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WCC Palestine – Background and resources

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WCC Palestine – Background and resources

We are providing this page alongside the WCC’s recent Statement of Solidarity with Palestine to provide background on the history of this conflict and further resources. 

I. Introduction

A. Brief Overview of Palestine-Israel Conflict

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the world’s most enduring and complex geopolitical disputes. Its origins can be traced back to the late 19th century, when the Zionist movement, which advocated for establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, began to gain traction. The conflict intensified following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire when Palestine came under British control through the Mandate for Palestine.

Tensions between the Arab and Jewish populations in the region escalated, particularly after the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which proposed dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The plan was accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arabs. In 1948, Israel declared its independence, leading to the first Arab-Israeli War. The war resulted in Israel’s establishment but also in the displacement of approximately 700,000 Palestinians, creating a refugee crisis that persists to this day.

Since then, the conflict has been marked by several wars, uprisings (‘intifadas’), and ongoing disputes over land, borders, resources, and sovereignty. Key issues include the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the Gaza Strip, and the rights and recognition of Palestinian refugees. Despite numerous peace efforts, a comprehensive resolution to the conflict remains elusive, and the situation continues to impact the lives of millions of Palestinians and Israelis.

B. Purpose of the document

This document provides an overview of the historical background and some key issues surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This document should be read in conjunction with the Statement of Solidarity with Palestine, published on the WCC’s blog on May 27th, 2024, which provides a more comprehensive account of the current conflict in Gaza. This background document will explore the historical events that have shaped the conflict, the main points of contention between the involved parties, and the efforts made towards peace and reconciliation. Special attention will be given to the destruction of cultural heritage sites and the challenges faced by the education sector in Palestine and Israel.

II. Historical Background

A. Ancient history of the region known as Palestine

1. Significance as a crossroads of trade, science, scholarship, and religion in ancient civilisations

Palestine has been a crucible of human civilisation for millennia. Its strategic location at the nexus of Africa, Asia, and Europe made it a vital crossroads for trade, cultural exchange, and spreading ideas (Khalidi 1997: 1). In ancient times, Palestine was a centre of learning and scholarship, with the famous Library of Alexandria in Egypt drawing heavily from the intellectual traditions of the region (MacLeod 2004: 5-6). The area also held immense religious significance, with sacred sites and traditions central to the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Armstrong 1996: 11).

2. Palestine under successive empires: Roman, Byzantine, Arab/Islamic, Ottoman

Palestine’s history is marked by a succession of imperial powers that shaped its political, social, and cultural landscape. In 63 BCE, the Roman Empire annexed Palestine, ushering in a period of Roman rule that lasted until the 4th century CE (Goodblatt 2006: 10-11). This was followed by the Byzantine Empire, which controlled the region until the 7th century (Regan 2001: 11). The rise of Islam in the 7th century brought Palestine under Arab and later Islamic rule, with the area serving as a vital centre of Islamic civilisation for centuries (Hawting 2000: 22-23). From 1517 until the end of World War I, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire, during which time it experienced relative stability and was administered as a separate province (Doumani 1995: 6).

B. Modern history

1. Rise of European colonialism and Zionism in late 19th/early 20th century

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a resurgence of European colonial interest in the Middle East, driven by strategic, economic, and religious factors (Fieldhouse 2006: 60-61). Concurrently, the Zionist movement, which advocated for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, gained momentum, fuelled by rising anti-Semitism in Europe and a growing sense of Jewish nationalism (Laqueur & Rubin 2001: 3-5). The first significant wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1882, marking the beginning of the modern Zionist enterprise (Shafir 1996: 38).

2. British Mandate over Palestine following World War I

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the League of Nations granted Britain the Mandate for Palestine in 1920 (Segev 2001: 5). The British Mandate period was marked by growing tensions between the Arab and Jewish populations, exacerbated by Britain’s conflicting promises to both groups, such as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which pledged support for a Jewish national home in Palestine (Schneer 2010: 2). The British attempted to balance these competing interests through various policies, including the 1939 White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration and land purchases (Segev 2001: 439).

3. Competing nationalist movements – Arab Palestinians and Zionist Jews

During the Mandate period, both Arab Palestinian and Zionist Jewish nationalist movements gained strength and came into increasing conflict. The Palestinians, who constituted the majority of the population, sought self-determination and independence, while the Zionists aimed to establish a Jewish state in Palestine (Khalidi 2006: 32-33). Clashes between the two communities, as well as resistance against British rule, characterised the latter years of the Mandate (Morris 2001: 121-160).

4. 1947 UN partition plan, 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and establishment of Israel

In 1947, following the end of World War II and facing mounting pressure, Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine. The United Nations proposed a partition plan (UN Resolution 181) to divide the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under international control (Pappé 2006: 31). The plan was accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arab states and the Palestinians. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence, leading to the outbreak of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The war resulted in Israel’s victory and expansion, the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians (known as the Nakba), and the establishment of the modern state of Israel (Morris 2004: 1-8).

III. Key Issues and Conflicts

A. Territorial disputes and military occupations

1. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem since 1967

Following the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel captured and occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem (Bennis 2007: 6). Despite international law deeming it inadmissible to acquire territory by force, Israel has continued its military occupation of these areas for over five decades (Khalidi 2020: 7-8). The occupation has led to the imposition of Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians, denying them basic rights and freedoms (Pappé 2006: 187).

2. Israeli settlements and land confiscation in the Occupied Territories

Since the beginning of the occupation, Israel has established hundreds of settlements in the occupied territories, transferring its civilian population into the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Bennis 2007: 15). These settlements, along with the confiscation of Palestinian land for their construction and expansion, are considered illegal under international law (Human Rights Watch 2021: 12). The settlements have become a major obstacle to peace, fragmenting the Palestinian landscape and undermining the prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state (Khalidi 2020: 211).

3. Construction of separation wall in the West Bank

In 2002, Israel began constructing a separation wall, also known as the ‘security fence’ or ‘apartheid wall,’ in the occupied West Bank (Pappé 2006: 238). The wall, which extends well beyond the Green Line (the pre-1967 armistice line) and into occupied Palestinian territory, has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice (Bennis 2007: 19). It has resulted in the de facto annexation of Palestinian land, restricted freedom of movement, and separated Palestinians from their agricultural lands, schools, and healthcare facilities (Human Rights Watch 2021: 14).

