i keep thinking about safa joudeh. the last two days since i read and blogged her words from electornic intifada:
We have fled for too long, Gaza is our last refuge and our home after we were displaced from what is now called Israel. All this happened 60 years ago. What more could they want? We have nowhere left to go. They have disregarded every single international law there is. Now is the time to defend ourselves, now is the time for resistance.
i found her online and i asked her what we can do for her–those who want to support the resistance from beirut or nablus. those who would come to fight in the resistance if we could, but are unable to get there. i was somewhat surprised by her answer, but i think it is important to really think about what she says:
It’s wonderful to hear about the demonstrations being organized and here in Gaza knowing what’s going on in the rest of the world and that people are outraged is truly a huge source of comfort. At this point we feel so helpless, I for one wish that there was more I can do than write! but I think raising awareness is very important and that gives me comfort. And I think that would be the best thing people outside can do to help.
she wants us to write. to raise awareness. to demonstrate. demonstrate so that it makes the media. so that they see it in gaza. to show them that we care. so simple. but we must do this every day. and we must organize and do this in numbers big numbers. like hezbollah: yesterday they got 20,000 people into the streets of nabatiya to march for gaza. yesterday the communists and pflp, who seem to be doing most of the organizing in beirut, got about 20 people to protest in front of the egyptian embassy (well, a few blocks away because the internal security forces [isf] has the street cordoned off with barbed wire) and today in the pouring rain we had maybe 1,000 people at a march from barbir to downtown. but more on that later.
last night some dear friends got together to discuss what we could do, how we could not only support palestinians in gaza, but their resistance, their stadfastness, their الصمود. one of my friends told a story about an ‘azza he went to once for a friend whose relative had died. at the time my friend did not think much about the act of going to the ‘azza to pay his condolences for his friend; it is a normal thing people do. but he later learned how much it meant to his friend. after this ‘azza the friend later told my friend that he had divided his friends into two camps: those who paid their condolences and those who did not. something with this clicked with me instantly. i remember when my mom died in my senior year of college. i was very struck by people’s responses to this. those friends who wrote me letters, who called, who came to the funeral indeed were people i remained closed to. those who did nothing i never spoke to again. it is very clear what we need when people we love die: we need to know that people are standing with us; we need to know that people will that there are people who will help us to get through those difficult times. this is the bare minimum that we can do. to lend our emotional support to the palestinian people in gaza. to show them that we are with their armed struggle against zionist colonizers and terrorists 100%. too, after loved ones die, after palestinians in gaza become martyrs we have practical questions of how we can help prepare them to carry on this revolution to liberate palestine. and we need to convince people in lebanon of this issue as much as we need to convince those palestinians that their support should be with the people not with the cia-controlled palestinian authority.
this is why we must remember the martyrs and name them and not forget them and honor their death in a dignified way. in solidarity. the latest massacre figures are as follows:
The Israeli Phosphoric bombs have not yet been used in the Gaza offensive.
The total for the 16 days of Israeli strikes and ground fire is now 875 killed, 3,620 injured and 411 seriously wounded.
and there are now 50,000 internally displaced people (idps) in gaza. so the subject of conversation in beirut, among friends of mine, is focused on what we can do from here: how can we support the steadfastness, the resistance from here? how can we place pressure on external players who have blood on their hands for participating in this massacre either by arming the israeli terrorists (the united states) or by closing the borders and now helping palestinians who wish to flee (egypt) or by those in collusion with this american-israeli massacre on the political level (jordan, saudi arabia). this pressure is important for the long-term struggle. and we identified 3 levels of this struggle that need to be dealt with and supported:
1. the military struggle (which those of us outside cannot really help with)
2. putting pressure on external players (boycott, divestment, sanctions, protests)
3. supporting the psychological steadfastness of the palestinians in gaza (protests, writing, educating)
in all of these levels we need to be highly visible. it needs to be done well. to be coordinated without factionalism. but the third element–to which the second one is related–is important because we don’t want palestinians in gaza to become a defeated people. we want them to see the support and continue their resistance. to know that it is worth it. this is why even the propaganda that we see on television stations like al manar (which you can watch online) is important.
