Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Journal uncertainty

I’m coming to the conclusion that academic journals are like London buses: you wait ages for one to reply to your submitted article and several all reply at the same time.  So it has happened in the past couple of weeks when several journals sent decisions on papers I submitted, one from last month, another in July and two others after I made the changes requested by the reviewers – in one case two years ago.

So it seems that two of them may soon be published, while in responding to the third I am no clearer to knowing if they will publish it (since they didn’t express any urgency about when I might make the changes) and the fourth will require more work.  Anyway, what this all suggests is that the Christmas-New Year period may not be as calm as I like, since I will need to do some work on these papers.  Still, it’ll be nice to boost my publications total and actually see them in print (fingers crossed – can’t get too confident since I've been waiting for at least one to be printed for over a year now!).
Thoughts on Brazil's development model - shared in public

It was a flying visit back to London at the weekend for the Latin America 2011 conference.  This is an annual event organised by the various solidarity groups and bringing together activists and academics.  I had been invited to present on the Brazil panel, along with Joaobe Cavalcanti (an Anglican priest based in London who is also the Workers Party representative) and Francisco Dominguez of Middlesex University.

I was invited through my involvement with the LSE Ideas Centre and the conference I presented at back in July.  I guess they didn’t realise at the time what making an invitation to me would mean.  But I didn’t feel I could say no: I’ve never been invited to present at a conference before and it’s good to keep my foot in the door on Latin America-related activity, including in the UK.  There was also the matter of the launch for the Right Wing Politics in the New Latin America book, which I contributed a chapter on (it now seems so long ago – the paper I presented at the Society of Latin American Studies conference in Leeds in April 2009 which was the genesis for the chapter and finally sending it to Steve Ludlam, one of the editors, back in July last year).

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Water as resistance

There seems to be a general thread across different aspects of the Palestinian ‘development’ domain. This was brought home to me at yesterday’s workshop, hosted by Birzeit’s International Studies department, on water resources and management. There were a couple of interesting presentations about the situation facing the Palestinians. Indeed the most interesting were those that had a political edge and which, in the words of the rapporteur, focused on how to break the constraints posed by the occupation as opposed to working within them (the latter was addressed in a couple of presentations on intergrated water resources management and the waste water strategy).

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Todos somos palestinos

Last night a friend was showing me the video she was making of the rallies in support of the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Abu Mazen's homecoming following his speech at the UN. It was full of people waving Palestinian flags and posters of the leader himself.  Many of them were wearing the black and white checkered Palestinian scarf known as the keffiyeh.

Then this morning, I was checking out a friend's blog about life on the other side of the world. Being here it's easy to forget that there are other events happening elsewhere, making similar demands for change.  So thanks, Robert, for reminding me of Chile and the efforts being made there to achieve free and fair education.

What is striking is the link between these two political struggles in the simple form of the keffiyeh, no longer a symbol of only Palestinian national identity, but of global social activism:

Some reflections on gender

At the moment I'm preparing a presentation for a workshop and the launch of a report on gender equality and development which we're hosting with the World Bank next week.  This should be interesting and details of the findings that my colleagues worked on at the beginning of the year make for interesting findings.  Granted, the fieldwork was collected in Rafah (Gaza) and Hebron, perhaps the most socially conservative part of the West Bank.  But both have to reflect Palestinian society to some degree.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Looking to New York

You would have to have been locked away in solitary confinement not to know that this week is when the Palestinian state juggernaut goes to the UN and seeks international recognition of the fact.  Walking across Clock Square (or is it now Arafat Square?) my friends and I came across the work team putting up a stage and sound system.  Palestinian flags made up the bunting between the lampposts while in Al Manara Square a few minutes’ walk away a giant blue and white chair to symbolise Palestine’s seat at the UN has been put in place (I intend to get a photo of me sitting on it, which will make me look tiny - UPDATE: That wasn't - and as of today - 9 October - still isn't possible as there always seem to be police around it!).  Meanwhile, the university president sent a circular to all staff this afternoon announcing that anyone who wants to can go attend the demonstration and speeches between 11am and 2pm.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Palestinian politics, unity and the role of religion

I attended the first day of Muwatin’s (the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy) two-day conference on the Arab revolutions and the political and intellectual challenges stemming from them yesterday.  I won’t be able to get to today’s presentations as I have other commitments.  Although the quality of the presentations and discussion was variable, it did present some useful insights and thoughts to consider.

First, I get the sense that there is very much a sense of disconnection from Palestinian society and the leadership.  The focus of the past few months (in case it’s escaped anyone’s attention!) has been on the Palestinian leadership’s drive to achieve recognition for a Palestinian state at the UN next week.  The last couple of weeks have seen reports coming out in the media which have raised a number of concerns in relation to this move, including the status of refugees who would be forgotten if the PLO’s status (which represents Palestinians everywhere, including in the diaspora) is revoked in favour of the PA.  There’s also the question of how to incorporate Gaza and East Jerusalem into the Palestinian state vote as well.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Between fact and fiction?

