So I learned a new vocabulary word today: الضربة, which means strike. I heard rumors of this yesterday from colleagues in the English department, that today the faculty would go on strike. Apparently it is not just my university either as has been reported in Palestinian media today. There was a البيان released yesterday about the strike and put on An Najah university’s website. Here is what that statement says:
بيان صادر عن مجلس اتحاد النقابات
في الجامعات والمعاهد العليا الفلسطينية
استمرار نزاع العمل بين مجلس الاتحاد والجامعات الفلسطينية
تحية نقابية وبعد..,
يتقدم مجلس اتحاد النقابات في الجامعات والمعاهد العليا الفلسطينية اليكم باجمل و اطيب امنياته و تحياته بمناسبة حلول شهر رمضان المبارك.
يؤكد الاتحاد على الاجراء النقابي الذي اعلن عنه في بيانه بتاريخ 18/8/2008 وذلك بتعليق الدوام الشامل يوم الثلاثاء الموافق 2/9/2008 مع تواجد العاملين في حرم الجامعة. كما ويدعوكم الاتحاد لحضور اجتماعات الهيئات العامة التي ستعقدها الهيئات الادارية في كل جامعة وذلك لوضعكم في صورة اخر المستجدات والتطورات في المفاوضات مع اللجنة المنبثقة عن مجلس التعليم العالي.
ادامكم الله سندا وفخرا لهذا الوطن
رئيس اتحاد نقابات اساتذة و موظفي الجامعات الفلسطينية
Like most strikes this one is about money. When I taught at Al Quds University in Abu Dies I remember that my colleagues complained of having received absolutely no salary–some of them in excess of 3 years. They managed to get by because they had large families who helped them out or land from which they could eat; they never stopped teaching, though of course they did strike from time to time, because they are that committed to the students. Faculty at my new university receive a salary, but it is a shrinking one. A typical salary here, when I taught here three years ago, around $1800 per month, was worth about 10,800 shekels (Israel’s colonial currency that everyone here is forced to use); today that same exact salary is worth only 6,543 shekels. The problem is that we are paid in Jordanian dinars, which is tied to the dollar, and the shekel (for some odd reason) is not. Thus people’s salaries in general in Palestine–most of whom receive their salaries in dollars or dinars–are finding their salary slipping away.
Of course, it’s not just faculty who are suffering economically. Students here–who only have access to photocopied books anyway because it’s too difficult to import anything into Palestine–purchase their books little by little. For my drama class, for instance, the students go down to the photocopy shop and buy one play at a time because that is all they can afford. All morning I had students coming into my office in two-by-two pairs asking me if there would be a lecture today and I had to apologize and tell them no. They all seemed disappointed. (In the U.S., students would throw a party and spend their time wasting money and time rather than bothering to request a teacher hold class in spite of the strike; Tam Tam claims the same would hold true at AUB.)
The faculty union held a meeting this morning in the university auditorium during which many people spoke and the university president attended and spoke as well. I probably only got half of the context given the fact that my hunger from fasting started to get the better of me and that my Arabic still can’t follow the entirety of a complex conversation. But what I gathered is that many faculty are upset because of their salaries; one said that she spent all this time and money obtaining a degree outside Palestine only to return to find that she receives the same salary as a PhD as those who are working in secondary education. There was a lot of heated debate in the room, though people argued with one another respectfully. I could not help but think that this was another sign of how things would be different here if people organized themselves differently. Everyone has a common need to receive a salary to feed their family, for instance. This is why class-based political organizing can unify people in spite of their religious or ideological differences. It made me wonder where PFLP is in their organizing and why they don’t capitalize on these issues to move things forward–get out of the PA and its corrupt methods of collaborating with the Zionist state. Of course even in the best of circumstances one has to deal with corruption in universities too and those who choose not to be on the side of the people whether they are working in the Palestinian Authority or whether they are teaching in a university; this is a not-so-subtle reference to a story a friend told me about Saeb Erekat, that PA man who loves normalizing with Israeli terrorists so much that he sends his children to a normalizing camp, a camp that silences Palestinian voices about occupation and an nakba and simultaneously forces Palestinian children submit even further to stories that only Jewish people suffer (of course their historical stories have nothing to do with people in this region who bear the burnt of their violence).
I especially thought of this after the 1.5 hour meeting when I took off down town to buy some food for my الإفطار tonight, which is as simple as possible because I simply don’t have the time or energy to cook on top of everything else I need to do. In the end I think this is good, too, because I don’t think it is healthy to fast all day and then stuff yourself all night. So really I’m not eating anything too different than usual. Anyway, I was walking into the old city to buy some fresh food for tonight when I saw new flags up on this PFLP monument downtown. I remembered that I read there was an event on Saturday for Abu Ali Moustafa. The picture above shows what the scene looks like now commemorating him and others like George Habash (see other pictures below).