another important thing my friend mentioned in our discussion is that what is happening in gaza is symptomatic of the arab world so we need a systemic response to it. even if we were capable of smuggling weapons from here, it would be a bandaid response to a larger, regional problem. what is needed, what they don’t have is support from the arab world. obviously, the people of the arab world support the people of gaza; but we need new governments in these complicit states that reflect the will of the people not these regimes we see in jordan and egypt that are in collusion with the united states. we need to put pressure to halt all normalization with the zionist entity so that we can truly liberate palestine. the armed resistance in gaza is not a problem as kabobfest observed last week and angry arab observed yesterday: in 1967 the region was defeated in 6 days. we are now into day 16 and palestinians are not defeated in the least.
one reason it was important for us to have this discussion last night, and why many of my friends are continuing to have such discussions here, is because we need to figure out how we can act in ways that would be powerful and effective. so that the media comes to the protests, so that people in gaza see us on television and know that we are here for them, with them. we need to think how people can best be mobilized. and this question came up because we went to a protest yesterday at the egyptian embassy and it was only sparsely attended. there were about 20 people there. we couldn’t get nearly close enough as all the streets in a one-block radius around the embassy are blocked off with barbed wire. some of the protesters brought pictures from the massacre in gaza and affixed them to the barbed wire (oddly: al jazeera english, which showed images from our demonstration yesterday, said that we put this barbed wire there: we did not! the internal security forces put it there so that we could not get close enough to the embassy as they did in yemen). this demonstration, like the one i went to today, was organized by the various leftist and communist parties in lebanon and from the palestinian refugee camps here. but yesterday there were 3 protests: this one at the embassy, a candlelight vigil in sassine square in ashrafiyeh, and a mass at an ‘aoun affiliated church in ashrafiyeh which had around 250 people in attendance.
on a side note: we went to buy flags for the protest at a shop in hamra yesterday. once we got there and we saw the sun shining on the red of the flag we noticed that the flag shop sold us jordanian flags with the white star painted over in red to make it a palestinian flag. anyway, these protests at the egyptian embassy are daily, which may be one reason for the sparse attendance. so we are trying to think about how to best connect people. the people are too divided–even among the left here. there are multiple meetings every day. there are too many protests. we need one big one every day. like an ‘azza, in a central place, like in the cemetery outside shatila refugee camp where people from mar elias refugee camp, bourj al barajneh refugee camp, and the christian, shi’a, and sunni neighborhoods nearby can easily get to. where we can maybe get at least 1,000 people every day to attend, to mourn for 40 days. to show solidarity with the people of gaza. an on-going vigil. it must be centrally located. this is more important than the nightly vigil at the united nations escwa building downtown, the spaces of the elite, rich people. and we need to duplicate the work of the people in bourj al barajneh camp that has the phone bank to call people in gaza to let them know we are with them 100%. every day.
the key is this: the focus must be on the palestinian people of gaza. this is not and cannot be about people’s egos, their desire for power or fame or control of one political party or another, which is what it sort of seems like to me at the moment.
on a related note my friend also had an important thing to say about the political parties with which we align ourselves. we expect that whatever party we belong to meet our ideological perspective 100%. and if it doesn’t we tend to not want to involve ourselves. for instance, there are things about hezbollah or hamas that i do not agree with, but their resistance is strong and steadfast and i support both in this 100%. but this is again related to questions i posed the other day when thinking about resistance. my friend said: we work at places, spend 8 hours a day at such places, that we do not agree with institutionally, politically. maybe we agree with our places of employment 20%. and yet we work there. so why is it that we are not willing to work with those political parties with which we agree maybe 80%? such thinking forces us to divide, to factionalize and this weakens our resistance and our ability to support people in gaza.
today’s demonstration, though, was better in some respects as there seemed to be around 1,000 people. we met in barbir and marched to downtown in the pouring rain and hail. but people did not seem to run for shelter and abandon the demonstration. we marched in our soaking shoes, socks, pants in spite of the weather. but again, just one political orientation: just leftists. where are the others? why can’t we join forces with hezbollah and ‘aoun, for instance, and make our voices louder and stronger. sure al jadeed television and al jazeera and al manar television will cover these events, but the bigger we are the more support we lend to the people of gaza and that should be our overall goal. we should not forget this.