Flitting back and forth between Ramallah, Birzeit and Jerusalem, I don't normally come up against the occupation.  However, during Friday night some settlers wrote abusive grafitti on the walls outside the main entrance.  One can only imagine that they are trying to provoke things, ahead of the UN vote later this month.  Needless to say, the feeling in the university community is understandably angry and the students organised a protest outside the administration building for this morning.  As a friend said to me on Skype though, What's the point?  After all, it won't be targeted at the perpetrators.  But, as I pointed out, would a demo outside a settlement fair any better?  I can hardly see the army responding in a liberal and tolerant manner.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Achieving Palestinian statehood

[I'm on a roll today: two pieces after months of little action here.  That said, the following consists of some thoughts that have been brewing in my head over the last couple of months, so it was fairly easy to put them down.

UPDATE: An edited version of the article below has gone up at the Ideas blog here.]

In just over a month the question of whether a Palestinian state is recognised by the international community will be put before the UN. Despite the fact that there has been plenty of time to prepare and anticipate for this moment, it still seems uncertain how this is to be achieved in practice. Several factors are in play here – and they are outside the control of the Palestinians themselves.
Where are the current social protests going?

[The following article is now up at the LSE Ideas Centre blog.  Although I can't tell if they've edited for length.]

Tents on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv
When the history of the present is eventually written, 2011 may well be most closely associated with the ‘Arab spring.’ Attention will undoubtedly centre on the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the currently ongoing protests against leaderships from the Gulf to Yemen and violent reaction from the Libyan and Syrian regimes.

However, the pressure for change in the Arab world has not occurred in isolation. The last month has seen the transformation of what was initially a youth movement in Tel Aviv against the high cost of living to encompass all elements of society in Israel. alongside the tents sprouting up along the wealthy Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, the last three weekends have seen the size of the protests escalate, resulting in an estimated 300,000 people marching across Israel under the banner of social justice.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

On Brazil's global rise

(Last month I was a participant at a conference on Brazil and the Americas in the 21st century.  It was jointly hosted by the LSE Ideas Centre and the Fundação Getulio Vargas.  I wrote a summary of my thoughts based on the participants' contributions along with some reading I did in the following weeks for a project I'm aiming to do.  I had hoped that the piece would have been posted on the Ideas Centre blog by now, but since it hasn't I've also decided to post it here.)

UPDATE: This piece has now gone up at the blog.

At a recent presentation to the LSE Ideas Centre, the Brazilian ambassador to the UK, Roberto Jaguaribe, painted a relatively positive picture of Brazil’s regional and global role.  He noted Brazil’s efforts to achieve greater regional integration, from the creation of the Mercosur common market (including Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and, as an associate member, Venezuela) in 1991 to the establishment of the South America-wide UNASUR in 2008.  He reported on Brazil’s increasingly diversified trade relations with the world and its current efforts to open up global governance through its participation in various groups of other state actors, along with the G20.  Brazil’s emergence, along with these other state actors, opens the prospect of change in the nature of international relations more generally.
Donors and Palestinian development

Back in June I was part of a seminar hosted by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) at Birzeit University to consider alternative forms of development in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).  This is an issue which has vexed us for much of the time that I’ve been involved with the CDS, including a conference that was put on in September last year.

The seminar came off the back of a report that I was involved in drafting which consisted of a conflict-related development analysis (CDA) of the OPT.  The seminar focused specifically on the aid community and what it might be able to do differently so as to assist development.  Our main recommendation in the report was that donors’ assistance be directed to support resistance against the occupation.  In particular this means adopting a more rights-based approach to development than has been hitherto applied, where people’s ability to choose for themselves is the primary means when determining how funding be allocated, rather than paying agencies and individuals to do things for them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Arab spring and its conceptual challenges

I haven’t been posting lately. This is partly because I have been focused on writing the first drafts of some papers that I intend to spend the summer revising before submission. But it’s also to do with the fact that I took an extended trip, to Jordan and Egypt. In Cairo I attended a conference on the Egyptian revolution at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the transitions currently underway there. Since getting back I’ve also attended a conference at Birzeit on the Arab spring as well.

I’ve taken away a few interesting points from both. I was especially struck by the limitations we face as scholars to explain what has happened and is happening here in the region. This point was explicitly mentioned by several of the participants at the Birzeit conference, including Saleh Abdel Jawal and Abaher Saka, who noted the focus on old concepts which contributed to a failure to predict the uprisings since Tunisia last December. This was despite all the structural factors being in place according to Laurent Jeanpierre, from rising unemployment among the young, closed political systems and rising opposition outside of the conventional norms. Indeed, this was one of Saka’s main points: that opposition was taking place in new and emerging public spaces that had been overlooked previously.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Slipping standards?

