Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice
International conference and Study tour
Keynote Speakers: Dr Rabab Abdulhadi (SFSU) and Dr Robin D G Kelley (UCLA)
South Africa’s history of struggle against colonialism, settler colonialism and apartheid with different streams of resistance has been amply documented. Today, apartheid remains one of the worst crimes ever against humanity. Parallels have been drawn between South Africa’s apartheid rule and Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, on one hand, and the resistance against settler colonialism in Palestine and South Africa. .
The South African anti-apartheid struggle was led by internal and external forms of resistance and struggle. A mix of social, political, economic, and cultural struggles involved movements of workers, students, religious organisations, political and community that culminated into what Neville Alexander, described as “the multi-faceted resistance focusing on curricula, language, culture and broadly, the national project”. In Palestine, anti-Zionist resistance has appropriately taken multiple shapes and forms in all geographies of dispossession, displacement and precarious existence. Against such brutal oppression Palestinians have been facing mutlit faceted expressions of (settler) colonial erasure and exhibit the sort of justice-centered knowledge production that is counter-hegeomonic and challenges every aspect of paternalist, authoritarian and colonial ideologies and policies in learning spaces globally and locally.
Campus activism has been widely documented in the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist project and in other contexts, including the last 50 years in Mexico, Senegal, Tunisia, France and the US. Especially prominent is the 1968 SFSU Student Strike led by the Black student Union (BSU) and the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). The 50thanniversary of the Spirit of ’68 continues to inspire the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) Program. The resolute Palestinian students and faculty mentors who face Israeli colonial military and political brutality, killings, abductions and incarcerations are too familiar in South African history of oppression and resistance. In both situation, and other anti-colonial resistance, collective memories and oral history archives, remind us of the oppressor’s goals of targeting education, erasing histories of struggle and the generations it produces. As a result, decolonising the curriculum has been a rallying call epistemologically, intellectually and politically within and outside campus grounds.. Iran, Cairo, Beirut, Tunisia, Algeria, Senegal, Pretoria, Soweto, Birzeit, Nablus, Gaza and Hebron has resonated with San Francisco, Oceanhill-Brownsville, Mississipi, Georgia and Havana. The call for the decolonisation of everything in the educational system through curricular innovation, pedagogical approaches, the language we use and the questions we ask has been reflected in the campus uprisings in the 1970s and 1980s and their re-invigoration the 2015 and 2016 Fees Must Fall movement in South Africa. This movement brought together the decolonizing mission of decolonizing the mind that Biko, Fanon, and others in the Palestinian, Vietnamese, Cuban, Indigenous and African movements for national liberation spoke and theorized about. Holding the state accountable for what public education must be challenges the structures of power to live up to their claims and pronouncements. This has been evident in the Palestinian case and in the case of South Africa. This has been increasingly evident in the violent pressure applied by the United States and other international donor agencies, such as the World Bank, to impose revisions in Palestinian curriculum. The case of South Arica And public institutions in the global south in this respect is neither isolated nor coincidental.
While post-1994 South Africa stands as one of the most vocal African supporters of Palestinian resistance, especially when compared with pre 1994 and the strategic collaboration between Israel and the Apartheid regime, It is not surprising that insisting on justice-centered knowledge production for/in Palestine an elsewhere in the world has been subjected to relentless Zionist campaigns including Christian-Zionist misinformation. These smear campaigns seek to disrupt activists, researchers, students who engage in the praxis of Palestine as justice-centered praxis, nonetheless the power of justice-centered knowledge production and the necessity of decolonizing the curriculum has marched forward and has clearly and unambiguously denormalized oppression and questioned the very premise of the corporate university in Palestine, South Africa as well as the in the United States. The broadening of no-business-as-usual labor and intellectual call for the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been evident at the Tshwane University of Technology which declared its refusal to cross the academic-justice-picket line in December 2017, declaring that it will not enter any partnerships with Israeli institutions until and unless Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. South African civil society, including labor, women and religious organisations, have also independently and collectively pressured the South African government to unapologetically support the Palestinian struggle and reclaim the legacy of the South African freedom struggle. Civil society organizations have called on the South African government to cut off diplomatic, economic and cultural ties with the Israeli state. The South African government has followed the anti-Apartheid mass movements in South Africa and refused the Israeli offensive to recolonize and normalize settler colonialism in the African continent. As a result South Africa has fended off Israeli attempts to gain observer status in the African Union (AU).