as for other forms of resistance: boycott, divestment, sanctions and a total cessation of any form of normalization with israeli terrorists should be demanded by people all over the planet. not just the arab world. just as i divided the world into two parts after my mom died: those who stood with me and those who ignored me, i feel the same way now. those who normalize and those who don’t. those who stand steadfastly with palestinian resistance and those who do not. there is no space for a gray area now. we should follow norway’s example, for instance, in their boycott plans:
Norway has been the site of a flurry of Palestine solidarity activism and BDS initiatives over the past week, as tens of thousand of people have called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Oslo, and major trade unions are mobilizing in support of a comprehensive boycott and divestment campaign.
Demonstrations have now been held in at least 28 cities:
Oslo, Stavanger, Sandnes, Fredrikstad, Trondheim, Hamar, Sortland, Namsos, Arendal, Norheimsund, MosjÃen, Bergen, Sarpsborg, TÃnsberg, Harstad, TromsÃ¸Kristiansand, Notodden, VadsÃ¸Moi Rana, Alta, Kirkenes, RÃros, Volda, Halden, GjÃvik, Lillehammer, Selbu.
The numbers of participants have never been bigger.
POLITICAL STRIKE: Thursday ALL trains in the whole of Norway, and all trams and subways in Oslo, will stand still for two minutes as a result of a political strike organized by the Norwegian Locomotive Union and the Oslo Tram Workers Union in protest of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
A large selection of Norwegian trade unions and organizations has endorsed a new campaign for the withdrawal of all State investments in Israel. The call is endorsed by so far 6 of the largest national trade unions.
The Union of Trade and Office Workers calls on all members to ask their employers to remove Israeli products from stores. The union is the by far largest union of workers in all types of private and public stores in Norway.
The confederation of Norwegian Trade Unions (LO), with apr. 1/5 of the whole Norwegian population as members, condemns the Israeli bombing and invasion in Gaza and calls for demonstrations.
The Norwegian Church has protested Israels invasion of Gaza and was, according to media, “called to the carpet” by the Israeli ambassador.
22.000 supports the Facebook-group demanding the ambassador to be expelled from Norway. The Facebook-group has got attention in all major newspaper and was hacked by a Zionist hacker-group but is now back on track.
31% of Norwegians supports the boycott of Israel, in a survey by the pro-Israel tabloid VG today. The question was politically charged “Do you support the Socialist Left’s boycott of Israel?” If not mentioning the Socialists the number would probably be much higher. The vast majority in all groups in the survey is against the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
likewise, in canada we are seeing increased workers mobilize in solidarity with palestinians in gaza through boycott:
On behalf of the 56,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, I am writing to demand that the Canadian government condemn the military assault on the people of Gaza that the state of Israel commenced on December 26th, 2008.
Canada must also call for a cessation of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza, which has resulted in the collective punishment of the entire Gaza population.
Canada must also address the root cause of the violence: Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israel’s current actions are totally out of proportion with any notion of self-defense. Israel’s actions are resulting in the massacre of people in Gaza.
Israels action will not bring peace to the region. they will result in Israel being less secure.
Professor Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied territories, has characterized the Israeli offensive as containing “…severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regards to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”
CUPW strongly urges the Canadian government to condemn the serious violations of humanitarian and international law by the state of Israel.
The Israeli Government’s siege and military incursions into Gaza are not isolated events. It is a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and the refusal of the Israeli government to abide by numerous United Nations security council resolutions.
Therefore, as a longer term strategy, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is asking your government to adopt a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and complies with international law, including the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader
Jack Layton, NDP Leader
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois Leader
Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labor Congress
and in egypt we see more action on the front of destabilizing its normalizing relations with the zionist terrorist regime:
90 members of the Egyptian parliament have asked for accelerating the endorsement of a draft law banning the sale of natural gas to Israel in the light of the latter’s “criminal aggression on the Gaza Strip”.
