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Political Economy Project

 

Advancing Research and Teaching in the oPt

In partnership with London School of Economics (LSE)

November 2015 - October 2017

The goal of this partnership between Birzeit University and LSE is to enhance political economy teaching and research in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

There are two parts to this partnership proposal that aims to boost political economy teaching and research at Birzeit University. A) The first involves receiving expert advice and exchange teaching between LSE and Birzeit University. B) The second part involves a research project that fills an important gap in knowledge about the political economy of the oPt, and feeds into teaching on political economy research methods. Both parts of the partnership proposal give a massive capacity boost to the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University, and assist them in developing teaching and research in political economy in the oPt.

The research project critically examines the role of the Palestinian business elite in the political economy of the occupied West Bank since the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. This is based on the observation that influential business groups have become increasingly central to understanding a wide range of issues associated with the current state of affairs in the oPt, Israeli-Palestinian relations, as well as internal Palestinian dynamics and its dependency on regional and international configurations.

The rising influence of certain business actors can be seen in multiple ways ranging from the restructuring of the PA political elite away from the old political parties towards businessmen and pro-business technocrats, being frequent guests of international media outlets, to being active attendees of international peace initiatives, and involvement in formulating and presenting peace initiatives at the international level.

This research has four key objectives.:

  • To examine the ways in which certain economic actors and business interest groups have been influencing PA policies and decision-making processes since its establishment in 1994. This includes mapping Palestinian business lobbies.
  • To explore how, and with what impact, Palestinian capital is linked and integrated into Israeli capital (including joint business ventures and joint economic forums).
  • To analyse the relationship between Palestinian business groups and regional capitalists.  Understanding the character of Palestinian capital requires analysis of the diasporic origin of the Palestinian business elite and the complex network of capital accumulation on regional and international levels.
  • To analyse the influence and impact of international donor aid on the development of Palestinian capitalism in the West Bank. Billions of dollars of donor aid has flooded the West Bank – and has supported certain Palestinian business elites/ groups in pursuit of advancing a particular form of capitalism.

The project does not research the changes that have taken place in the other occupied Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem and Gaza – because these areas have been subjected to different dynamics and thus a different type of political economy (that requires separate analyses).

 

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