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Resisting Occupation in Palestine

Panel VII-28, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • Although historical accounts of international relations usually close the chapter of colonialism in the 1970s, anti-colonial struggles ensue, under the claim for implementation of the right to self-determination, in asymmetric conflicts marred by prolonged diplomatic processes. Meanwhile, national liberation movements (NLMs) have appealed to states, institutions, and an international network of experts and other social actors, for solidarity, recognition, allies, and material support, as in past struggles for the independence, e.g., of East Timor and Algeria. Addressing two contemporary examples, this research examines the cases of Palestine and Western Sahara, in protracted conflicts with Israel and Morocco, respectively the powers occupying, settling and exploiting these territories. Palestinians and Saharawis have engaged in both armed struggle and diplomacy, and in crucial geopolitical junctures, proclaimed the establishment of their states to then seek recognition. Negotiations initiated in the late 1980s have worked to dilute the very meaning of self-determination, as significant concessions are asked from the occupied while their territories are settled by the occupiers. Meanwhile, Palestinians and Saharawis have worked to consolidate state institutions and foreign relations, in a rights-based approach to resistance and struggle, and also dedicate to human rights advocacy by seeking protection for people under occupation or refuge and accountability for violations. Thus, international law is an essential platform. Yet, by taking stock of these and other cases of apparent neglect, the nature of international law itself and of the capitalist international system that bred it are under scrutiny in the origin of these peoples’ very plight. Hence, through Marxist approaches to International Relations and critical legal studies, this research examines these situations’ recent history and these actors’ tactics in order to grasp the challenges and opportunities found or created by their strategies. Data was collected in 2017 and 2018 through engagement with the civil society actors (CSAs) attending the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, with participant observation and interviews with CSAs and diplomats, and analysis of reports and campaign materials. Research stays in the Saharawi and Palestinian refugee camps in Algeria and Lebanon and participation in various Online events have updated the analysis. The research finds Palestinians and Saharawis’ use of international law to be both pragmatic and compulsory moments of their fight against foreign domination, as anti-colonial revolutionaries such as Frantz Fanon and Mahdi ‘Amel have put it, in their movement of becoming the subjects of history through national liberation.
  • Co-Authors: Zulal Fazlioglu Akin
    Palestine is not universally recognized as a state and experiences only restricted sovereignty. The protracted conflict with Israel limits Palestine’s access to official tools of international relations and diplomacy. Palestine has to rely instead on soft power tools like public diplomacy and international cultural cooperation as alternative avenues of international engagement and communication with the wider world. The paper construes the Palestinian Authority's (PA) cultural policies as tools to preserve and represent its culture in the conflict with Israel in the international as well as the domestic sphere. We develop a map of Palestine’s cultural policy and put the tools into a political context. The present study gives fresh insights into cultural aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It deepens our understanding of the role culture and cultural policy play in intractable conflicts and it contributes to our knowledge of cultural policy-making and cultural diplomacy.
  • Analogical reasoning in law and foreign policy remains an area of contentious debate. Adherents to the practice of analogical reasoning have argued that though imperfect as a method, it builds on past decisions, and as explained by Ronald Dworkin in Law’s Empire, ‘it redescribes the traditional method of legal reasoning by analogy as a source of integrity’ (as cited in Sherwin). Pertaining to law, analogues serve an instrumental purpose, and allow for the preservation of its [law] evolutionary character (Sherwin, p. 1193). Critics, however, have argued that the approach is logically flawed and possibly incoherent. Pertaining to foreign policy, as Khong explained, “More often than not, decision makers invoke inappropriate analogues that not only fail to illuminate the new situation, but also mislead by emphasizing superficial and irrelevant parallels” (p. 12). Moreover, schema theorists have found that individuals hold on to the schemes even when confronted with contradictory information. Building on Khong’s explanation, I argue that the use of analogies in political organizing (not legal advocacy and organizing), more often than not does not serve its intended purpose. Pertaining to law, analogues serve an instrumental purpose, and allow for the preservation of its [law] evolutionary character (Sherwin, p. 1193). Pertaining to political organizing and the attainment of political settlements, however, since analogical reasoning requires putting new information into an existing template, it highlights the deficiencies of the application/comparison. Moreover, as Khong notes, schema theorists have found that individuals hold on to the schemes even when confronted with contradictory information. This paper will examine the analytic utility of such analogies, especially pertaining to the longer term impact on political organizing and policy formulation. Through careful historical analysis of a number of cases, especially the Palestinian territories, and Northern Ireland, this paper will assess the benefits of invoking various analogies as an instrument in political organizing. The paper will examine the unfolding political trajectory pertaining of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and current analogies now in vogue, and examine how the use of such analogies might help or hinder the formulation of political programs that endeavor to respond to current developments, especially the escalation of violence and human rights abuses against Palestinians, and the over-all deterioration in Palestinian quality life. This paper will rely primarily on historical literature that has addressed the various conflicts and related political movements under examination.
