Panel 4C

Palestine and Israel in the World: Diplomacy, Branding and Education

9: 00 – 11.00
Chair: Philip Leech-Ngo, University of Ottawa

Taking it to the UN: An Analysis of the Palestinian Internationalisation Strategy

Philip Leech-Ngo, University of Ottawa

2017 marks 50 years since the beginning of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. In an effort to bring it to an the Palestinian leadership, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, began pursuing a strategy of formal internationalisation of the conflict. This revolved around seeking recognition of Palestinian ‘Statehood’. Despite resistance from the US, Israel (inter alia) The PA was ultimately successful (November 2012), but was subsequently denied similar recognition by the UN Security Council.  Following its success at the General Assembly, the ‘State of Palestine’ joined a range of international organisations, sparred with Israel over access to the International Criminal Court and the religious/cultural status of Jerusalem at UNESCO. But it is, as yet, unclear what these developments mean for the status of Palestine in the context of its relationship with Israel or in terms of the leadership’s standing, at both the international and domestic levels. Moreover, it is clear that thus far it has had no effect at all in terms alienating the day-to-day reality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and Palestinian lives.  Based primarily on primary research – including interviews with key Palestinian diplomats –this article explores and examines the nature and meaning of the recent efforts by the Palestinian leadership to internationalise the conflict by addressing the following questions: (a) are these efforts underpinned by a clear strategy? If so, what is it? (b) what are the likely outcomes of the recent uptick in Palestinian diplomatic activism when examined at international, regional and domestic levels?

Israel/Palestine: A Critical Textbook Analysis of the Question’s History in Western Universities

Seyed Hadi Borhani, University of Tehran

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the purported influence of a pro-Israeli environment in the West on the production of academic knowledge about the Palestine/Israel question. The most popular college textbooks on the history of the question were analysed through textbook and context analysis for answering the key question of the research: ‘How the knowledge of the history of the Palestine/Israel question is presented in Western academia, and why it has been presented in that particular way. The results of the textbook analysis (Historical Narrative Analysis) support the conclusion that textbook knowledge on the question is mainly pro-Israeli in bias. In relation to “why” question, the context analysis offers the ‘Jewish pro-Israeli producer’ as being the main factor for the bias in the products. An additional factor identified is that the relevant knowledge has been produced in a certain, American or Israeli, national and educational environment.

Framing the State? Palestine and the Politics of International Criminal Justice

Michelle Burgis-Kasthala, University of Edinburgh Law School; Australian National University

The paper begins by asking, ‘What does a move to the International Criminal Court mean for Palestinian statehood?’ It will then discuss how the particular discursive structures of International Criminal Law (ICL) are increasingly informing ways of imagining and shaping practices of statehood in the Global South. Although ICL emerged after World War One, this paper seeks to understand the reasons for its prominence as a mode of global governance since the end of the Cold War. In particular, this paper points to the shift that has occurred from statehood as a right to statehood as a responsibility within a broader neoliberal imaginery centring on the individual. It takes Palestine as its case, not as one of exception, but as one of the norm taken to extremes, for in spite of Palestine’s unusual experience of protracted international trusteeship and occupation, it speaks to many encounters throughout the Global South. Various international legal idioms have been vital in the ongoing Palestinian struggle for self-determination and here, this paper is concerned with what possibilities are opened as well as foreclosed through the more recent turn to ICL as the preferred method in achieving statehood. ICL provides valuable but highly restrictive registers of redress for those in the Global South. Such constraints have been reconfigured in Palestine, but only to an extent and in the process, ways of imagining self-determination as ‘responsible’ statehood have thus radically truncated the scope of such insurgent legalities.

Vying for China’s Favour: China’s Growing Role in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Oliver Hayakawa, University of Exeter

In times of increasing instability in the Middle East the Israel-Palestine conflict has been progressively sidelined by its historic international stakeholders and brokers. At the same time other actors have become more involved. China has been increasingly vocal in recent years in supporting a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, presenting recommendations in line with longstanding multilateral initiatives. But as with its political involvement more broadly in the Middle East it has still principally remained a passive actor, based on rhetoric rather than action. Indeed the Mao era legacy of outright support of the Palestinians has wavered as China-Israel relations enter its greatest phase of bilateral trade and investment. In trying to understand what China’s role could be it is paramount to gain an understanding of its vested interests but also the changing dynamics that could shape Chinese policy towards the parties involved. The paper will consider a range of factors that, to varying degrees, contribute towards China’s position and approach in the conflict; including economic, political and societal considerations and motivations. It would appear that even with China’s encouraging words, it is likely to continue pursuing a pragmatic economic approach that will result in greater relations with Israel whilst its ties with the Palestinians, though rooted in historic ideological grounds, will see limited tangible changes.

Brand Israel’s Cultural, Minority and Queer Emissaries in the West: Hasbara, Public Diplomacy or Propaganda?

Hilary Aked, University of Bath

Israel relies on western material support, especially from the US. The spread of the idea that its policies resemble “apartheid”, and growth of the BDS movement, threatens to erode that support. Israel’s flatlining image has thus come to be seen as a national security issue and one of the government’s responses has been to send more unofficial emissaries abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has intensified its “export” of culture to “show Israel’s prettier face” so it is not viewed only in the context of war. The instrumental role of the Israeli embassy in staging the Shalom Festival in Edinburgh is a case in point. The government is also outsourcing through “citizen diplomacy” (Melissen 2005), conscripting ordinary Israelis to serve as “brand ambassadors” (Dinnie 2008) in its public relations war abroad. It launched a “Masbirim Israel” (Explaining Israel) campaign, to “motivate Israelis traveling abroad to speak up on behalf of Israel” (Ahren 2010), the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency helps to recruit multilingual volunteers (Aouragh 2016), and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy explicitly seeks to recruit minorities and LGBT people to act as advocates, seemingly to counter accusations of racism and to tap into the “new queer nationalism” (Franke 2012). This paper argues that the “Brand Israel” project within which these initiatives sit – heralded by its instigators as a “paradigm change” for hasbara – fuses corporate marketing mentality with echoes of the Cold War (Wilford 2008) and exposes the propagandistic potential of public diplomacy and the emerging field of nation branding.

Zionism and the Spread of Anti-Semitism Among Palestine’s Arab Population

Erik Freas, Borough of Manhattan Community College-City University of New York

The paper traces the growing pervasiveness of anti-Semitism among Palestine’s Arab population during the latter part of the nineteenth century, and argues that—based on the chronology of the historical evidence—it was Zionism that was the primary driver of this. Prior to the advent of Zionism, what anti-Semitism existed in Palestine was primarily confined to its Christian population; largely reflected European influence; and was almost wholly theologically based. Christian prominence in this regard was especially evident in the conspicuous role they played in a series of anti-Semitic incidences that took place mid-century, wherein Jews were accused of using Christian blood in religious rituals. The most famous of these was in Damascus, though Jerusalem saw similar incidences. That it was reflective of European influence is evidenced (among other things) by the fact that, initially, anti-Semitism was more common among Palestine’s Latin Catholics than its Orthodox Christians, who made up the majority of Palestine’s Christians, and were the most highly integrated with respect to the broader Muslim population. The advent of Zionism towards the end of the century, however, would see this rapidly change; Orthodox Christians very quickly began to adopt anti-Semitic notions, a development greatly enhanced by Russian missionaries. Muslims soon following suit, and while it is true that Jews had never enjoyed an especially positive image in the Muslim world, Muslim negativity regarding them now became more explicit; increasingly incorporated anti-Semitic notions borrowed from Christians Arabs; and was increasingly linked to the threat posed by Zionism.