On Thursday, September 22, with President Mahmoud Abbas preparing to appeal to the United Nations for recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, Law School students and faculty gathered for a timely analysis by visiting lecturer Omar Dajani.
Dajani, Professor of Law at the McGeorge School of Law of the University of the Pacific and one of the nation's foremost experts on the legal aspects of the conflict in the Middle East, served as political adviser on Palestinian Affairs to the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in 2001-2003 and as legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team in peace talks with Israel in 1999-2001. He continues to provide occasional advice both to the Palestinian negotiating team and to institution-building and peace-building projects in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In his lecture, "Stalled between Seasons: State Building and Mass Mobilization in Palestine," Dajani elucidated three "visions of Palestine" that have informed its contentions and negotiations on the world stage: as a people struggling for individual human rights, as a state struggling for national determination, and as a front of larger regional movements. Dajani observed that the current bid for UN recognition highlights a crucial tension between these visions, and he distinguished between the dominant Palestinian authorities, whose maneuverings to win statehood have "sacrificed the vibrancy of the [PLO] movement," and a younger cohort seeking to shift the discussion to human rights. He argued that the movements can be reconciled but that, for such an outcome, "it is absolutely critical" to establish "a safe space for strategic discourse." This discourse has implications for us all, he observed, as the conflict of purpose confronting Palestine raises broader questions about the state's role as a vehicle for protecting individual rights, questions that have "also bedeviled Thomas Jefferson... and indeed President Obama." The Arab Spring has obliged us to consider the fragility of the state and the difficulty of maintaining energy and participation within its institutions. "We are all Palestinians," concluded Dajani. "We are all, in a sense, stalled between seasons."
Dajani was brought to Cornell through "Law, Revolution, and Reform in the Arab World," the 2011 Colloquium Series presented by the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, which seeks to be a part of the ongoing progress in the rule of law and in the evolution of the legal processes in the Middle East.
Colloquium on Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa
FALL 2011: Law, Revolution and Reform in the Arab World