  • On January 2, 2020, for the first time in 15 years, Palestinian activist Kifah Adara drew water from the Ein Albeida spring near her West Bank village of Al-Tuwani. The natural water source had been used by Palestinian communities for generations. But a decade and a half ago, Jewish Israeli settlers living nearby started swimming in the spring and using it as a mikveh, a ritual bath, which dirtied the water and made it unsuitable for drinking. Since that time, because of settler violence and intimidation tactics, Palestinians couldn’t access the spring at all. But that was about to change. In a massive nonviolent direct action involving over 150 Palestinian, Jewish Israeli, and diaspora Jewish activists, Adara had decided to reclaim and rehabilitate Ein Albeida. Alongside supporters and allies, she walked from her village to the spring to fill up water buckets for the first time since her youth. The coalition of activists who participated in this co-resistance action with Adara joined her to show their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against occupation and to assert their commitment to justice in the region. This paper examines this and other co-resistance activities in Palestine as an ongoing method of civil disobedience performed collectively by Palestinians and Jews to oppose Israeli policies of military occupation and state violence. Co-resistance means that Palestinians, Israelis, Jews from the diaspora, and international activists resist policies and structures of occupation in collaboration with one another. In the co-resistance model, Palestinians set the conditions for action and invite partners to join them based on the shared commitments to bring a just and equitable end to the Israeli occupation. Based on ethnographic research in Palestine and interviews with nearly two dozen activists, this paper looks at the history and development of co-resistance activism and argues that the nature of this organizing model builds a vibrant, intersectional, and powerful movement that provides evidence on the ground for what a different future might look like for Palestinians and Jews in Palestine/Israel. Although there are many methods and tactics used to resist the occupation, this paper suggests that the co-resistance model is one of the most impactful in showing tangible results to improve the lives of Palestinians while also shifting Jewish relationships to Israeli state violence.
  • In this paper, I discuss the limitations of the settler-colonial paradigm in understanding the contemporary lives of Palestinians. I will argue that while the paradigm and the approach most often associated with Patrick Wolfe is critically useful for grasping settler practices, both with respect to the emergence and embodiment of an Israeli identity, and in its wake, the cruelty of displacement, dispossession, oppression of Palestinians, one is left to consider the extent to which Wolfe’s framing of the practices of settler colonialism “as structure not event” also performs a kind of “elimination” of Palestinian resistance. The argument emerges from an analysis of ethnographic research with Palestinians who live in Israel and who hold Israeli citizenship. While the world’s attention primarily focuses on the experiences of Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and under political and economic siege in Gaza, it is only quite recently, with the reports on Apartheid, that the world's attention has begun to take seriously the lives and experiences of Palestinian citizens of Israel. While their existence and their very identities as Palestinians is continually repressed in the Israeli imaginary (which labels them "Israeli Arabs), Israel's legislative practices are structured by Palestinian resilience. Their experiences force us to reconsider not only the structure of settler practices and how embedded within them is an unsettled or existential anxiety but return us to the repressed and the need for greater understanding of “event”, that is the Nakba or Catastrophe of the dismembering of Palestine in 1947.