It is against this backdrop of past and current principled struggles and pedagogies that in South Africa and Palestine that we seek to historicise and contextualise the praxis of Palestine in a counter-hegemonic knowledge production. This Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice challenges the anti-Palestinian ideological (and colonial) tilt in South Africa. Initiated by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED), this is project is co-sponsored by the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) and universities and research centres in Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza, Jerusalem, the 1948 areas and in the Palestinian exilic Diasporas. . Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justiceinternational conference and study tour will be convened in South Africa in March 2019.
Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justiceinternational conference and study tour will be convened in South Africa on March 18-19, 2019 (international conferences), and March 20-25, 2019 (study tour).The two-day international conference will bring together South African and international participants to contextualise the praxis of Palestine as a justice issue in its multiple manifestations and nuanced dialectics. The conference will also examine the tensions and contradictions of the academy and the community dialectic, bringing up questions of social movements and intellectual inquiry.
The Teaching PalestineSouth African conference on March 18-19, 2019 will take place at two sponsoring universities (in Johannesburg and Pretoria) in a formal conference setting. Building on multi-site conversations inside and outside the academy, scholars, advocates and activists will weave theory and praxis in pedagogical intellectual and community imaginaries, teaching about justice-centred knowledge production on Palestine.
International participation is invited. Such participation must be historically contextualised and currently relevant to justice-centred knowledge production in ways that intentionally invoke and take into account opportunities and limitations of comparative analysis. We particularly seek participants from the global North and South with the understanding that the North exists in the South and vice-versa. This is aimed at challenging the boundaries of what teaching and learning mean, in settings including, but not limited to, scholarly associations, university classrooms, prisons, community centers, , formal and informal labour settings, social movements and activist’s contexts as well as informal teaching and learning spaces.
Interested participants are hereby invited to submit a 300 word abstract of individual presentations or 500 word proposals along with individual abstracts of pre-organised panels, roundtable (Other creative format is also welcomed) no later than January 18, 2019. In addition, the submission must include a 250 word bio for each participant, including pre-organized panels, roundtables and/or other format. An international committee will review and approve proposals. Notification of accepted proposals will be made by January 31, 2019. Full papers must be received by March 1, 2019.
Please submit your proposal to co-coordinators of the Teaching Palestine South African project to:
To ensure reciprocity in intellectual/community exchange and to deepen the sense of solidarities, a select group of Teaching Palestineconference participants will spend five days of formal and informal interaction with communities, activists, religious leaders, worker’s, trade unions, students in townships and campuses in learning South Africa’s resistance and struggle culture. In the process, conference participants will visit geographies of South African anti-apartheid resistance.
Conference Concept Note
Between society and state: (r)Evolution of non-state actors in the MENA region
Since the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa that began in 2010, there has been a sustained focus on the role of non-state actors in the region, both armed groups as well as various civil society actors. As the uprisings unfolded, faltered, were undermined, or succeeded (in one case, at least), this focus remained constant. These developments also saw an interesting interplay between civil society and ‘political society’.
The theorisation of civil society is not uncontested. While the dominant discourse today regards civil society as a collection of voluntary organisations and NGOs (the ‘associational’ view) operating outside the state and providing a kind of protection for citizens against the state, Gramsci, for example, views civil society as part of the state or as a protective barrier for the state. But the current mainstream understanding is of civil society as mediating between the state and the individual, engendering democratic culture within the population, and, even, as a sector to which the state might abdicate its service provision responsibilities. The dominant romantic notion of what civil society organisations are also is tenuous, with some critics contending that they are often non-democratic, hierarchical structures that are sometimes vulnerable to state co-option, to use them to repress or marginalise radical ideas, and to weaken opposition to government policy. Shades of these different meanings present themselves in the MENA region.