B. Refugee crisis

1. 750,000 Palestinian refugees created by 1948 war

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel, resulted in the displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians, who became refugees (Morris, 2004, p. 1). This mass displacement, known as the Nakba (‘catastrophe’ in Arabic), saw Palestinians forced from their homes and lands, fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Khalidi 2020: 58).

2. Additional refugees from 1967 war

The 1967 Six-Day War led to a second wave of Palestinian displacement, with an estimated 300,000 Palestinians fleeing or being expelled from the newly occupied territories (Pappé 2006: 188). Many of these refugees had already been displaced in 1948, experiencing the trauma of forced migration for a second time (Masalha 2012: 84).

3. Ongoing displacement and denial of right of return for refugees

Palestinian refugees and their descendants, now numbering in the millions, continue to face ongoing displacement and are denied their right to return to their homes and lands (Khalidi 2020: 59). UN General Assembly Resolution 194 affirms the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and receive compensation for their losses (Bennis 2007: 9). However, Israel has consistently refused to allow the return of Palestinian refugees, viewing it as a threat to the Jewish character of the state (Morris 2004: 588).

C. Security concerns and violence

1. Palestinian armed resistance and attacks on Israeli civilians

Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have engaged in armed resistance against the Israeli occupation, including rocket attacks and suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians (Pappé 2006: 276). These attacks, which have resulted in the loss of Israeli lives and widespread fear among the Israeli population, are often cited by Israel as justification for its military operations and security measures (Bennis 2007: 34). Under international law, Palestinians have the right to resist occupation, although attacks on civilians are prohibited (Khalidi 2020: 232).

2. Israeli military operations, collective punishment against Palestinians

In response to Palestinian armed resistance and to maintain its occupation, Israel has engaged in numerous military operations in the occupied territories, often resulting in high civilian casualties and extensive damage to Palestinian infrastructure (Human Rights Watch 2021: 16). Israel has also employed collective punishment measures, such as home demolitions, curfews, and movement restrictions, which have had a severe impact on the daily lives of Palestinians (Pappé 2006: 258). These actions have been widely condemned by human rights organisations and the international community as disproportionate and in violation of international humanitarian law (Bennis 2007: 35).

IV. Peace Efforts and Challenges

A. Major Peace initiatives

1. Camp David Accords (1978)

The Camp David Accords, signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat under the mediation of US President Jimmy Carter, marked a significant milestone in Arab-Israeli relations. The accords led to the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, the first between Israel and an Arab country. However, the accords failed to address the Palestinian issue comprehensively, focusing primarily on Egyptian-Israeli relations (Bennis 2007: 41).

2. Madrid Conference (1991)

The Madrid Conference, held after the Gulf War, brought together representatives from Israel, Palestine, and Arab states for the first time since the 1948 war. Co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union, it aimed to establish a framework for bilateral and multilateral negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. While the conference did not produce immediate results, it paved the way for the Oslo Accords (Khalidi 2020: 178).

3. Oslo Accords (1993)

The Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, were a series of agreements that aimed to establish a framework for peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. The accords called for the gradual transfer of power to a Palestinian Authority and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the occupied territories. However, the Oslo process ultimately failed to deliver on its promises, as Israel continued to expand settlements and maintain control over Palestinian lives (Pappé 2006: 235).

4. Camp David Summit (2000)

The Camp David Summit, held in July 2000 under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton, brought together Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to negotiate a final peace agreement. The summit failed, with both sides blaming each other for the breakdown of talks. The collapse of the summit and the subsequent outbreak of the Second Intifada marked a significant setback for the peace process (Khalidi 2020: 196).

5. Arab Peace Initiative (2002)

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, offered Israel full normalisation of relations with Arab states in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194. The initiative represented a significant shift in the Arab world’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Israel has thus far failed to embrace the proposal (Bennis 2007: 45).

6. Geneva Accord (2003)

The Geneva Accord, an unofficial initiative launched by former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in 2003, proposed a detailed framework for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. The accord addressed key issues such as borders, Jerusalem, security arrangements, and the refugee question, offering concessions from both sides. While the initiative demonstrated that a negotiated settlement was possible, it failed to gain official endorsement from either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority and was criticised by hardliners on both sides (Khalid 2020: 200).

B. US role as mediator

The United States has long been the primary mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, often to the exclusion of other international actors. While the US has presented itself as an honest broker, its close alliance with Israel and its consistent support for Israeli policies have undermined its credibility among Palestinians and much of the international community (Khalidi 2020: 205). The US has often used its diplomatic, economic, and military clout to shield Israel from accountability for its actions in the occupied territories while pressuring Palestinians to make concessions (Bennis 2007: 48).

C. Ongoing obstacles to peace

1. Expansion of Israeli settlements

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has been a major obstacle to peace. Settlements, which are illegal under international law, have fragmented Palestinian territory, making the establishment of a viable Palestinian state increasingly difficult (Khalidi 2020: 211). The entrenchment of the settlement enterprise has also created a powerful political constituency within Israel that opposes territorial concessions and Palestinian statehood (Human Rights Watch 2021: 12).

2. Internal Israeli and Palestinian political divisions

Both Israeli and Palestinian societies are deeply divided along political, ideological, and religious lines, making it difficult for leaders on either side to make the compromises necessary for peace. In Israel, the rise of right-wing nationalist and religious parties has shifted the political landscape away from the peace process (Khalidi 2020: 218). On the Palestinian side, the split between Fatah and Hamas and the lack of a unified leadership have weakened the Palestinian position and made negotiations more challenging (Bennis 2007: 50).

3. Lack of political will and trust

Decades of conflict, broken promises, and unequal power dynamics have eroded trust between Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have often lacked the political will to make the difficult decisions and compromises required for peace (Khalidi 2020: 220). The failure of past peace initiatives and the continued reality of occupation have fostered cynicism and disillusionment among many Palestinians. At the same time, Israelis have grown increasingly sceptical of the possibility of a negotiated settlement (Pappé 2006: 256).

