Scholars Discuss Economy Under Colonization in Groundbreaking Conference

Birzeit Institute for Women's Studies and the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies September 14, 2015 held a joint conference to address the topic of “Palestinian Economy: Fragmentation and Colonization,” in cooperation with the political, social and economic collective known as Al-Marsad, the Kenyon Institute and the Palestinian Policy Network.

Vice President for Community Affairs Lisa Taraki delivered the opening speech, during which she noted that the conference embodies the concept of engagement between the university as an academic institution and the broader community by contributing to public dialogue concerning crucial issues.

“The conference is part of growing efforts in the field of Palestinian studies to revive the critical political economy perspective in studying Palestine’s issues,” she told attenders, “a perspective or a school that repositions the economy within its wider social and political context instead of secluding it from key social factors as a merely technical issue similar to what most international institutions and governments’ reports do."

Al-Marsad director Iyad Riyahi said the conference is significant in light of a growing discussion within the Palestinian society about many economic notions that hide the effects of unjust political solutions. “Such notions have became affective tools in promoting the illusion behind good governance, reform, and ending poverty,” he said.

The conference was the first in a political economy project led by the Arabic Studies Institute in Beirut, using research and educational goals that fit with Al-Marsad’s vision to provide the grounds to study and analyze economic and social policies and their effects on the community.

The conference’s first session was entitled, “The political economy of fragmentation and placement,” during which Engineer Ali Abu Shahla discussed Gaza’s economy after three wars. Meanwhile, Ramzi Naser tackled the issue of the economy of a one-state solution and Amtans Shehadeh discussed the economic ties between Arabs living in historical Palestine and the West Bank. The session was moderated by Abdul Karim Bargouthi and presented comments made by Mandi Turner.

During the second session, “The latest developments in the Palestinian political economy,” Nida Abu Awwad discussed how women’s use of the unofficial economy has been a space for resistance in the colonized Palestinian context. Noor Arafe spoke about the political economy of the information technology and communications sector, while Feras Jaber addressed the relationship between international donors, the Palestinian Authority and the private sector. The session was followed with commentary by Ellen Kattab and was moderated by Tariq Dana.

The third and fourth sessions were moderated by Iyad Riyahi and Rami Salamah, respectively. Panelists Mahmoud Ziyad, Hanan Banoura and Minwal Abdul Aal discussed the issue of the struggle for social and economic rights and the role of unions, gender and social security and minimum wages issues and the reasons behind the union’s declining role. “Development discourse in Area C” was the topic of the fourth and last session, joined in by Engineer Fuad Abu Seif, Lina Miari and Rima Hammami. Samiya Batma offered commentary on the last panel.