As part of its Question of Palestine Program (QPP), the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) held an international conference titled “Rethinking the Question of Palestine: Policy Options in an Age of Transition” on December 11,2022, that brought together key stakeholders and experts in Jordanian and Palestinian policies.
Marking 75 years since the UN Partition Plan, the conference brought to the fore the centrality of the Question of Palestine to Jordan, the global developments that have been putting unprecedented pressure on the socioeconomic situation of both Jordanians and Palestinians, as well as UNRWA’s struggle with an ever-more serious financial crisis.
ARDD Board of Trustees Chairman Prof. Dr. Zaid Eyadat said that to understand the political changes and transformations that have affected the Palestinian cause, one has to forego the old manner of analysing and interpreting international politics, and adopt a modern perspective that takes into account developments and political contexts. He also said that the Question of Palestine is on the brink of undergoing radical re-evaluation, which requires use of modern science and future-oriented solutions and policies to confront the Israeli measures, be they related to the Judaization of Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem or to designs on the Palestinian territory as a whole.
Question of Palestine Program Manager at ARDD´s Al-Nahda Center Dr. Lex Takkenberg said that “Palestine is undergoing a major transformation, with developments in the Israeli arena where the extreme right is rising to power, and the denial of the right of return to more than 6 million Palestinian refugees.
As such, the concept of justice for the Palestinian people must be rethought, he said, particularly in light of the many reports condemning Israel for its colonialism and apartheid. He also highlighted the fact that Israel invests hundreds of millions to fight civil and human rights organizations and the free press that exposes its criminality and continuous attacks against the Palestinians.
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 Francesca Albanese stressed in her keynote address the need to adopt a paradigm shift when tackling the Question of Palestine, especially now, in view of Israel’s systematic violence and aggression targeting civilians, and, more importantly, of the international censure of Israeli violations of human rights. Albanese, who was recently banned by Israel from entering Palestine to report on the situation there, after her last report that had great international resonance, called for a rethink of the Question of Palestine, and for working to develop a long-term strategy with international law at its core. She also stressed that fighting for the right of return should not be at the expense of other human rights and better living conditions.
The conference had two sessions, one titled “75 Years Beyond Partition: Towards a new Paradigm?” the other tackling Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram Al Sharif: Challenges to the status quo.
The first dealt with developments related to the Question of Palestine, including those affecting Jordan and Palestine. Its moderator, Dr. Omar Al-Rifai, stressed the need to explore new ways to study the conditions of the Palestinians under occupation and of ways forward.
Tackling violence, Israeli elections, and Palestinian reconciliation, the director of the Jerusalem Center for Political Studies, Oraib Al-Rantawi, said that the establishment of the State of Palestine is a supreme national interest for Jordan, as economic, political and security dimensions branch out from this.
Rantawi said that “we are facing a fascist state that hates the Arabs and the Palestinians”, a state that goes far in its racist extremism, adding that division contributed to obstructing and delaying the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Kjersti Berg from the Norwegian Christian Michelsen Institute said that the Palestinian refugee crisis is the largest in the world. She stressed that refugees in camps face problems such as food insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and deteriorating health conditions, and that they are now feeling the decline in the quality of services provided by UNRWA, which constitutes a great worry for the future.
In the context of finding a new conceptual framework for the Palestinian cause, Palestinian Professor Bashir Bashir said that “all the terms that dominated our political dialogue during the past decades need a new understanding, and we need to unleash our imagination and adjust our narrative to reflect the reality in which we live”.
He stressed that it is time come to call Israel’s a “fascist colonialism” and to think about ways to evaluate and diagnose the rapid transformation of the issues of the Palestinian people and their direct connection with the Arab world.
The other session, which was moderated by Dr. Mariam Abu Samra, senior research officer at Al Nahda Thought Center, discussed the worrying number of Israeli settler incursions in Al Aqsa Mosque and Haram El Sharif compound, and the extent to which this challenges the long-held status quo with respect to the governance of the complex.
In an overview of recent developments, international advocacy official at the Community Action Center at Al-Quds University Munir Marjieh stated that over the past two years, Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was subjected to more than 30,000 attacks. He also pointed out that the policy restricting population gatherings goes beyond the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to reach Palestinians in towns and villages inside Israel.
Assistant Professor of Law at Al-Quds University Dr. Munir Nusseibeh stressed the importance of international law when about it comes to solutions for the future, considering that “international law is neither with us nor against us, and our problem is linked to international politics”, which still fails to condemn Israel’s crimes.
International lawyer and founder of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law Dr. Anis Al-Kassim talked about various legal issues, including the case filed by the State of Palestine with the International Court of Justice after the US administration moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, on May 14, 2018.
Regarding Jordan’s role in the holy places in Jerusalem, advisor at Al-Nahda Thought Center Jalal Al Husseini said that “the Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Places has focused on protecting Islamic sites since 1924, during the reign of Sharif Hussein bin Ali”, adding that Jordan’s right to supervise the religious affairs in Jerusalem was enshrined in the Wadi Araba agreement, yet the situation is more and more worrisome in view of recent pressures, and requires serious attention from all those concerned.
Economist and former minister of economic affairs Dr. Yusuf Mansur, emphasized the need to give the Palestinian people the right to speak for itself and make its voices heard in the world. He talked about the role of civil, developmental, educational and political institutions in educating and supporting the Palestinians to confront the Israeli occupation and oppression. He also pointed to the distinction between the will of governments and the will of people, and to the importance of thinking about future strategies and consensus so that the Palestinians can enjoy their legitimate rights. It is also important, he said to provide all forms of support to Palestinian refugees around the world, to help improve their living conditions, and urged stronger institutional role, which can do more than individual efforts due to its legal, political and official status.
In conclusion, the participants stressed the importance of continued efforts of all concerned parties, and of the use of legal tools, among other means, to secure the return of refugees, improve their conditions, and reach a just solution to the Palestinian problem.