From Local to Global: The Persistence of the Palestinian Struggle


The 2014 Palestine Center Annual Conference

“From Local to Global:
The Persistence of the Palestinian Struggle”

Friday, 14 November 2014


Panel I – Palestinian Refugees: Waiting to Return

Participants: Rochelle Davis, Matthew Reynolds and Michael Fischbach

Panel II – BDS: Activism and Strategy for Change

Participants: Ramah Kudaimi, Bill Fletcher and Philip Farah

Panel III – U.S Mediation in the Future of Palestine

Participants: Khaled Elgindy and Ian Lustrick

Panel IV – Jerusalem: A Core Issue

Participants: Diana Buttu, Issam Nassar and Thomas Abowd


Panel I – Palestinian Refugees: Waiting to Return
From Gaza to Yarmouk, Palestinian refugees continue to carry the heaviest burden of statelessness. What challenges faces refugees historically and today? What is the status of collective mobilization among refugees and how are they preserving memory? What can be done to bring the grievances of refugees to the fore both in Palestinian politics and before an international community which has forgotten them? These questions and more will be addressed by the panel.

Rochelle Davis is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. Since July 2013, she is also the Academic Director of the MA in Arab Studies Program. Her most recent research in Jordan and Lebanon has examined both Syrian refugees displaced by the violence in Syria  and Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan and Syria post 2005. Her past research has explored Arab and Arab American identity and Palestinian social and cultural life prior to 1948. She has also collected over fifty oral histories of Palestinian Jerusalemites about their lives in the twentieth century. Her publications include her book Palestinian Village Histories: Geographies of the Displaced; chapter “Mapping the Past, Recreating the Homeland” in the book Claims of Memory, edited by Lila Abu Lughod and Ahmad Sa’di; and numerous articles.

Michael R. Fischbach specializes in land issues relating to Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians. He is the author of numerous books on this subject including State, Society, and Land in Jordan; Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; The Peace Process and Palestinian Refugee Claims: Addressing Claims for Property Compensation and Restitution; and his most recent book, Jewish Property Claims Against Arab Countries.

Matthew A. Reynolds is currently a Washington representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Prior to this he served in the State Department as the Director of House Affaires which he joined in 2003.He has held numerous positions in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, including serving as Staff Director of the House Rules Committee, guiding legislation on the House Floor, as professional staff on the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affaires under Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. 

Panel II – BDS: Activism and Strategy for Change
As the Israeli occupation deepens, despair over what to do to advance Palestinian rights grows. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides an answer that has mobilized and energized many. This panel will look at BDS activities and initiatives globally and in the United States at the community level, as well as specifically through U.S. churches and universities. What is the status of these initiatives, how can they grow and what is next for the BDS movement? Our panel will seek to address these questions.

Bill Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice; and the author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions. Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the web. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO.

Philip Farah is a Palestinian Christian born and raised in East Jerusalem. He immigrated to the US in 1978 at the age of 27. He has lived, studied, and worked in several countries in the Middle East. He now works as a natural resources economist and lives in the Washington DC Metro area with his wife and three children. He is a founding member of the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and co-founder of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace. He has addressed audiences across the U.S. on Middle East peace and justice issues.

Ramah Kudaimi has worked at several grassroots activist organizations including CODEPINK, the Washington Peace Center, and the Arab American Action Network. She has a Master of Arts degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University. Her writing has been published by Al Jazeera English, The Progressive, Truthout, and more.d

Panel III – U.S Mediation in the Future of Palestine
Washington has insisted that any Israeli-Palestinian peace process must go through it. At the same time, it has failed to produce Israeli-Palestinian peace. Can U.S. mediation succeed? What needs to change? If not to Washington, where should Palestinians look to advance their goals? Can Palestinian liberation be achieved without Washington, Israel’s biggest supporter, involved? We will discuss these questions in this panel.

Ian Lustick is a recipient of awards from the Carnegie Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Sciences Research Council, and the United States Institute of Peace. Before coming to the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Lustick taught for fifteen years at Dartmouth College and worked for one year in the Department of State. His present research includes the politics of Jewish and non-Jewish migration into and out of Palestine/the Land of Israel and on prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He is a past president of the Politics and History Section of the American Political Science Association and of the Association for Israel Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Khaled Elgindy
is a Fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He previously served as an advisor to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on permanent status negotiations with Israel from 2004-2009, and was a key participant in the Annapolis negotiations of 2008. He is the author of numerous publications on Arab-Israeli affairs, Palestinian politics, Egypt’s transition, and related subjects, including: “The Middle East Quartet: A Post-Mortem” (Brookings Institution, Feb. 2012); “Palestine Goes to the UN: Understanding the New Statehood Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (Sep./Oct. 2011); as well as “The Impact on the Peace Process: Peacemaker or Peacebreaker?” (with Salman Shaikh) and “The Palestinians: Between National Liberation and Political Legitimacy,” both in the recent Brookings volume, The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East (Nov. 2011).

Panel IV – Jerusalem: A Core Issue

At the very center of the question of Palestine, both geographically and symbolically, is Jerusalem. Politically, economically and socially, the city is more divided than ever before despite being unified under an Israeli occupation. What changes have taken place in Jerusalem? How will this effect any potential agreement over the future status of the city? What is the future of the city and what can be done to protect the rights of Palestinians there?

Thomas Abowd is an urban anthropologist and historian who received his Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University in 2003. His book on spatial politics in contemporary Jerusalem, Colonial Jerusalem: the Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference, was published in 2011 by Syracuse University. In 2006 he received a Post-Doctoral Research Award from the Palestine-American Research Center (PARC), to study housing politics in contemporary Jerusalem. From 2008 to 2009 Dr. Abowd was the recipient of a Faculty Fellowship from the Humanities Center of Wayne State University, to continue research on housing politics and housing-rights activism in Jerusalem.

Issam Nassar is a Palestinian historian of photography and the Middle East. He is professor of History at Illinois State University and a research fellow at the Institute of Jerusalem Studies in Jerusalem. He taught at the University of California at Berkeley in 2006; Bradley University in 2003–2006 and al-Quds University in 1998–2003. Nassar is associate editor of Jerusalem Quarterly and author of a number of books and articles, among them European Portrayals of Jerusalem: Religious Fascinations and Colonialist Imaginations (2006); Different Snapshots: The History of Early Local Photography in Palestine 1850-1948 (2005); and Photographing Jerusalem: The Image of the City in Nineteenth Century Photography (1997).

Diana Buttu
is a lawyer specializing in negotiations, international law, and international human rights law. Early in her career, Buttu worked as a negotiator on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, serving as the only female negotiator during her five-year tenure. She was a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. She also held a fellowship at the Stanford Center for Conflict Resolution and Negotiation. Buttu holds a BA from the University of Toronto, a JD from Queens University in Canada, an LLM from the University of Toronto, a JSM from Stanford University, and an executive MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.