D. One-state vs. two-state debate

As the prospects for a two-state solution have dimmed, the debate over alternative political arrangements has gained traction. Proponents of a one-state solution argue that creating a single, democratic state in all of historic Palestine, with equal rights for all its citizens, is the only way to ensure a just and lasting peace (Khalidi 2020: 224). However, critics contend that a one-state solution would threaten Israel’s Jewish character and is politically unfeasible (Bennis, 2007, p. 53). Advocates of the two-state solution maintain that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel remains the most viable path to peace but acknowledge that time is running out as the reality on the ground makes such an outcome increasingly difficult to achieve (Human Rights Watch 2021: 20).

V. International Dimensions

A. Global significance and interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has far-reaching implications that extend beyond the region, making it a matter of global concern. The conflict’s centrality to international relations stems from various factors, including the region’s geopolitical importance, its religious significance to the world’s major faiths, and its potential to destabilise the broader Middle East (Bennis 2007: 55). The conflict also intersects with key global issues such as human rights, international law, and the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution (Khalidi 2020: 229).

B. Role of the United Nations

1. Security Council resolutions on peace process, settlements, etc.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted numerous resolutions addressing various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These resolutions have dealt with issues such as the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force (Resolution 242), the illegality of Israeli settlements (Resolution 2334), and the need for a just and lasting peace based on a two-state solution (Resolution 1515) (Bennis 2007: 58). However, the Security Council’s ability to enforce these resolutions has been limited, primarily due to the United States’s use of its veto power to shield Israel from accountability (Khalidi 2020: 231).

2. General Assembly recognition of Palestinian statehood (2012)

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to grant Palestine non-member observer state status, effectively recognising Palestinian statehood. The vote, which passed with 138 countries in favour, 9 against, and 41 abstentions, was a significant diplomatic victory for the Palestinians and a reflection of the international community’s growing support for Palestinian self-determination (Khalidi 2020: 233). However, the General Assembly’s recognition did not change the reality on the ground, as Israel continued to occupy Palestinian territory and expand settlements.

C. Positions and involvement of key actors

1. United States

The United States has been the most influential external actor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, often acting as the primary mediator in peace negotiations. The US has maintained a close strategic, economic, and military partnership with Israel, providing it with significant aid and diplomatic support (Bennis 2007: 60). This unwavering support has often been criticised as enabling Israel’s continued occupation and human rights abuses, while undermining the prospects for a just and lasting peace (Khalidi 2020: 235).

2. European Union

The European Union has generally been more critical of Israeli policies than the United States, particularly regarding the expansion of settlements and the human rights situation in the occupied territories. The EU has provided significant economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority and has supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state (Bennis 2007: 63). However, the EU’s ability to exert pressure on Israel has been limited, in part due to its own internal divisions and its reluctance to challenge the United States’s dominant role in the peace process (Khalidi 2020: 237).

3. Russia

Russia has historically maintained ties with both Israel and the Palestinian leadership, positioning itself as a potential alternative mediator to the United States. In recent years, Russia has sought to increase its influence in the Middle East and has sought to play a more active role in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, hosting meetings between Fatah and Hamas and offering to host peace talks (Khalidi 2020: 238). However, Russia’s impact on the conflict has been limited compared to that of the United States and European powers.

4. Arab States

Arab states’ positions on Israel have gradually shifted from outright hostility and non-recognition to varying degrees of engagement and normalisation. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative was a landmark collective offer to normalise relations with Israel in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders and a just resolution of the refugee issue (Bennis 2007: 66). Recent years have seen a growing trend of normalisation between Israel and Gulf Arab states (e.g. the Abraham Accords of 2020), driven by shared security concerns regarding Iran (Khalidi 2020: 240). However, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains a highly sensitive issue for Arab public opinion, and most Arab governments continue to advocate for Palestinian rights and statehood.

5. The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has played a significant role in the Israel-Palestine conflict, from the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the British Mandate period (Regan 2001: 11). In the post-Brexit era, the UK has largely maintained its support for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders (Khalidi 2020: 148). However, there are indications of a shift in UK policy, such as a closer alignment with American leadership, as demonstrated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s support for President Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan (Khalidi 2020: 235). 

The UK’s increased autonomy post-Brexit has also led to some divergence from EU positions at the United Nations (Dee & Smith 2017). For instance, the UK voted against a resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, breaking with the EU’s stance (UN 2020). Growing trade relations between the UK and Israel (Rynhold 2016) may also influence future policy decisions.

While the UK’s fundamental principles, such as its commitment to a two-state solution, remain unchanged (Bennis 2007: 45), these emerging trends suggest a potential for greater policy differences between the UK and the EU regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict in the coming years.

The United Kingdom’s response to the current conflict in Gaza is detailed in the House of Commons research document ‘2023/24 Israel-Hamas conflict: UK actions and response.’ The briefing document highlights ways the UK government has engaged in diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire and ensure compliance with international law, while also providing military surveillance and de-escalation support.

The UK government issued statements condemning the violence and calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Parliament passed motions urging the government to take action to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access. At the United Nations, the UK supported sanctions against those perpetuating the conflict and contributed to aid efforts to alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis, particularly in Gaza.

The briefing document also sheds light on the UK’s efforts to address the domestic impact of the conflict, including measures to tackle antisemitism and anti-Muslim incidents. Despite the UK’s comprehensive approach, the ongoing violence and significant casualties on both sides underscore the challenges in resolving the conflict and alleviating human suffering. 

D. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005, aims to pressure Israel through economic, cultural, and academic boycotts to end its occupation, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens, and respect the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The BDS movement has gained traction globally, with many civil society organisations, trade unions, and academic institutions endorsing its calls (Khalidi 2020: 243). BDS has been met with fierce opposition from Israel and its supporters, who argue that it unfairly singles out Israel and amounts to a form of anti-Semitism (Bennis 2007: 68). Despite this backlash, the movement has succeeded in raising international awareness about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and has put pressure on companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s human rights violations.

VI. Cultural Heritage

A. Region as the birthplace and historic centre of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

The Palestinian-Israeli region is of unparalleled significance to the world’s three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the birthplace of these faiths and has been a centre of religious pilgrimage and devotion for centuries (Bennis 2007: 27). The sacred sites and traditions associated with this land have played a crucial role in shaping the religious and cultural identities of millions of people worldwide (Khalidi 2020: 145).