In general, there is a hesitance to include armed non-state actors as part of civil society. This is partly due to the fact that the current dominant understanding of civil society is of societas civilis, a realm of voluntary and non-violent organisations. This notion is often used by governments to forestall efforts at transformation. In a broader sense, however, armed non-state actors might be regarded as part of civil society, depending on their objectives, methodologies, etc.
As a whole, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region hosts thousands of non-state actors, spanning various forms of civil society and including armed actors. Such groups have proliferated since the beginning of the MENA uprisings at the end of 2010, and include numerous foreign and international civil society groups, as well as foreign involvement in armed groups. In many states that are more tolerant to civil society actors, indigenous civil society actors exist alongside foreign actors and armed groups. Because of state repression, however, some states had no civil society groups to speak of before 2010. In some of these, such as Tunisia, civil society burgeoned after the uprisings. In others, such as Libya, the civil society vacuum that had existed was filled by a proliferation of armed militias.
In some states in the region, civil society groups exist alongside armed non-state actors such as Hamas and Hizbullah, in Palestine and Lebanon respectively. In many cases, such groups are led by political parties which play roles in governance.
Since the 2010-11 MENA uprisings, the focus on civil society organisations in the region has intensified, especially since many foreign powers believed that these alone inspired the uprisings and thus sought to co-opt them, and they were, simultaneously, romanticised and demonised. Most governments in the region, on the other hand, sought to suppress groups they perceived as opposing their dictatorial control. Often, organisations that sought to remain independent of foreign machinations as well as domestic cooption by authoritarian regimes, found themselves in precarious positions. In addition, the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, and Libya forced the space available for civil society action to shrink, while increasing the desperate need for their existence.
The development of civil society in the MENA region occurred in four main phases. The first was before western colonisation, with the growth of religious organisations, guilds, and service organisations over centuries. Phase two, during the colonial era, saw the establishment of institutions such as trade unions and political movements, alongside popular demands for independence. The third and post-independence phase occurred between the 1960s and 1990s, when new regimes instrumentalised civil society organisations, especially those dealing with service provision, to temper citizens’ need for political participation. The last phase, from the mid-1990s, was enhanced by technological advances, and saw groups in different MENA countries inspired by international ideas of democracy and seeking to leverage international networks to advocate for such rights.
By the late 2000s, thousands of civil society organisations existed in the region, including local chapters of international NGOs, though in a few countries organisations not affiliated to the respective regimes were proscribed.
As the uprisings unfolded in 2011, certain foreign governments sought to use civil society organisations as a means of securing their interests in the affected countries and in the MENA region. Generous funding was made available, as was training in media and other skills. At the same time, civil wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya resulting in these states not able adequately to provide for their citizenry, thus increasing the need for CSOs to assist.
These themes will be interrogated in 2018 international conference of the Afro-Middle East Centre, which will bring together and roleplayers from the MENA region and outside it. The roles and future of civil society groups and other non-state actors will be debated with a view to understand the trajectory of societies in the region.
Tuesday, 28 August 2018
Opening Session: 09:00- 10:00
Opening speeches: Zane Dangor
10:00 -10:30 Tea break
Session One: 10:30 – 12:00
Conceptualising civil society in the MENA region
Lunch: 12:00- 13:00
Session Two: 13:00- 14:30
The architecture: Non-state actors in political, military and social spaces
14:30 – 15:00 Tea break
Session Three: 15:00- 17:00
Manifestations of civil society in MENA
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
Session Four: 09:00-11:00
State and civil society in the MENA region
11:00 – 11:30 Tea break
Session Five: 11:30-13:30
Negative side of civil society in the MENA region
Lunch: 13:30 -14:30
Session Six: 14:30 -16:30:
Future of non-state groups in the MENA region and links beyond
Closing Session 16:30-17:00
Date: 17 - 18 October 2017
Venue: Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, 643 cnr Stanza Bopape
A century ago, the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed, carving up parts of the Middle East between French, British and Russian spheres of influence in the event that the Ottoman Empire collapsed. That agreement led to the formation of a number of states – as preferred by the British and French, and had a profound influence in shaping what the region looks like today. The sponsors of Sykes-Picot imposed a nation state system that has not served the interests of the people of the region. Also a century ago, penned in November 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised the Zionist movement that the British supported the creation of a Jewish state on land whose residents were not consulted. A hundred years later, the state in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is in crisis, and substantial credit for that is due to these two documents.
