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Contemporary Palestine: Critical Perspectives and Arguments on Control, Autonomy, and Resistance

Session XII-11, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 11:00 am

Panel Description
This panel explores contemporary Palestine through critical perspectives and arguments focusing on control, autonomy, and resistance dynamics. It discusses inward-outward diffusions linking Western intervention, Zionism, and colonialism, with the lived realities of the Palestinians in occupied Palestine. On one hand, the panel problematises the Western Intervention that aimed over the decades to impose liberal idealism and the deny Palestinian self-determination, which resulted in a process of “decontextualization of facts”, leading to harmful policies that undermined actual Palestinian development, while subsidising ongoing Israeli colonisation and dooming the peace process to failure. Additionally, the panel questions the Zionist notion that Israel is "making the desert bloom", which continues to play an instrumental role in greenwashing the colonization of Palestine, through highlighting Palestine’s varied climate, high biodiversity, remarkable agricultural history, and rich environmental knowledge. The panel also makes a case for approaching the study of rural Palestine through foregrounding the transnational forces that shape rural property, labor, and agriculture. This approach offers fresh perspectives to our understanding of Palestinian land politics today, and points towards the sorts of research sites, methods, and questions it opens up. On the other hand, the panel focuses on two dimensions (taxation and Israeli-issued medical permits) to critically discuss interactions and tensions between elements of control and autonomy. It shows how Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip shapes Palestinian fiscal and economic policies at the local level. It also illustrates and analyses the impacts of one of the most pervasive barriers to Palestinian health, namely a complex system of medical permits needed to leave the inadequately resourced Palestinian territories to receive care in Israel or a neighboring Arab state, and correlates that with the so-called Israeli security concerns. In sum, this panel aims to offer the audience and the scholarly literature, original perspectives and arguments on contemporary Palestine through adopting a critical, decolonial, and interdisciplinary approach.
Disciplines
Political Science
Participants
Presentations
  • Western liberal democracies, their ideas, their organizing principles, their perceptions of the Middle East, and their colonial past have been intimately involved in the creation of Israel, Palestinian-Israeli peace-building, and the political economy of Palestine. This paper explores how this operates with continuity to the advantage of Israel and the detriment of Palestinians, as well as peace. It begins with an important example, the 1947 United Nations plan for the partition of historic Palestine. It was developed out of a peace model based on a principle of separating Jews and Palestinians into different homelands, and it demonstrably favoured the ambitions of the former while mostly dismissing the voice of the latter. Such disdain for the aspirations of the indigenous native was par for the colonial era, and set the stage for decades of violence and instability in the Middle East. The paper then explores how that attitude remained foundational to the logic of Western engagement with Israel-Palestine peace-building in the Oslo Peace era that began in early 1990s. In order to support the peace process, Western states began devising and funding large-scale development projects meant to "modernize" Palestinians by imbuing them with liberal-democratic institutions and the accoutrements of civilization, to "enable" them to be well-enough-developed to naturally live alongside democratic Israel in peace in an autonomous state. While pursuing this development model, which was steeped in Washington consensus neoliberal economics and a chauvinist colonial mentality, donors largely silenced the Palestinian voice, ignored Palestinian experiences, and operated oblivious of Israeli colonialism taking place on Palestinian lands and of the grave harm Israeli policies caused for Palestinians. After the Second Intifada, that came to include a focus on providing security for Israel but without any such concern for Palestinians suffering disproportionately from violence. To adopt such harmful positions, Western sponsors of the peace and aid programs had to decontextualize facts, leading to donor aid policies that are separated from reality, undermining actual Palestinian development, subsidizing ongoing Israeli colonization, and dooming the peace process to failure. The paper concludes noting how even the best intentioned Western liberal democratic actors keep undermining peace and reinforcing a violent colonial reality that, to this day, structurally denies Palestinians their right to self-determination and peace in the Middle East.
  • The popular Zionist trope that Israel is "making the desert bloom" continues to play an instrumental role in greenwashing its colonization of Palestine. By falsely portraying the Holy Land as an area that was devoid of people and vegetation, prior to the plantation of the settler colony, Zionists attempt to erase the history and continued existence of Palestinians, or defame them as neglecters of their land to justify the ongoing Nakba. Simultaneously, Apartheid Israel is concocted as an environmental pioneer. I argue that the Israeli green propaganda succeeds due to the entrenched Orientalist depiction of the Middle East as an entirely deserted landscape and its inhabitants as backward, violent, and naturally, unsustainable, as well as the Western human-nature binary that suppresses human rights in the name of environmentalism. In fact, this paper will highlight Palestine’s varied climate, high biodiversity, remarkable agricultural history, and rich environmental knowledge, having, after all, constituted a part of the Fertile Crescent. Then, I will expound the devastation Israel’s White supremacist, misogynistic, and capitalist machinery unleashed upon both the Indigenous Palestinians and the environment, desertifying the landscape, clarifying the intrinsic link between human and ecological interests.
  • This paper makes a case for approaching the study of rural Palestine through foregrounding the transnational forces that shape rural property, labor, and agriculture. It proceeds in three parts. First, we briefly establish some of the key concerns of this scholarship in Palestine, focusing on the agrarian studies of the 1970s-1990s through the work of scholars like Adel Samara, Salim Tamari, Hisham Masoud Awartani, and others. We show how studies of Palestinian agrarian life fit into broader global peasant studies conversations, and why such concerns became less visible in Palestine studies scholarship after the 1990s. Second, we sketch out the geography of how to study agrarian questions in the present day using ethnographic data. We distinguish between studying Palestine and Palestinians, showing how what happens to and on rural land in the territory of historic Palestine must be comprehended by including Palestinian refugees, migrants, and exiles living in Arab states, the United States, Europe, and South America. Third, we show how framing seemingly local questions on the ground in Palestine through an international lens can productively approach long-standing concerns around class, gender, and space, as well as newer issues in the climate change era of commodity circulation and ecological resilience. We conclude by discussing what this approach might offer to our understanding of Palestinian land politics today, and point towards the sorts of research sites, methods, and questions it opens up.
  • Background: One of the most pervasive barriers to Palestinian health is a complex system of medical permits needed to leave the inadequately resourced Palestinian territories to receive care in Israel or a neighboring Arab state. In 2017, it is estimated that 57 Palestinians died due to denial or delay of permits. Proponents insist that these permits and other movement restrictions are necessary due to security concerns. This study will test that argument. Methods: I obtained medical permit data from the Gaza Strip and West Bank for the years 2011-2020 from monthly reports issued by the World Health Organization. To assess whether levels of conflict or security threats influenced the permit approval process, I evaluated the Israeli Global Peace Index and Global Terrorism Index scores (2020) and Israeli fatality and injury data from OCHA (2020). Trends were assessed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis. Findings: From 2011-2019, medical permit applications, especially from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel, have increased as the Palestinian population has increased. However, the percentage of approved permits has decreased annually as the level of denied and delayed permits has increased. Using linear regression, none of the predictor variables- presence of active conflict, GPI, GTI, and number of Israeli injuries/fatalities- showed any statistically significant association with the level of permits approved, delayed, or denied in Gaza. Importantly, almost no reports of medical permit abuse resulting in terrorism could be found. Conclusions: Analysis of the trends in the medical permit system, based on the limited and inconsistent data available, suggests that although Israel has become more secure over the past nine years when the data was compiled, the permit regime has grown more restrictive. Recommendations to improve Palestinian ability to access health care outside of a comprehensive and just political resolution are discussed.