I don’t know why PFLP is not stronger. I had hoped that with the death of George Habash that people would wake up and realize the ways in which its ideology can unite people. It always surprises me when PFLP is not stronger on university campuses as well for similar reasons. But in reality, as much as I love Habash and PFLP, I think that if political parties could be pushed to the side for the sake of a unified resistance movement that things here would improve dramatically. That people would have the manpower to fight for al awda. But the manpower does not exist, in part, because the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) do an excellent job of playing the old colonial game of divide and rule: between helping Hamas and Fatah to acquire weapons to fight among themselves or by locking resistance leaders up in Zionist torture chambers or by merely killing Palestinians on a daily basis, it becomes difficult to act, to move forward in any sustained way. The second you’re perceived as powerful you’re the target. Really, Palestinians could learn so much from reading about the Black Panther Party. This is what the U.S. government did to strong African American leaders: they either assassinated people like Fred Hampton, jailed people like Assata Shakur, or infiltrated the party (through COINTELPRO).
The same holds true here in Palestine (the Americans and Zionists teach each other well, unfortunately). Education has always been under attack by the Zionist state, as I’ve written about on numerous occasions. The Right to Education Campaign always has excellent reports and statistics on this as I’ve reported earlier. My university has about 6 professors and hundreds of students who are currently in administrative detention (meaning they are held with out trial). At least 54 students have been murdered in the past 8 years. And in 2002 my campus, like most university campuses and much of the West Bank in general, was destroyed and closed by the ITF. Today I found these testimonies of students from my university speaking to the violence they incur, which of course is daily in the lives of Nabulsis and other people who reside in Nablus while waiting to return to their original villages. Here are some of the subheadings in that series of testimonies;
Faculty Member Detained in his House
Student Killed at Road Block
Palestinian Academic Denied Freedom to Practice Religion
Respected Academic Abused and Humiliated at Checkpoint
Student Loses an Eye
As I look out my office window (photograph above) I think about these things. I think about the Palestinian political prisoners in jail, on hunger strike, as Noura Al-Hashlamoun came home this week. But I’m thinking about the prisoners who are growing in number steadily. At last count there were 152. Now we are up to 156 (5 more kidnapped Palestinians, plus 1 releasted).
Friday, August 29th, Nablus: The Israeli army forced their way into the playing field of a Palestinian secondary school in the village of Tell in south west Nablus district on Friday afternoon. Local witnesses told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed the area where a soccer game was about to be held and arrested 19-year-old Isma’iel Ibrahim Afanah and took him to unknown destination. Afanah had been preparing to play the soccer game for his team in the village, when he was arrested.
Sunday, August 31st in Jenin: Israeli forces detained four civilians at a military checkpoint near Tubas from different villages in the Jenin governorate. The civilians were traveling from the area to Nablus city and were stopped at a checkpoint set up by Israeli forces on the road between Tubas and the El-Far’a refugee camp. Several cars were stopped and checked. The four men, Jihad Hassan Ibrahim from Kafr Ra’i, Wahid Najem Nawasrah from Fahma and Nayef Hardan and Sobhi Arda from Arraba were taken out of the cars they traveled in and transferred to an unknown location.
Monday, September 1st, Nablus: Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian boy at the Huwwara checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday afternoon after he reportedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier. Fifteen-year-old Ahmad ‘Aref Mohammed Saleh Hamayel was arrested. Local sources in the village of Beita, Hamayel’s home, denied reports that he had been carrying a knife. According to sources in the village, Hamayel left for school on Monday morning and never returned. Hamayel is in the 10th grade. The boy’s relatives appealed to the Palestinian Authority and humanitarian organizations to intervene with the Israeli side in order to release their son.
While I still haven’t found definite statistics to show whether or not the ITF has kidnapped up to or more than 199 Palestinians, it should be said that Addameer reports that for the month of August in general the ITF kidnapped 279 Palestinians. From August 18th (they day the Zionist state announced the prisoner release) until August 25th (the day the political prisoners came home) 83 Palestinians were kidnapped.
On another note, Hurricane Gustav seems to have given people some sort of reprieve. Though, finally, today I began to see stories in the media of those who were left behind–those too poor to be evacuated. Those who are usually forgotten in all such circumstances and who are the most vulnerable. It seems as though the Common Ground Relief collective has now set up a website for Gustav Solidarity so those of you who want to do something you may click on the link and see what is needed. I also encourage people to watch or listen to today’s episode of Democracy Now! and listen to Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater in New Orleans. It’s not new information per se, but if you don’t know about these mercenaries moving back and forth between New Orleans and Iraq you should.
Finally, for those unfamiliar with the murder of Fred Hampton, here is a bit on his assassination. It is long but definitely worth watching. We were seriously deprived of an amazing young leader through this U.S. government assassination.