Recently, the MENA uprisings that began in December 2010 have had a massive impact on the social contracts that previously governed state-society relations. While the gains of the uprisings (except in Tunisia) have largely been reversed, or have led to civil wars, some elites in the region sought to protect their states by quelling dissent through financial incentives; others intensified the repression that had already existed. While the region remains fragmented, most states find themselves floundering, and governance has effectively collapsed in Yemen, Libya, and Syria, there are also attempts to create new states, with varying degrees of recognition by the international community. Sections of the Kurdish population; the Palestinians; the Saharawi; and the Islamic State group have all either attempted to create states, or to get recognition to formalise states which do not exist in reality.
The concept of the state is a contested one in political theory and international relations, with various understandings of what criteria are sufficient for a state to exist, the role of recognition in the existence of states, what defines a state as a person in international law, the role of the economy (and capitalism) in defining a state, and so forth. Some of the contestation is ideological, and related to the limits on the roles and functions of a state. The role of the United Nations in defining and recognising states became crucial in the second half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, criteria are not always applied uniformly or universally, and, often, dominant states bend definitions and offer or withhold support on the basis of their interests rather than any theories or agreed-upon definitions.
Although still contested, perhaps two understandings of the state that have become most accepted are those of Max Weber and the 1933 Montevideo Convention. Weber argued that the state was a political organisation with a centralised government ruling over a given territory, and where that organisation holds a ‘monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force’ in the enforcement of its order. The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States defines a state as a space possessing a permanent population; a defined territory; and a government capable of maintaining effective control over the territory, and of conducting inter-state relations. The questions of whether and how these approaches apply to states in the Middle East before 2010 – and since – will form part of the deliberations at this conference.
Studies of state formation in the MENA region have, in the main, focused on two key elements: political economy and social factors. The former includes the provision of rents (especially through oil resources), and ‘strategic rents’ (financial and military aid by international powers), and the influence of these on state formation. Social factors refer, inter alia, to cultural aspects and the importance of tribal affiliations in inhibiting the formation of a national identity and in enabling the provision of services on a local basis. Both these elements have allowed most MENA regimes to shun accountability to their citizens; and the provision of services by the state has often been diverted toward wealth accumulation for elites.
By 2010, in many MENA states, national identity and domestic state formation was circumscribed. Rampant corruption and increased securitisation, coupled with the 2008 global economic crisis and implementation of structural adjustment programmes saw the collapse of the autocratic bargain that resulted in populations tolerating repression and lack of political freedoms in return for (real or imagined) economic growth.
The Afro-Middle East Centre’s conference on the future of the state in the MENA region will consider these debates regarding the concept and formation of a state, and academics, policymakers and activists will deliberate on the current and future position of the state in the region.
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
09:00 Opening session:
10:00 Coffee Break
10:30 Session 1: Understanding ‘the state’
The state: Concept and historical development
State and state recognition in international law
Contesting ideologies shaping (and opposing) state formation in MENA
13:30 Session 2: History and development of the MENA state
Post-Cold War foreign interventions in the MENA region
Monarchies as spoils of the Ottoman Empire
Colonialism giving way to military dictatorships
Whither statehood? 100 years of Palestinian anti-colonial resistance
15:30 Coffee Break
16:00 Session 3: Crisis of the contemporary MENA state
Capitalism and the MENA economic plight
Crisis of development and society
The MENA democracy and development challenge
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
09:00 Session 4: Impact of globalisation and foreign intervention on the MENA state
How healthy is the nation state project globally?
