Middle East Monitor (MEMO) is to host a conference focused on Palestinian citizens of Israel, their history and the challenges they face in the wake of Israel’s controversial Nation-State Law, which last year deprived the community of its right to national self-determination and effectively rendered 1.8 million people second-class citizens within Israel.
The conference – entitled “Present Absentees: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Nation-State Law” – will take place on Saturday 27 April in central London and will bring together high-profile academics, politicians and journalists for a day-long debate on this often-neglected topic.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are often written out of the Israel-Palestine conflict, since they do not fit neatly into discussions of diaspora Palestinians or the occupied Palestinian territories. MEMO’s conference seeks to counter this erasure, writing them back into the discourse and exploring the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Keynote speaker Joseph Massad, a professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, New York, will open the conference. Massad is the author of many books and dozens of scholarly and journalistic articles, including: “The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians”; “Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan”; “Desiring Arabs”; and most recently “Islam in Liberalism”.
Other influential speakers include: Arab-Israeli Knesset Member (MK) Yousef Jabareen; Israeli Professor and author of “Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine” Oren Yiftachel; Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook; Associate Editor of the Electronic Intifada David Cronin; researcher at Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel Maria Zahran; and Professor As’ad Ghanem from the University of Haifa.
The day will be divided into four panels, each addressing a different aspect of the topic. The first panel will discuss the history of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the concept of “Present Absentees”, a legal mechanism which facilitated the appropriation of their ancestral homes after the Nakba of 1948.
The second panel will then explore whether Israel is, or can ever be, a “state of all its citizens”, particularly in the wake of the controversial Nation-State Law which has brought Israel’s claim to be the “only democracy in the Middle East” into question.
In the afternoon, the third panel will discuss the question of Arab-Israeli national identity, which is often bound up with notions of duality, bilingualism and Israeli civic duty. The final panel of the day will put these questions in an international context, asking what role the European Union (EU), Arab League and Jewish-American community can play in supporting Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The event is filling up fast, so if you would like to attend please register your attendance here.
You can also find minute-by-minute coverage of the event on our live blog, or follow along on social media using the hashtag #SecondClassCitizen.