It seems that having a PhD does not go well with politics as events in Germany and Libya seem to attest.  While most criticism is bound to be directed at the individuals concerned, I find myself wondering what the supervisors and examiners were - or rather, weren't - doing in all of this.  Didn't they question the dissertations in front of them?  Didn't they notice the plagirism?  And for the supervisors: did they not see the difference in writing styles between their students and the final product during the course of study?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Palestinians and Israeli reality

One of my criticisms of the Israeli peace camp has been that it does not seem entirely familiar with development taking place on the ground, within Palestinian society. In making that claim I am being rather sweeping and possible unfair; it may well be that there is greater awareness of the nuances within Palestinian political and social life by Israelis than I give credit for. That said, comments like those on Thursday gave me pause for thought, since a generally positive impression of the Fayyad plans and the measures implicit within it overlooks some of the starting points for my critique of the situation within the West Bank (e.g. whether market forces are both feasible or indeed justified in the context of occupation – two distinct issues in themselves). As I also mentioned in my post on Thursday, this needn’t prevent Israelis from being able to get a better perspective and understanding on the situation in the West Bank. There is sufficient material available to anyone who wants it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A tale of disconnection

The last two days have offered an interesting juxtaposition between the reality of the occupation and the relatively disconnected nature of the Israeli peace camp.  Both were troubling.

Yesterday I was in Hebron where there were protests against the closure of Shuhada Street in the old city.  Nearby the Israel army provides a round-the-clock presence for 400 settlers who took over part of the old city in 1980 and live behind high walls, barbed wire and various security measures.  We arrived around 1pm to find the protestors – mainly teenagers and boys – going as far as they could into the old city in the street and along the roof tops and throwing rocks at the soldiers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

First thoughts about the Palestinian Papers

Of course, it can’t go without saying something about the leak of the Palestine Papers by Al Jazeera and the Guardian yesterday. I must find time to work my way through some of the documents. But what are the implications likely to be in both Palestine and Israel? Like Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, I’m inclined to think that the fallout will be more significant for the Palestinians at first. The fallout will hit the individuals’ negotiators’ credibility – although it has to be said that the general public’s mood has been largely sceptical of the leadership’s efforts in recent years. I can’t comment on Robert Grenier’s analysis that the negotiators were no quislings and were working for their people – my instinct is to give them the benefit of the doubt, since all politics is about compromise – but I doubt that the man on the Ramallah omnibus will see them in as favourably a light.
Envisioning Palestinian economic policy

There were three papers presented at the MAS conference on Sunday. Two were general, one by Samir Abdullah that examined the development gap and internal distortions between the West Bank and Gaza and the other by Numan Kanafani, which proposed some models to achieve economic integration between the two areas. A final one, by Abd Al Fatah Abu Shokor, dealt with the Jerusalem economy. Of the three, this was perhaps the least useful, since while it useful on the analysis (as many Palestinian papers are), it wasn’t so good on envisaging a future vision for Jerusalem. He provided very general recommendations, including a structural plan (which according to some of the commentators speaking after him, already appears to be in place, the President’s Office having set up a Jerusalem Unit in 2007 with EU money to complete one and which will be launched next month) and promoting religious tourism around the Haram Al Sharif and supporting ‘steadfastness’( i.e. resistance movements).
Fayyad at MAS

I don’t usually find it useful to go to a meeting or conference to listen to a politician; you can usually find what they think or have said elsewhere. Besides, if it’s a public forum they are less likely to be particularly candid, especially if there plenty of cameras and microphones in front of them. That said, they do have a pulling factor, which the most insightful academic in the world can’t match – mainly because the more critical the academic, the more likely they are to be further away from power and thus to implement their vision.

With that in mind, having been in Palestine for nearly a year now, when the opportunity came to listen to the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, speak at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute’s (MAS) annual conference, I had to go. His shadow has loomed over the course of everything that I’ve worked on over the past year, mainly relating back to his Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State programme, the so-called Fayyad Plan, which has been the government’s main vision for the past 18 months.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hamsters and peace

Back in August I attended a couple of seminars in Jerusalem on security and border issues between Israel and a future Palestinian state, which I’ve blogged about previously. The central challenge among the (Israeli) presenters was how to ensure security for Israel without any direct form of control.

It’s not a new question. I was struck by this as I was digging through the journal section in the LSE library this week (research for an entirely unrelated paper) and came across the first edition of The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations and an article entitled ‘A Proposal for Peace in the Middle East’ by Morton Kaplan.