Displaced persons and statelessness: From and on the state
How foreign powers continue to shape the MENA state
Rise and impact of armed non-state actors
11:00 Coffee Break
11:30 Session 5: ‘Aspirational’ states in the MENA region
Kurdish nationalism and Kurdistan ‘ideal’
The question of Palestine
The case of Western Sahara
14:30 Session 6: The future of the MENA state
Nationalist appeals in the service of authoritarianism
The resort to parochialism [Return to local roots: ethnic, religious, tribal]
Developing reconfiguration of the MENA region, states and alliances
16:30 Closing session
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The collapse of regional order has made the security failures of the Sharq region ever more apparent. State failures, violent extremism, the emergence of militia groups as prevalent regional forces, chemical warfare, and the arms race are among the security problems, which call for the development of a new security architecture for the MENA region.
The phenomenon of the failed state as witnessed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya triggered the rise of violent extremism and militia forces as new security apparatuses in the region. The legitimacy concerns surrounding non-state actors, given their prevalent terrorist actions across the region, make determining legitimate actors of the new security architecture even harder. The long-standing crises the region has been suffering seem to have created support for autocratic regimes and whether the foreign powers favored these regimes is an issue that should be discussed. In efforts to map the road ahead for establishing the new security architecture, the role of international powers is of paramount importance especially in the issue of implementing economic and political cooperation. Additionally, the regional leadership is needed in consolidating counter-terrorism efforts without resorting to proxies to end sectarian divisions in framing this new structure.
The region witnessed change in the nature of security apparatuses and the nature of conflicts. Energy resources, nuclear efforts, technological developments, and even social media became sources of conflict, let alone the emergence of new characteristics in warfare and type of militarization. In order to determine a well-functioning new security architecture, understanding the nature of conflicts is a must. Yet, amid this surge of conflict, the issue of human rights and its importance in the new security architecture should not be overlooked. Peoples of the region have deeply suffered from the use of chemical weapons, asymmetrical force and continue to be exposed to surveillance that overrides the right to privacy. To find solutions to breach of rights, the integration of human rights into this structure through international and regional conventions should be debated. The new security architecture also needs to lay grounds for law enforcement in complying with human rights and citizenship rights in the region. The role of regional and international multilateral organizations is another point of debate. The new structure need to assess the role that global institutions such as the UN, UN related bodies, NATO, OSCE and regional institutions including the Arab League, the OIC and the GCC should play in the region.
This conference organized by the Al Shaq Forum and Afro Middle East Center (AMEC) partnership will bring together experts, policymakers, and current and former officials, as well as representatives of international agencies, to share new perspectives and provide new insights on the aforementioned security issues in order to suggest frameworks for a new security architecture in the MENA region.
Hosted by AMEC and Al Sharq Forum
Date: 18-19 March 2017
Place: Istanbul, Turkey.
Register: Register here.
The collapse of regional order has made the security failures of the Sharq region ever more apparent. State failures, violent extremism, the emergence of militia groups as central regional forces, chemical warfare, and the arms race are among the security problems of the region which call for the development of a new security architecture for the MENA. This conference will bring together experts, policymakers, and current and former officials, as well as representatives of international agencies, to share their perspectives and provide new insights on current security issues and suggest frameworks for a new security architecture in the region.
Plenary 1 – Session 1
The collapsing regional order and the need for a new security architecture for the MENA region
|Parallel Session 1
Determining the actors of the new security architecture
a) The problems associated with the legalization of non-state militia groups
b) The unlawful characteristics of militias as barriers for legitimization: terrorist acts committed by militia groups across the region
c) What should be the balance between the integration and elimination of militia groups vis a vis the new security architecture?
|Parallel Session 2
The role of regional and international multilateral organizations in the new security architecture
|Parallel Session 3
The changing nature of conflicts in the region
|Parallel Session 4
Human rights and the new security architecture
|Final Session – Plenary Session 2
Mapping the new security architecture: the road ahead