B. Major religious and historic sites

1. Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif

The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is one of the most sacred sites in both Judaism and Islam. For Jews, it is the holiest site, believed to be the location of the First and Second Temples (Bennis 2007: 28). For Muslims, it is the third-holiest site, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, from where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven (Khalidi 2020: 146).

2. Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, is one of the most sacred sites in Christianity. It is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection (Bennis 2007: 28). The church has been a major pilgrimage destination for Christians since the 4th century. It remains a powerful symbol of the faith.

3. Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, situated on the Haram al-Sharif compound, is the third-holiest mosque in Islam after those in Mecca and Medina. It is believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad led prayers and ascended to heaven (Khalidi 2020: 146). The mosque has been a focal point of Muslim worship and pilgrimage for over a millennium.

4. Western Wall

The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a remnant of the ancient wall surrounding the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. It is the holiest prayer site for Jews, who believe it to be the closest accessible site to the former location of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Temple (Bennis 2007: 28). The Western Wall is a place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jews from around the world.

C. Damage and destruction of cultural sites

1. Examples of sites destroyed or threatened by conflict 

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has led to the damage and destruction of numerous cultural and religious sites. During the 1948 war, many Palestinian villages were destroyed, along with their mosques, churches, and other cultural landmarks (Pappé 2006: 92). In the Old City of Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter was heavily damaged during the 1948 war, and many synagogues were destroyed or desecrated (Bennis 2007: 29). More recently, the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been a flashpoint for violence, with clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers leading to damage to the sacred compound (Khalidi 2020: 147).

2. Current Conflict in Gaza

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has verified damage to 43 sites of cultural importance, including 10 religious sites, 24 buildings of historical or artistic interest, two depositories of movable cultural property, three monuments, three archaeological sites, and one museum.

3. Efforts to preserve and protect historic sites and artifacts

Despite the ongoing conflict, various parties have made efforts to preserve and protect the region’s cultural heritage. UNESCO has designated several sites in the Israeli-Palestinian region as World Heritage Sites, including the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls (Bennis 2007: 29). However, the politicisation of cultural heritage has often hindered conservation efforts, with Israel and the Palestinians accusing each other of neglecting or appropriating the other’s cultural sites (Khalidi 2020: 149). International organisations and civil society groups continue to advocate for protecting cultural heritage as an essential component of any future peace settlement.

VII. Education

A. Segregated and unequal Israeli and Palestinian school systems

Education in Palestine and Israel is characterised by segregation and inequality. Israeli and Palestinian children attend separate schools with vastly different resources and outcomes (Khalidi 2020: 156). Israeli schools, both secular and religious, are well-funded and equipped, while Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories often lack basic infrastructure and materials (Bennis 2007: 37). This educational disparity reflects the broader power imbalance and systematic discrimination faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

B. Restrictions on movement impacting access to education

Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement, including checkpoints, roadblocks, and the separation wall, have severely impacted access to education in the occupied territories. Palestinian students and teachers often face long delays and harassment at checkpoints, making it difficult to reach schools and universities (Khalidi 2020: 157). These movement restrictions have led to decreased attendance rates, increased dropout rates, and a general deterioration of the educational environment (Pappé 2006: 256).

C. Underfunding of Palestinian schools and universities

Palestinian schools and universities in the Occupied Territories are chronically underfunded, both by the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority (Bennis 2007: 37). Israel, as the occupying power, has failed to fulfil its obligations under international law to ensure the proper functioning of educational institutions in the occupied territories (Human Rights Watch 2021: 18). The Palestinian Authority, hampered by limited resources and political constraints, has also struggled to fund and support the education sector adequately. This underfunding has led to overcrowded classrooms, inadequate facilities, and a lack of essential educational resources.

D. Education as a key to long-term peace and development

Despite the challenges faced by the education sector in Palestine, education remains a key to long-term peace and development in the region. Quality education can promote understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians (Khalidi 2020: 159). It can also provide young people with the skills and knowledge necessary to build a more prosperous and stable future. International organisations, NGOs, and civil society groups have recognised the importance of education in conflict resolution and have implemented various programs to support educational initiatives in the region (Bennis 2007: 38). However, without addressing the underlying political and structural issues, including the Israeli occupation and systematic inequality, the transformative potential of education will remain limited.

VIII. Conclusion

This document provides an overview of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It should be read in conjunction with the WCC’s Statement in Solidarity with Palestine, which provides more detailed information about the current conflict.

References

Armstrong, K. (1996). Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York: Ballantine Books.

Bennis, P. (2007). Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press.

Dee, M., & Smith, K. (2017). UK diplomacy at the UN after Brexit: challenges and opportunities. Political Studies Association 19(3).

Doumani, B. (1995). Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fieldhouse, D. K. (2006). Western Imperialism in the Middle East 1914-1958. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goodblatt, D. (2006). Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hawting, G. R. (2000). The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. London: Routledge.

Human Rights Watch. (2021). A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution

Khalidi, R. (1997). Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press.

Khalidi, R. (2006). The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Boston: Beacon Press.

Khalidi, R. (2020). The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Laqueur, W., & Rubin, B. (Eds.). (2001). The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. New York: Penguin Books.

MacLeod, R. (2004). The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World. London: I.B.Tauris.

Masalha, N. (2012). The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory. London: Zed Books.

Morris, B. (2001). Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. New York: Vintage Books.

Morris, B. (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pappé, I. (2006). The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.

Regan, G. (2001). Israel and the Arabs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rynhold, J. (2016). After Brexit (1): Jonathan Rynold on Israel’s future relations with the UK and the EU. Fathom Journal. https://fathomjournal.org/after-brexit-1-jonathan-rynhold-on-israels-future-relations-with-the-uk-and-the-eu/

Schneer, J. (2010). The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: Random House.

Segev, T. (2001). One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Shafir, G. (1996). Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Suggested Further Reading

Abu El-Haj, H. (2002). Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society. University of Chicago Press.

Chomsky, N. & Pappé I. (2015) On Palestine. Haymarket Books.

Ghalayini, B. (ed) (2019) Palestine + 100, Comma Press. A collection of short stories by 12 Palestinian writers asked to imagine Palestine in the year 2048.

