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RIC Prof. Enters Debate on Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process



 

Kevin DeJesus ’00, an adjunct professor at RIC and an expert on Africa and the Middle East, addressed the issue of peace between Israel and Palestine on “The Voice of Russia,” a Moscow-based radio station.

This broadcast marked the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accord, which, back in 1993, was considered an unprecedented first step on the road to a permanent resolution to the deadly tug-of-war over borders between Israel and Palestine. Signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the accord was based on a two-state solution – one Israeli, one Palestinian – living side by side in peace.

Twenty years later, the Oslo Accord has fallen far short of expectations, and the initial five-year deadline for achieving a permanent agreement has long since passed. Recently, a team of Palestinian peace negotiators resigned over the lack of progress in US-brokered talks with Israel. 

DeJesus said one of the issues is that “while there have been some disagreements between the U.S. and Israel, the two countries typically respond to key policy issues in sync. In order for Palestinians to have any significant political capital in the negotiations, they really need the support of the European Union. The European Union is vital to providing balance in these negotiations.” A full transcript of his radio interview is available at “The Voice of Russia.”

DeJesus’s interest in Middle Eastern and African studies began during his undergraduate work at RIC, where he majored in anthropology and geography. He cited Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, professor emerita of anthropology, as a major influence and mentor. In a course Fluehr-Lobban taught on the Middle East, she discussed how the Palestinians were forced to leave their homes when the state of Israel was created in 1948, and “it sparked a deeper involvement in DeJesus. He was determined to study in the Middle East,” she said.

He became an exchange student at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and later made the study of Palestinians living in the Bourj al Barajney refugee camp a key part of his doctoral research, which focused on war-affected families in Lebanon. 

“His work with these refugees and his sensitivity about how best to conduct research with vulnerable populations caught my interest, and I quoted him in my latest book, “Ethics and Anthropology, Ideas and Practice,” said Fluehr-Lobban:

“Studying people who live with frequent acts of terror, kidnappings, suicide bombers, and other operations by non-state actors...and who live under state-sponsored repression such as curfews, detention, and high levels of surveillance...presents unique circumstances of vulnerability, and vulnerability is pervasive in violently divided societies.”

Currently DeJesus is teaching a course in “Non-Western Worlds” at Rhode Island College, focused on regions of contemporary and ancient Africa. He has also served as guest editor for “African Geographical Review,” “The Review of Middle East Studies” and for “ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.” He is co-editor of H-Mideast Politics and book review editor of H-Africa.