In the first of a brand-new Spotlight On series which will highlight some of the great research underway at Trinity, we meet Dr Brendan Ciarán Browne, Assistant Professor in Conflict Resolution, and hear about his research into the Palestinian Bedouin communities who many believe are at risk of forced displacement around Jerusalem.
Can you tell us about the research you’re currently working on?
I co-lead a project that researches how impunity for alleged serious international law violations contributes to the deterioration of humanitarian vulnerabilities in Palestinian Bedouin communities at risk of forced displacement around Jerusalem. This is an international collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast (Dr Alice Panepinto), Liverpool John Moores University (Dr Triestino Mariniello) and Al Quds University Human Rights Clinic (Dr Munir Nuseibah), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council/Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office. A combination of desk-based analysis and fieldwork will result in academic output, policy reports to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation in Palestine, and human rights training for the Palestinian Bedouin.
In your opinion, why is your research important?
The humanitarian vulnerabilities of Palestinian Bedouins around Jerusalem should be a major concern for any Peace and Conflict researcher: in the context of the protracted Israeli military occupation of Palestine, I contend that the Bedouin displacement amounts to a war crime. Within the broader Israeli grip on Palestine, which in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem is characterised by repeated land grabs and attempts to remove the indigenous population and replace it with illegal Israeli-only settlements, the situation of these Bedouin families is particularly stark. International law, therefore, operates in a deeply asymmetrical context: our research explores the potential avenues for holding perpetrators of violence against the Bedouin to account.
What inspired you to become a researcher? Did something happen to set off a spark?
I have always been interested in issues of social injustice. Being brought up in an active space of conflict transformation and transition, in the North of Ireland, I was exposed to critical conversations amongst scholars and activists on the ground. As a result, I focused my academic studies on issues of social justice, human rights, law and conflict transformation, taking modules in international law and human rights at
Undergraduate and Masters degree level. But undoubtedly, the thing that inspires me most to do the work I do was my time living and working in Palestine. Since 2009 I have been travelling back and forth and have had the great pleasure to work at the Al Quds University where I met incredibly passionate scholars and students, whose experiences and critical thinking has been deeply impactful on me.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a researcher in your field?
Beyond the immediate impact of the pandemic on international travel, and the difficulty in accessing physical space in Palestine, there are challenges that come when researching something as evocative and polarising as Palestine/Israel. Advancing arguments and evoking the language of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, occupation, and settler colonialism, often runs contrary to established discourse that you might see in the media. As you would expect, this can lead to opprobrium and I have been subject to online attacks and have received hate mail following academic and print media publication. These are just some of the challenges, which pale into insignificance when you consider those faced by the Palestinian people resisting occupation.
What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead?
The process of what many believe is ethnic cleansing being enacted against the Palestinian people across much of historic Palestine shows little sign of abating. Beyond ‘academic’ research, I would like to see greater, activist led ‘academic’ engagement with those Palestinian communities who are experiencing such a grave humanitarian crisis. When it comes to spotlighting issues that may be considered war crimes in Palestine, I would like to see closer connections being forged between Irish and Palestinian universities to ensure international solidarity is strengthened. This will be all the more pertinent as the discourse around Palestine continues to expand, with the language around apartheid and annexation becoming more mainstream in the media.
Where can readers find out more about your work?
In terms of local print media, I have had opinion pieces in The Irish Times, the Belfast Telegraph and the Conversation. In addition, I have published pieces in The New Statesman, The Globe Post, Opinio Juris, to name but a few. I have also been interviewed by the BBC (Talk Back), TRT News, Indus News, France 24. In addition, I have published a range of academic articles in high-ranking, peer-reviewed journals, including, amongst others: Third World Quarterly, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Development in Practice, Capital & Class, Journal of Human Rights Practice, & Irish Political Studies. Finally, I have an edited book with Bristol University Press (with Dr Althea Maria-Rivas) and another co-authored book forthcoming with Liverpool University Press (with Dr Niall Gilmartin).