Halper, J. (2021) Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for One Democratic State. Pluto Press.

Lowenstein, A. (2023) The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World. Verso Books.

Pappé, I. (2017) Ten Myths About Israel. Verso Books.

Sacco, J. (1996) Palestine. Fantagraphics Books.

Said, E (1992) The Question of Palestine. Penguin.

White, B. (2018) Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel. Pluto Books.

Web Resources

Decolonize Palestine, a collection of resources

Amnesty International’s pages on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Azadeh Moaveni: What They Did To Our Women (LRB), explores the weaponisation of sexual violence and violence against women in the current conflict. 

Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Resources

UCU: Ceasefire Now campaign and resources

UK Jewish Academic Network statement: Not in our name: weaponising anti-Semitism hurts us all.

Diaspora Alliance: What is Anti-Semitism, a resource on understanding anti-semitism and strategies for countering anti-semitism.

Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism

AGM 2024 Labour and Rest

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The Women’s Classical Committee UK is pleased to announce its 2023 Annual General Meeting, ‘Labour and Rest‘, on Friday 3th May 2024. The AGM will be held in a hybrid format: please visit the TicketSource website. If you select to attend via Zoom, you will receive details closer to the date.

People of any gender expression or identity who support the WCC UK’s aims are welcome to attend this event. Further details are available here. Around the website you can also find more information on the Women’s Classical Committee UK, including our aims and activities and how to join.

Location

The event will be a hybrid, in person and over Zoom. The event will be held at Durham University.

Schedule

10:15: Welcome and housekeeping
10.30: Business meeting
11:30: Coffee break in local coffee shop or at home
12:00: Spotlight talks
13:15: Lunch (Akursu Turkish Restaurant)
14:30: Keynote: Professor Edith Hall (Durham): “Behind every working woman is an enormous pile of unwashed laundry”: A Cultural History of Dirty Clothes
15:30: Get to know the WCC – discussion on further directions (LT)
15:50: Wrap up and close

Mid-career event 2024

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The Women’s Classical Committee UK is organising an event aimed at mid-career scholars, to be held on Friday 19th January 2024 on Zoom between 10am and 1pm. We are delighted that Dr Ellen Adams, King’s College London, will be our keynote speaker.
 
The Women’s Classical Committee UK run a mid-career event annually to help colleagues discuss the issues and challenges that face academics, particularly women, at mid-career. Topics to be discussed may include decisions about whether and when to move institutions, questions around disciplinarity/interdisciplinarity and collaboration in research, expectations about international mobility and balancing this with family/caring duties, managing institutional expectations (which may be gendered) around types and levels of administrative service, taking on leadership positions, ways of supporting precarious colleagues, and strategies to tackle unconscious bias in the workplace. Those who register their intent to attend will be invited to fill in an online questionnaire, the results of which will inform the precise choice of topics for discussion sessions. We envisage that the day’s discussions will help to set priorities for resource development and future campaigns by the Women’s Classical Committee UK.
 
The WCC UK recognises that the term ‘mid-career’ is open to a range of interpretations, but also that different challenges face women in classics in different situations and career stages. This event is aimed primarily at women who self-define as having reached mid-career; markers of this may include being eight or more years after the award of their PhD, holding an open-ended contract, and having an established publication profile. If the event is oversubscribed then we will give priority to women in this situation, but we welcome applications to register from anyone of any gender who feels they would benefit from attending.
 
Registration Options
 
The event is capped at 15 attendees; we will be prioritising WCC UK members and non-members based in the UK should this event be oversubscribed. Free registration is available to all via Ticket Source; if the event reaches capacity, WCC UK members will be given priority. Donations in support of the WCC UK and its activities are welcome.  

Child-friendly policy
 
The Women’s Classical Committee is committed to making our events as inclusive as possible, and recognises that the financial and practical challenges of childcare often impede people from participating in workshops and conferences. We welcome the virtual attendance of children at this event.
 

2024 Steering Committee Elections

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We’re calling for nominations to join the Steering Committee of the Women’s Classical Committee UK. You can nominate someone else – but self-nominations are also warmly encouraged! If you’d like to shape our agenda, or if you have a perspective that ought to be heard, please do put your name forward!

The Steering Committee runs the WCC UK, including organizing events, workshops, and future development of the WCC UK. Committee members serve for four years, with the option to renew for a further four-year term. The Steering Committee wishes to encourage a diverse organization comprised of representatives from any background, location, or career level.

People of any gender expression or identity who support the WCC UK’s aims are welcome to become members and to put themselves forward for office; our aims can be found at https://wcc-uk.blogs.sas.ac.uk

Nominees must be members of the WCC UK – but you can become a member when you’re elected, if you’re not a member already.

If you’re interested, you should submit your name (or somebody else’s) to Cora Beth Fraser, WCC Co-Chair, by Friday 22nd December 2023. Her e-mail address is CoraBeth.Fraser [at] open.ac.uk.

Next steps

Each nominee will be asked in January 2024 to send in a short CV (1 page) and an election statement. These will be made available on the WCC UK website for members to review prior to voting. If you’re nominated by somebody else, the Co-Chair will contact you for permission to place your candidacy on the ticket.

Voting will open on Monday 4th March and run until Friday 15th March 2024. The elected members will be announced in late March and will assume office at the AGM in April 2024.

If you have any questions about the Steering Committee or the process of elections, please e-mail us at womensclassicalcommittee [at] gmail.com.

Letter to UKRI regarding suspension of EDI advisory board

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Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser

Chief Executive, UKRI

14 November 2023

Dear Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser,

 As organisations devoted to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion within the field of Classics in the UK, the Women’s Classical Committee and the Council of University Classics Departments EDI Committee write to express our deep concern at the decision of UKRI to suspend its EDI advisory board as of October 30th 2023, following criticism of two of its members by the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. 

This decision is deeply concerning on several grounds: not only the public criticism, and misrepresentation, of two named individuals without regard for due process or the welfare of the academics concerned, but also the wider implications for academic freedom – including the freedom to award research funding and carry out research without political interference, and the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the suspension of the entire advisory board based on critique against two of its members is an unjustifiable move and alarmingly calls into question UKRI’s commitment to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion within UK academic research.

