I’m usually the last person to leave my office or the campus each evening, or so it seems. Saturday I needed to get some research done and I have no internet connection at home so I spent some time in the late afternoon in the solitude of my office. But whether or not it is the weekend or a weekday, I always seem to be the last one to leave. That is, if you exclude the security workers. The men and women who work the security gates/entrances at An Najah University are lovely people whose daily greetings I look forward to. Normally, during Ramadan, I’ve been leaving work around 5:30 PM to make sure I can catch a taxi and get home before iftar begins. But on Saturday I wasn’t quite finished with work and I decided to push it a bit. As I left campus I noticed that the security workers had set up a table for their iftar dinner (see photograph above). They invited me to join them, but I had my own iftar goodies waiting for me at home.
I was thinking about this generosity today of some of the people who are paid the lowest in the university. It seems that the strike extravaganza has spread and now tomorrow the workers will go on strike tomorrow. Today, however, it was the students who were on strike. As with the student strike when I taught at Al Quds University, these students are demanding that their tuition fees be decreased. But now it is more serious as I mentioned in my last post on the faculty strike because the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar/Jordanian dinar and the Israeli shekel is so low (half of what it was 3 years ago when I last worked here). Now I don’t know what the student tuition was then, but my students told me today that their tuition in the Liberal Arts part of An Najah University (and this may also vary among universities) used to be 21 JD per credit hour and that a normal course load for them is 15-18 credit hours. Now it has been raised to 35 JD per credit hour. But then I learned that this is isolated to my college–to the Liberal Arts. Students in other parts of the university pay more. So if you want to study engineering the fee is 45 JD per credit hour. Medicine is the highest fee per credit hour in the university. And this is one thing that can become a factor in a student choosing his or her major. This is a huge issue that affects so many families–the economic aspects of colonialism and occupation here. And it connects everyone in some way because my students’ parents who pay for their education may or may not be receiving salary increases where they work and jobs in general are so difficult to find here. And to top it all off we have Palestinians who question the quality of Palestinian made goods and prefer to buy Israeli products (even though the price is higher for the colonial version). Can you imagine? Official reports state that 70% of the students went to their classes today, but if the English department is any judge the student report that 90% of the students supported the strike is far more accurate. Apparently there is a small Student Support Fund to help students with fees, but it’s not very large. Too, it is not only tuition that is the problem; indeed one of my students confessed to me last week that she cannot afford the photocopied reader I made for the students at the university bookshop and she wondered if I could purchase it for her. I supported my students today on their strike, though the university required us to teach classes. But I had maybe 4 students or so in each class and so we spent the time discussing politics, life, Ramadan. I wonder why economics is not more a part of resistance because it connects all these daily aspects of people’s lives here. The fact that economics is such a huge part of the occupation and colonization project it always kills me that more people don’t find ways to resist where and when they can. Moreover, I wonder why it is that the Right2Education campaign here, as a friend pointed out today, is not making the economic crisis here connected to the overall rights related to accessing education.
To be sure, the strike here in the West Bank is very different than the one in Gaza that the international media seems to be focusing on. The strike here is about labor and about making sure faculty earn a living wage, for instance. However, the faculty strike here at An Najah, which was supposed to resume tomorrow, has not been canceled; this is especially problematic as it seems we are the only Palestinian university faculty body who is braking from the rest of the faculty unions (but this could be because not all of the other universities have begun their sessions and we were the only university operating last week when the strike began). There it is more about political divisiveness as this Al Jazeera report demonstrates:
Back to the boycott: the Big Campaign in the UK launched a new campaign related to Ramadan, which I think is really important to publicize for those of you out there in the blogosphere who have the Zionist state’s products forced upon you. It seems that dates, a staple of the diet when one breaks fast during Ramadan, is being subject to such products: