Fnrom June 22 to 24, 2009, Professors Susan Drummond and Bruce Ryder of Osgoode Hall Law School, Sharryn Aiken of Queen’s University Faculty of Law, and Mazen Masri, PhD in Law Candidate, Osgoode, organized a conference entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace.” The purpose of this conference was to explore which state model would be the best to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, respecting the rights to self-determination of both Israelis/Jews and Palestinians. Despite the current diplomatic focus on the two-state model, the continued failure to bring peace to the region highlights the necessity of rigorously examining all options for a resolution of the conflict. The conference sought to systematically measure the two state model against the promise of alternatives; very specifically the potential in the model of a single bi-national state.
The central goal of the conference was to focus a scholarly lens on a wide range of issues pertaining to one and two state models. These included, among other relevant topics, possible federal and parallel state models, democracy and constitutional design, immigration and refugee return policies, resource allocation, gender and nationalism, and the role of religion. Mindful of the fraught context in which debates relating to Israel/Palestine unfold, this conference aimed to open up a measured and thoughtful conversation on the range of possible paths out of the current impasse.
The framework for the conference invited robust academic critique of the deficiencies and perils of both models. The security and human rights of all individuals and peoples of the region was a fundamental governing principle of the conference’s vision.
The Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security provided major funding in support of this conference alongside the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, York University, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Queen’s University.
The conference and its organizers were the subjects of multi-faceted and persistent efforts to undermine and discredit the conference. This included efforts to have a federal Cabinet Minister exert pressure on the President of SSHRC to have funding withdrawn from the conference. Consolidated Documents related to Pressures on Israel-Palestine Conference (June 19,2009), a collection of documents was compiled by Nathanson Centre Director, Professor Craig Scott, as of June 19, 2009 — one week before the start of the conference. Twenty-seven (27) documents are included in this 50-page document, including (at page 33), motions adopted by the Executive Committee of the Nathanson Centre resolving to assist the conference to proceed should SSHRC succumb to pressure and withdraw funding and also including (at page 43, the final document) a collective letter from almost all of Osgoode Hall Law School’s professors to the President of SSHRC.
For much more comprehensive treatment of efforts to undermine the conference, and the efforts of the organizers to persevere and, after the conference, to determine what had transpired, see the comprehensive website created by conference co-organizer Professor Susan Drummond at Fragile Freedom @ York U. This site includes the results of freedom-of-information requests as well as an archive of documents related to a review that York University contracted with former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Frank Iacobucci, to carry out — including a response to the draft report in a letter to Mr. Iacobucci from all four conference organizers. (The draft report, with minor revisions, turned out to be the final report; the organizer’s main objections to the draft were not reflected in the final report.)