We ask you to immediately reinstate the EDI advisory board and reaffirm your commitment to both advancing EDI in UK academia and protecting academic freedom.

Yours,

Women’s Classical Committee UK

AGM 2023: Announcement and CfP

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The Women’s Classical Committee UK is pleased to announce its 2023 Annual General Meeting, ‘Resistance‘, on Friday 5th May 2023. The AGM will be held in a hybrid format: please register for the event on Eventbrite. If you select to attend via Zoom, you will receive details closer to the date.

People of any gender expression or identity who support the WCC UK’s aims are welcome to attend this event. Further details are available here. Around the website you can also find more information on the Women’s Classical Committee UK, including our aims and activities and how to join.

Location

The event will be a hybrid, in person and over Zoom. We will meet at 70 Oxford Street, Manchester Metropolitan University. You may know this as the ‘Cornerhouse’ cinema’, which was a staple of Manchester’s creative and independent arts and arthouse cinema scene in the 1980s-2010s. 

The building is distinctive and just a few minutes’ walk from Manchester Oxford Road station (or a short taxi/tram ride from Manchester Piccadilly Station). 

Schedule

9.30am: Welcome and housekeeping

10am: Business meeting

11am: Coffee break in local coffee shop or at home

11.30am: Keynote panel discussion – Resistance. This will include a group discussion

1pm: Lunch in local eatery or at gine

2pm: Spotlight talks

Adam Aderman (Manchester Metropolitan University): ‘Psychology and trauma in the Roman Empire’ 

Benjamin Wilck (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem): ‘How to use a definition in scientific proof: Euclid’s model’

Ville Vuolanto (University of Tampere and Manchester Centre for Youth Studies): ‘Martha, a seller of fish in Roman Egypt’

Francesca Fulminante (University of Bristol): ‘Gender stereotypes in antiquity’

3pm: Coffee break in local coffee shop or at home

3.30pm: Get to know the WCC – discussion on further directions

4.30pm: Wrap up and close

Spotlight talks – call for papers

We are reserving time during the day’s schedule for a series of short (five-minute) spotlight talks by delegates. Through this session, we hope to provide a chance for delegates to share projects, experiences or research connected to the WCC UK’s aims. We are particularly interested in talks that address the AGM’s theme of resistance; that highlight new, feminist, intersectional and gender-informed work in Classics, ancient history, classical reception or pedagogy (inside and outside the university sector); and that feature new work by postgraduate students and early career researchers. If you would like more information or to volunteer to give one of these talks, please e-mail Liz Gloyn (totelinlm at cardiff.ac.uk). The deadline for expressing interest was noon on Wednesday 19th April.

Please feel free to pass on this CFP to anyone you think may be interested in participating or saving the date.

Child-friendly policy

The Women’s Classical Committee UK is committed to making our events as inclusive as possible, and recognises that the financial and practical challenges of childcare often impede people from participating in workshops and conferences. Anyone who needs to bring a dependent child or children with them in order to participate in one of our events is usually welcome to do so, but we ask you to inform us of this in advance so that we can take them into account in our event planning and risk assessment. The safety and well-being of any children brought to our events remain at all times the responsibility of the parent or carer. While we do our best to ensure that rest and changing facilities are available for those who may need them, this will depend on the individual venue we are using. Again, please contact us in advance to discuss your needs, and we will do our best to accommodate them.

Open Letter to James Wharton, Chair, Office for Students; Professor Jean-Noël Ezingeard, Vice-Chancellor, University of Roehampton London; Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Higher and Further Education

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Statement of Solidarity: UK Classics representative bodies deplore attacks on Arts and Humanities across Higher Education institutions

As a united group comprising Chairs and Presidents of the primary representative bodies for Classics professionals in the UK – the Council of University Classical Departments, the Classical Association,  the Institute of Classical Studies, the Women’s Classical Committee UK, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, and the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies – we wish to express our solidarity with all those affected by the deeply worrying programme of closures and redundancies in the Arts and Humanities announced this month across institutions, including Bishop Grosseteste, De Montfort, Dundee, Roehampton, and Wolverhampton.

As institutions working in Classics, we deplore, and are angry at, attacks on Classics at Roehampton. The University’s decision to close Classics comes only months after a celebration of 21 years of Classics at Roehampton – two decades of pioneering research and teaching. The University’s research culture has historically stressed and rewarded the production of high-quality academic publications, and many areas of its School of Humanities and Social Sciences have been strong in this regard, notably Classics, which has led the way in terms of the institutional aims around practical humanities, applied research and innovation. 

Classics at Roehampton has been at the forefront of world-leading research in feminist and disability studies in Classics, and its closure would be damaging to the discipline as a whole. Roehampton has also been exemplary in creating teaching practices for neurodivergent students in Classics, and the loss of this Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion work sets back efforts in this area, which are of incalculable value to all students. Indeed, major publications are forthcoming from Roehampton Classicists around their projects on Classics and autistic children, involving partners such as English Heritage, Keats House, and Pupil Referral Units. Other important, ongoing, collaborations include the Acropolis Museum, Athens, and Heritage of London’s ‘Proud Places’; these are precisely the kinds of projects and partnerships through which Classics at Roehampton has fantastic potential to develop its already highly successful practical and employability training for students. 

Classics at Roehampton, since its inception, has championed employability; as a team it earned the Roehampton Teaching Fellowship for embedding employability into the classical programme, and its research and teaching staff have published around pedagogy and employability in Classics in high quality, peer-reviewed journals and held sessions on student employability at major national and international conferences. This work has blazed a trail, and has directly and positively impacted on the development of comparable initiatives at other institutions. Classics at Roehampton is in fact at the forefront of moving the subject, and by extension the institution, towards practical focused and employability training with potential for exceptional Graduate Outcomes. 

More broadly, the effects that these cuts would have on access to Higher Educationare potentially devastating. Classics and Ancient History in particular are far too often considered the preserve of Russell Group institutions with Classics or Greek & Latin departments, whose entrance criteria and history of systemic under-privileging of first-generation students, BAME students, and state-school-educated students are well-known; Roehampton Classics colleagues have in fact been instrumental in working with colleagues in such departments to make headway in terms of inclusion. Classics at Roehampton bucks this entry trend and is already significantly boosting and broadening access to these subjects: Roehampton’s Classics courses were ranked fifth in the UK in the 2020 Guardian league table, one of only two non-Russell Group universities in the top ten for the subject, with exceptionally high scores for teaching satisfaction (96%), on a par with Durham and St. Andrews. In the most recent NSS survey, Classics received a score of 100%, showing colleagues’ outstanding level of successful teaching. 

