While welcoming the ceasefire coming into effect today, the Council for British Research in the Levant has been following with grave concern the deteriorating situation in Palestine/Israel witnessed over the last days and weeks. We have done so from the unique physical location of our Jerusalem institute (the Kenyon Institute) located at the heart of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem and our decades of engagement in the study and analysis of the local and regional political context.
The Kenyon Institute was established as the British School of Archaeology in 1919 and moved to its current home in May 1967. We have acted ever since as a hub for scholarly activity for international, UK, and local scholars, and the wider public in its vicinity, providing a forum for academic debate, independence of thought and exchange across political, cultural and religious boundaries.
This positioning – physical and intellectual – enables us to witness, document, and study decades of incremental changes involving Palestine/Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in particular.
It is a position that demands we raise our voice today.
Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, untold billions have been spent ostensibly toward conflict resolution purposes. Yet, as the events of the past week have demonstrated, the situation in general, and in Jerusalem in particular, continues to deteriorate and is no closer to a just or lasting resolution. On the contrary, upwards of 10,000 people have lost their lives since the Oslo Accords, settlement activity across the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues unabated, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip ever deteriorates, and new rounds of violence erupt every few years – with the latest escalation exhibiting deeper, more disturbing trends.
Despite a wealth of research documenting the root causes of the conflict, Western powers have failed to seriously engage with this body of literature, preferring political expediency and conflict management to an approach respecting international law and human rights. In so doing, they have effectively abdicated their responsibility to create conditions for a sustainable future for the region.
We are concerned for the well-being and safety of our Kenyon Institute staff and the community in which we reside in Sheikh Jarrah. We are also concerned that the very substantial and relevant research conducted across the social sciences and humanities is being ignored or selectively employed to advance approaches that have already proven a failure. Yet, this research can provide a rich resource for a clearer understanding of how to redress this situation equitably. Without a fundamental reassessment, we fear continued deterioration of the situation to the detriment of all.
In the spirit of CBRL’s mission “to make the fullest possible contribution to fostering knowledge and understanding of the Levant for the common good”, we implore the need for such a reassessment to take place as soon as possible.