The Palestinians: History, Agency, and Future Prospects

The 2016 Palestine Center Annual Conference 

“The Palestinians: History, Agency, and Future Prospects

Friday, November 11, 2016

8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The 2016 Palestine Center Annual Conference will examine the current situation of Palestine within overlapping historical, sociological, and political contexts. Panelists will examine the centrality and marginalization of Palestine in the recent conflicts in the Middle East with a retrospective gaze at Sykes-Picot and the legacies of the British Mandate on Palestinians in the present, as well as the changing role of the United States and the still undigested effects of the “Arab Spring”. They will analyze the continuing reality of Israeli military occupation and incursions into Gaza, illegal settlements, intensified domination of Jerusalem, and detentions of Palestinian children. They will also offer perspectives on Washington’s policy toward Israel and Palestine, in light of this year’s presidential elections, as well as the challenges to the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in the United States and internationally.

Conference Schedule

Keynote Address: Ambassador Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations

Panel 1: Legacies of the British Mandate and the Changing U.S. Role in the Conflicts of the Middle East
Participants: Phyllis Bennis, Dima Khalidi, Rami Khouri, Dr. Jenab Tutunji 

Panel 2: Living with Israel’s Hegemony
Participants: Dr. Thomas Abowd, Brad Parker, Dr. Abdelhamid Siyam

Speakers’ Biographies

Keynote Address:

Dr. Riyad H. Mansour is Ambassador and Permanent Observer to the State of Palestine to the UN, as well as non-resident Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. He joined the Permanent Observer Mission of the PLO to the UN, New York, in 1983 as Deputy Permanent Observer, and has since represented Palestine in several committees and bodies of the UN. Dr. Mansour has also worked in the private sector and served as adjunct Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Central Florida. He holds a PhD in Counseling from University of Akron, in Ohio, and has published several studies and articles about the Palestinian community in the US.



Panelists (in alphabetical order by panel)

Panel I: : Legacies of the British Mandate and the Changing U.S. Role in the Conflicts of the Middle East

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and she directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist and analyst on Middle East and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues. She is the author and editor of many books, including Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror: A Primer, the 6th updated edition of her popular Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, as well as Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power.

Dima Khalidi is the founder and Director of Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights. Her work includes providing legal advice to activists, engaging in advocacy to protect their rights to speak out for Palestinian rights, and educating activists and the public about the repression of Palestine advocates. Prior to founding Palestine Legal, Khalidi worked with CCR as a cooperating attorney on the Mamilla Cemetery Campaign, drafting a Petition to United Nations officials to act against the desecration of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. As a volunteer and an intern at CCR, she has worked on numerous cases that sought to hold Israeli officials and corporations accountable for Israeli violations of international law, including Belhas v. Ya’alon, Matar et al. v. Dichter and Corrie v. Caterpillar, as well as on CCR’s Guantanamo Bay docket. She has advocated on Palestinian rights issues in media forums such as the New York Times, the Jewish Press, The Hill, The Real News Network, Mondoweiss, Huffington Post, Law and Disorder Radio, and Radio Tahrir.

Rami George Khouri is an internationally syndicated political columnist and book author, and adjunct professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut. He was the first director, and now senior fellow, at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB. In addition, Khouri has been a nonresident senior fellow at the Kennedy School of Harvard University for the past decade, is the former editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper and the Jordan Times newspaper in Amman, and has published op-ed articles in the world’s leading newspapers. In 2006 he was awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Prize. In addition to teaching or lecturing annually at numerous universities including AUB, Harvard, Mount Holyoke, Princeton, Syracuse, The Fletcher School at Tufts, Northeastern, Denver, Oklahoma, Villanova, and Stanford universities, Khouri has been a member of the Brookings Institution Task Force on US Relations with the Islamic World, and a Fellow of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (Arab East Jerusalem).

Dr. Jenab Tutunji is an academic and former journalist. He has taught at George Washington University since 1995 on Middle East subjects and comparative politics and political economy, and has also taught at Georgetown and American Universities. He is currently a political-economic analyst at the  United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, DC. As a journalist, he has worked as Deputy Managing Editor then Managing Editor of the Jordan Times (1976-80), as well as Assistant Editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies in Beirut, Lebanon (1975-76). His publications include “A Bi-national State in Palestine: the Rational Choice for Palestinians and the Moral Choice for Israelis,” (with Kamal Khaldi), International Affairs, vol. 73, no. 1 (January 1997), “Sources and Consequences of Human Rights violations in Iraq”, in S. Horowitz and A. Schnabel (eds), Human Rights and Societies in Transition (2004), and “Arab American writers, the Mahjar Press, and the Palestine Issue,” (with Edmund Ghareeb) in Arab Studies Quarterly (Winter 2016).

Panel II – Living with Israel’s Hegemony

Dr. Thomas Abowd is an urban anthropologist and historian who received his Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University. He teaches in the Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora Program at Tufts as well as American Studies and Anthropology. His book on spatial politics and colonial urbanism in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem is entitled Colonial Jerusalem. He has been involved in activist and scholarly projects related to the Middle East for more than 25 years and is currently writing about neo-liberal urban space in Flint and Detroit and Arab-Americans..

Brad Parker is a staff attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children International – Palestine, an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization based in Ramallah dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip ( He specializes in issues of juvenile justice and grave violations against children during armed conflict, and leads DCIP’s legal advocacy efforts on Palestinian children’s rights. Parker regularly writes and speaks on the situation of Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly issues involving detention, ill-treatment and torture of child detainees within the Israeli military detention system, and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. He leads DCIP’s US Program and is a graduate of the University of Vermont and received his J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law.

Dr. Abdelhamid Siyam is Professor of Political Science and Middle East Studies at Rutgers University. He is a United Nations veteran, having served 26 years in the Department of Public Information, Department of Political Affairs, and Department of Peacekeeping for which he served as a Spokesman in Western Sahara, Iraq and Pakistan/Afghanistan. In this last capacity, Dr. Siyam was a Spokesman for the late Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in Baghdad on August 19, 2009 when the UN headquarters were attacked, resulting in the deaths of 21 other colleagues. He is also the Bureau chief of the Pan-Arab daily Alquds Alarabi, is the author of the book, That Horrible Day, and has appeared as commentator on many Arab and non-Arab radio and satellite stations including Al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi, Al-Arabiya, Kuwait TV, Bahrain TV, BBC, KSA2 Saudi TV, and Sky News.