on the rights of the Palestinian people under international law.