The Politics of Knowledge Production and Circulation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The particularity of the Palestinian case and the international attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, make the oPt a ‘hub’ for knowledge production, a fertile ground for mushrooming in the Middle Eastern experts and a field test for various international prescriptions. However, the involvement of many actors in knowledge production and circulation in the oPt raises the question: who really produce knowledge and why the international experts and donors’ opinion matters more than the local ones? This paper aims to provide various insights to address this question through examining the impact, role, contribution and limitations of the major actors which include the Palestinian Diaspora and expatriates; donor community and their international experts; and local actors and national institutions. However, the prolonged Israeli occupation and conflict created a status of aid dependency in the oPt which influences all life aspects including the knowledge production realm and its politics. Thus, this paper argues that aid creates knowledge, and the influential and dominant knowledge on conflict resolution, state-building and development is mainly a product of the international donor community, international experts and other external actors.

This paper also argues that despite the various initiatives as TOKTEN (The Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals) and PALESTA (Palestinian Scientists and Technologists Aboard) to attract Palestinians expatriates to contribute to the knowledge production, however, their role remains limited, unsustainable, and fragmented. Furthermore, this paper argues that despite the genuine analysis and knowledge produced by national and local actors, however, this knowledge is more often ignored or discarded for various reasons including the Palestinian Authority preference to depend on international rather than local expertise. Consequently, this paper suggests a five-dimensional framework to create a better understanding for the politics of knowledge production in the oPt based on understanding the politics of aid and financing, identity and ‘real’ politics. Finally, this paper concludes that the international expertise will continue to re-produce its blueprints and knowledge within a top-down framework, unless a shift in power balances occur and the ‘locals’ sit in the ‘driver seat’.

Paper presented at “Conflict, Intervention and the Politics of Knowledge Conference” Hosted by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), University of Manchester, 25-26 November 2010. Click here for additional information.

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