Muwatin's 18th Annual Conference - Democracy

21-22 September, 2012 - Ramallah

Muwatin's 18th Annual Conference

October 2, 2012
Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy organized its 18th Annual Conference on 21-22 September in Ramallah, with the support of Heinrich Böll Stiftung - Ramallah Office.
The conference was held under the title “Two Years on the Arab Revolutions - Questions and Fault Lines”

During the two days conference 13 papers were presented by Palestinian academics and politicians in addition to two experts from India. The papers covered the following themes: The place of Palestine in the Arab Revolutions, Infecting Revolutions vs. Resistant Regimes, Secular and Religious fundamentalism, Self and Identity in the Discourse of the Revolutions, Women and Revolution, Major Challenges of the Transitional Period.


The conference was attended by an audience of approximately 150 people consisting of academics, politicians, media and young activists and was held at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society hall. After the presentation of the papers in six sessions, a discussion with the audience took place. During these discussions it became clear, that the outcome and assessments of the revolutions is far from clear and final. Also the vast differences among the various countries were pointed out, which make it hard to come to a simplistic evaluation of all the changes which took place. While some commentators had a more optimistic outlook stressing the character of the revolutions as “popular revolutions for freedom and dignity” others were more pessimistic and stressed the uncertainties and dangers.


Especially the issue of the future relationship of religion and secularism and the role of Islam in countries like Egypt under the Muslim Brothers triggered emotional debates among participants. Dr. Islah Jad argued that the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt has embraced the “civil state”. She criticized what she called “secular fundamentalism” and recommended judging the Muslim brothers according their practices and to their alleged intentions.
Dr. Adita Nigam, a senior fellow from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (India) discussed new forms of political activism. In his view, the Arab revolutions were a prime example of such new, non-elitist and media-savvy forms of political expression and that the Arab societies would now play an important role in its future. Dr. George Giacaman stated in his paper “Revolution, Counter Revolution and Palestine” that the continuation of the Camp David Accord with Israel was a key issue in the new American-Egyptian relation. The biggest challenge facing the Palestinians would be to avoid “a new Oslo” which would fail to solve the conflict, but rather postpone it by a continuation of Israeli land confiscation and settlement.
The session on “woman and the revolution” also encouraged a vivid debate among the audience. The second speaker from India, Nivedita Menon, talked about Sexuality and feminist politics: Paradoxes and potential solidarities, mentioning the central role of women as well as the sexual violence and marginalization they faced. Following the presentation there was also a controversial debate on the sexual and LGTB rights in Palestine among the audience, which is a topic hardly discussed in public in Palestine. Some interventions stressed the need for respecting tradition in Arab and mainly the Palestinian society; other voices underlined the urgent need to respect the LGBTI rights in Palestine as their basic human rights.

 

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