NU-Q webinar on Palestine addresses implications of regional developments

October 19, 2020

A webinar organized by the Palestine Student Club at Northwestern Qatar on “The Future of the Question of Palestine” included analyses and critical insights from Yara Hawari, senior Palestine policy fellow at Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, and Tariq Dana, assistant professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. 

The event, which was co-sponsored by the Liberal Arts Program and moderated by Kayan Khraisheh ’22, president of the student club, focused on the status of the peace process in Palestine in light of recent changes and developments both in the region and globally. 

While the events surrounding Palestine seem to be accelerating at an “alarming and disheartening pace,” Hawari argued for the need to be “sensible and responsible and to contextualize this as part of ongoing policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian struggle for liberation.”

Recent policies passed by the U.S. and Israel, she urged, should be seen as a culmination of interventions that have “disregarded Palestinian rights and aspirations for sovereignty” for decades. “Despite the shock and the hype,” she added, “they did not really break from what has been previously presented to Palestinians as a possible future.”

Hawari said that the same dynamic informs the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, explaining that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Tunisia have historically enjoyed beneficial ties with Israel that involved the sharing of security information, among other economic and diplomatic incentives. 

“I really think that, amongst all of this doom and gloom, it really offers us Palestinians a chance, an opportunity, to recalibrate the Palestinian strategy and to think in a more international or internationalist outlook because what happened in Palestine isn’t only happening in Palestine – it’s happening beyond,” she said.

Dana, however, noted that there’s something “peculiar” about the recent normalization deals with Israel in the region, explaining that while peace accords are generally “concerned with formal agreements, and understandings regarding economics, security, political issues, and mutual interests,” the case with the UAE and Bahrain was “very different.”

Unlike previous attempts to normalize relations with Israel, he said, the recent cases reveal a “blatant excitement” in “falsifying undisputed facts about the conflict” as well as they intersect “with Israel’s strategic vision and historical ambition for positioning itself as a regional and military power.” 

These outcomes, Dana argued, are ushered in by a global economy in which the very notion of a peace process is nonexistent, “simply because the basic conditions of peace are not attainable today,” and they come at a time when “Palestinians are at their weakest point,” both due to “counter-revolutionary” efforts and the “incompetence” of the Palestinian leadership.

“I think the only hope now lies in the ability and willingness of the Palestinians to rebuild their national institutions and to serve the collective interest of the Palestinian people,” Dana said, emphasizing that “the principles of democracy and representation must be incorporated as the core of the project of national liberation and self-determination.” 

The possibility of “a more unified Palestinian faction” and potential sources of support in the wider transnational community were some of the topics addressed in a discussion that followed the event. On the extension of normalization to popular media, Dana said “infiltrating Netflix and other Arab media platforms are part of an Israeli strategy and not a coincidence.” 

Acknowledging that “discourse has a huge impact on political thinking,” the panelists concluded their talk by emphasizing the need for Palestinians to liberate their “imprisoned imagination” from the promises of NGOs and the “two-state solution” and to adopt creative strategies and visions that help them dictate their future policy.