Roehampton has great experience in teaching students who have had little previous formal education in Classics, and who have entered university from less privileged backgrounds. Many of them are the first in their family to go to university. Roehampton Classics is a partner in a growing number of non-RG institutions offering this subject to diverse student bodies, the Post92Classics Network, who are collectively at the heart of invigorating the shape of the discipline for future generations in a changing world; indeed Roehampton Classics is very much a leading light in this regard.

As with Arts and Humanities subjects more broadly, Classics encourages and develops appreciation of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, while broadening students’ horizons to a global range of philosophical and intellectual outlooks that have influenced modern thought; it teaches critical thinking and analysis of complex source material in a range of languages, and requires students to view humanity through a critical lens, with empathy. Classics in such educational contexts has the transformative power to engage students in discussion around a wide range of cultures, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and disabilities, across huge spans of space and time. These are not soft skills, nor are they fringe topics. They are vital skills and perspectives for modern life, and indeed the cornerstone of good training both for social and civic participation, and for employability.

Studying the Arts and Humanities can be transformative for students: over their time at Roehampton, students expand their cultural horizons, and build their employable and creative skills. Further, they become active, empowered citizens. The University’s stated rationale for its decision to close these subjects is in fact at odds with the likely outcome of this action. The University’s objective in terms of sustainability of programmes in growing fields, especially those with emerging markets of future economy and society, is one which Classics is extremely well positioned to achieve and at which to excel. There is potential here for multidisciplinary work to develop and further embed employability into its teaching, as evidenced by recent programme revalidations, particularly in areas of institutional strategic importance such as Roehampton’s BA in Liberal Arts and its MAs in Cultural Heritage and Environmental Studies. 

The loss of any Classics provision will undoubtedly hurt the Classics community as a whole, but the loss of Roehampton in particular would diminish our field, and its potential loss is symptomatic of the damage caused by competition for its own sake, that has been actively encouraged by successive governments. Higher Education departments need time, space, collaboration and long-term team-building to provide an excellent education and student experience. Roehampton Classics has built up such a team and collaborations both national and international, including for example major international AHRC, ERC, DFG, Loeb Foundation and Leverhulme Trust grants. The loss of Classics at Roehampton would leave a massive hole. University management and government higher education policy are together destroying a long-cherished site, like Erysichthon cutting down the grove of Demeter. Such willful destruction of Arts and Humanities in UK Higher Education cannot be allowed to stand. 

Signatories:

CUCD, Council of University Classics Departments, Chair: Prof Helen Lovatt 

WCC UK, Women’s Classical Committee UK, Co-Chairs: Dr April Pudsey & Dr Ulriika Vihervalli, Administrator: Prof Laurence Totelin

ICS, Institute of Classical Studies, Director: Prof Katherine Harloe

SPHS, Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, President: Prof Paul Cartledge 

SPRS, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, President: Prof Roy Gibson

CA, Classical Association, Chair of Council: Prof Douglas Cairns

Post92Classics Network, Chair: Dr April Pudsey

A tribute to Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Schafer is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway. Her work focuses on Shakespeare in production; women’s theatre work; Australian drama and theatre; and Caroline playwright Richard Brome. In this guest post, she pays tribute to her secondary school teacher and the influence that she had on Prof. Schafer’s own personal and professional journey. 

Elizabeth Warren, who died late last year, was an extraordinary Woman in Classics, with a particular passion for teaching Greek. From 1969 onwards, Elizabeth taught Greek, Latin, Ancient History and Classical Civilisation in a wide range of educational contexts including Bristol University and the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT) Greek summer courses at Bryanston school, Blandford Forum.

I first met Elizabeth when she joined the staff of King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham, in the mid 1970s. She looked like no other teacher I’d ever met: tall, willowy, with Pre-Raphaelite yellow hair and phenomenal reserves of energy. As my Latin and Greek teacher she helped me navigate Catullus, Virgil, Livy, Homer and Thucydides, but she was also my form teacher for one year, concerned and supportive – often with a twinkle in her eye – as 24 teenagers over-shared their problems. Meanwhile in Latin classes she tactfully steered discussions of Catullus’ poetry, sensitive to her pupils’ different levels of worldly experience, and understanding. She led us through the newly introduced Cambridge Latin course, collapsing with laughter at the howls of protests that erupted when we found out that the irritating Quintus had survived the eruption of Vesuvius, along with boring Grumio, when clearly poor Melissa should have been the one to escape.

Elizabeth’s confidence that girls could achieve what they wanted intellectually was inspirational. Setbacks became challenges, mistakes became learning. She told memorable stories of her solo travel adventures; one came back to me as, around 35 years ago, I was interrailing around Europe and my (very slow) train stopped at Trasimeno. Elizabeth had enlivened Livy’s account of the battle of Lake Trasimeno by telling us how she had once, in her enthusiasm for seeing the site of the battle, jumped off the train at Trasimeno and set off to explore. What she found was very little lake, squadrons of mosquitoes and that there wasn’t another train for days.

My entire class was also convinced that when Elizabeth, aged 20, had married Peter Warren, a research fellow at Corpus Christi, in 1966, they had eloped to Gretna Green. So when Elizabeth brought Peter into school to deliver a sixth form general knowledge lecture on archaeology, there was great interest in seeing this romantic figure. I was entrusted with Peter’s slides, stacked neatly in a carousel. I promptly dropped the lot (I still feel mortified about this). Peter and Elizabeth were totally unfazed and years later when I read Elizabeth’s ‘Memories of Myrtos’ in Aegean Archaeology, I realised why. Archaeologists are used to dealing with stuff scattered all over the floor. What really impressed me, however, as Peter lectured from his unpredictably sequenced slides, illustrating Early Bronze Age Crete and the discovery of the Goddess of Myrtos, was his emphasis on how pivotal Elizabeth had been to the success of the excavations during the two seasons in 1967 and 1968. She managed food and accommodation with no electricity, drains, rubbish collection, or tarmac in 44 degrees centigrade. She also helped carry out study seasons after the excavations had finished, drawing and tracing vases and small objects for subsequent publications.

Elizabeth instilled a passion for the Classics in me, and I continued with Latin as part of my London University English degree, taking an option in the  Classical Background to English Literature which included translating a significant amount of Senenca’s Medea. I lectured on Greek tragedy at La Trobe University and I put Greek drama on the first year core Drama course at Royal Holloway. I love working with the APGRD, and all that Seneca paid off when I was researching Elizabeth Cary and her neo-classical dramaturgy.

Although some of Elizabeth’s achievements were conventional – mayor for five years and deputy mayor for two – Elizabeth’s kind of brilliance, her ability to engage, interest and inspire students was of the sort that can easily be undervalued. When she left KEHS, her then form missed her so much that they hired a bus to go and see her (the catering experience in Myrtos probably came in handy that day). But for me, the most telling tribute to her came from a friend and class mate, Susan Clarke, who was no Classicist and who was ready to drop Latin as soon as she could:

For someone who was really only good at maths and science I remember her lessons being a safe and comfortable place and her making Latin a fun subject.

So vale, Elizabeth, and thank you.

WCC UK at the 2022 Classical Association

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We are delighted that the WCC UK will be well-represented at the upcoming Classical Association conference in Swansea and on-line. As well as two panels, we also intend to run our mentoring scheme for members – stay tuned for more details!

Saturday 9th April 11.30am-1pm – Session 2, Panel 5

#WCCWiki Workshop

This workshop has been organised by Victoria Leonard, Anna Judson, Katie Shields and Kate Cook on behalf of the WCC UK, and represents the continuing activity of the #WCCWiki project.

Following the success of #WCCWiki’s workshop at the FIEC/Classical Association in 2019, the Women’s Classical Committee (UK) will hold a Wikipedia editathon at the CA in 2022 to improve the online representation of classicists who identify as women or non-binary. Classicists are broadly conceived, to include archaeologists, ancient historians, religious studies experts, theorists, and art historians, and others who work on the ancient world.

The workshop seeks to improve the representation of classicists who identify as women or non-binary on Wikipedia, with a particular focus on overlooked Welsh women or non-binary classicists, such as Kathleen Freeman, Käthe Bosse-Griffiths, Jacqui Mulville and Juliette Wood, or those whose research focuses on Wales’s culture and history, such as Catherine Clarke. Of those six women historians who are Fellows of the Learned Society of Wales, an important notability criterion for Wikipedia, five need their pages improving and one lacks a page entirely. The workshop will be an important starting point to addressing this imbalance and promoting the online visibility of Welsh classicists (broadly conceived) who identify as women or non-binary.

The workshop welcomes people of all genders, and it is aimed at those who have never edited Wikipedia before, as well as more experienced contributors. Training will be provided for the first 30 minutes, followed by a supported editing session.

For more information about #WCCWiki, see here, and see #WCCWiki on Twitter.

 

Sunday 10th April 2pm-4pm – Panel 7, Session 7

Politicising Women in the Ancient World

This panel has been organised by Ellie Mackin Roberts, Claire Stocks, Penny Coombe and Thea Lawrence on behalf of the WCC UK and in conjunction with Assemblywomen: The Video-Journal of the WCC UK.

This panel seeks to investigate the ways that women and girls (broadly defined) were politicised in the Greek and Roman worlds. Politicisation, whether imposed internally or externally, is a lens through which we can interrogate the lives of women in a world that is patriarchal and socially constructed. Women’s lives are not simply about the production of new generations of citizens, but they are integral to the political, economic, and social fabric of the ancient past. By looking at several cases from Greece and Rome the papers of this panel will trace the lives of distinct women, and then men and societies that frame them as political.

Elena Duce Pastor (Universidad de Zaragoza) – Peisistratos and the politicisation of marriage

Briana King (University of St Andrews)- “Brides of Disaster”: Homeric Heroines and the Ideology of Male Victory

Laura Fontana (Università degli Studi di Milano) – Politicising matrons’ mourning in the early Roman Republic

Caitlin C. Gillespie (Brandeis University) – Death Becomes Her: Poppaea Sabina’s Political Beauty

A new interpretation of the Ceres and Proserpina myth

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This week’s guest post comes from Hannah Morrish, an actor and screenwriter who has among other things played a number of roles in Shakespeare’s classical plays, about her latest project. 

Ceres is a short film, currently in development, that tells the story of a daughter seeking refuge from her abusive relationship at the home of her estranged mother. It follows their attempt to reconnect, and move forward, before the daughter’s inevitable decision to return to what she knows. But now with earth underneath her fingernails.

The film is a modern retelling of the myth of Ceres and Proserpina, a film about mothers, daughters, regrowth, and the complexities of abuse.

I grew attached to the myth while working on it as an actor at the RSC, at a time when I found myself having frequent conversations with friends and colleagues about their experiences with coercive-controlling relationships.

Ceres uses the roots of the myth to look at the everyday shadows of emotional abuse, the far-reaching effects it has on those close to the victim, and the near-impossibility of extricating oneself from its hold.

Set in modern-day suburban Norfolk, this fifteen-minute film is about the subtle psychological movements that can often only take place in safe female spaces.

This section of Ted Hughes’ translation of the Proserpina myth is the essence of the film:

From this day, Proserpina,

The goddess who shares both kingdoms, divides her year

Between her husband in hell, among spectres,

And her mother on earth, among flowers.

Her nature, too, is divided. One moment

Gloomy as hell’s king, but the next

Bright as the sun’s mass, bursting through clouds.

The Rape of Proserpina, Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes

The film will be directed by Amelia Sears and the parts of Ceres and Proserpina will be played by Juliet Stevenson and myself respectively. Due to the subject matter of the film, we aim to assemble an all female, trans, and non-binary crew for the shoot.

Ceres aims to shed light on the nuances and complexities of emotional abuse, the scars left on women that can’t be seen, and the female connections that help to bring women back to themselves.

We are currently in the fundraising stages of production with one week to go to reach our goal. If this film and the subject matter resonate with you, and you felt like supporting in any way, or indeed sharing with others, you can find more information on Kickstarter.

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