The request signed by 90 MPs asked for respecting the Egyptian state court’s ruling that banned such exports.
They also asked for canceling the minister of petroleum’s decision in 2005 that approved the signing of a deal allowing the export of gas to Israel.
MP Hussein Ibrahim, Muslim Brotherhood deputy, said that he tabled a proposal to this effect in the past parliamentary session but it was delayed and he was now insisting on putting it to vote in the current session.
Signatories to the request, tabled with the parliament speaker, said that they would not tolerate witnessing Egyptian gas and petroleum being exported to Israel at a time it was using it in killing Gaza children.
likewise academics must stop their normalizing relations with israeli professors and institutions who are complicit in israeli state terrorism (all israeli universities are state run institutions that produce the knowledge that enables their genocidal practices and policies and there has NEVER been a single israeli academic body to condemn this behavior). dear rania and i wrote an article for the chronicle of higher education last week, addressed to our academic colleagues in the united states, but they ignored it and refused to publish it. it is now on dissident voice. i encourage you to read it in full (as well as rania’s updating of it on her blog), but here is what we are demanding:
We urge our fellow academics to not only support this statement in theory, but also in practice by pushing for academic boycott on your campuses as you return to classes this week. Supporting the human rights of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic; it is about human rights: Palestinian human rights. If this were any other captive population besieged for seven days with US-made materiel, we would be outraged and acting. So we are asking you to act now. It is our tax dollars at work that enables this massacre to take place. Let us work for justice, for consistency. Let us make apartheid, in all its forms, only present in history books.
the blog south lebanon also republished the piece; we hope others will not only follow in getting the word out, but alter their behavior institutionally and personally. i refuse to subscribe to the belief that freedom of speech is more important than the palestinian people who are being slaughtered.
canadians have been active on this academic boycott front for a while now and are renewing that work, though shamefully american academics are not in the same way:
CUPE Ontario’s university workers committee will bring a resolution to its annual conference supporting a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities as a protest against the December 29 bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza.
“In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general,” said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario. “It’s a logical next step, building on policy adopted by our provincial convention in 2006.”
Resolution 50, adopted in May 2006, supported boycotts, divestment and sanctions aimed at bringing about the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and a just peace in the region.
“Clearly, international pressure on Israel must increase to stop the massacre that is going on daily,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the CUPE Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, whose conference is scheduled for February. “We are proud to add CUPE voices to others from around the world saying enough is enough.”
Ryan and other CUPE representatives will join in the demonstration against the Israeli assault on Gaza at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, January 3 at Dundas Square in Toronto.
likewise, the palestinian academic and cultural boycott of israel wrote a letter this week to soas for its normalizing relationship with tel aviv university in the midst of this horrific genocide on gaza:
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is gravely concerned that the School of Oriental and African Studies will be hosting the Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series marking Tel Aviv’s centennial (January 12th-March 16th).
At a time when the Israeli government is unleashing the full force of its military might in an all-out war against an essentially defenceless population in the occupied Gaza Strip, celebrating Tel Aviv while Gaza burns is morally repulsive. It is an indefensible position for an academic institution to take while a population, over half of whom are children, are subject to daily attacks that are widely recognized as violating international humanitarian law and basic human rights.
Tel Aviv is not a ‘White City on the Dunes’ promising a ‘Mediterranean Dream’ as the titles of two lectures in the Lecture Series would have us believe. Rather, as the seat of Israeli political and economic power, Tel Aviv houses the masterminds of Israel’s longstanding policies of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination and military subjugation. It is hence more emblematic of apartheid and colonial rule than any other Israeli city.
Tel Aviv is a city in colonial denial. Its very existence and expansion are products of the Zionist project of erasing the physical presence of the Palestinians, their culture, heritage and memory. The adjacent Palestinian city of Jaffa and numerous villages were emptied of their indigenous inhabitants to make way for the ‘White City’. This fact is conspicuously absent from the Special Lecture Series and thus renders the lectures no better than political propaganda on behalf of Israel and its ongoing project of colonial dispossession.
It may be claimed that as an academic institution, Tel Aviv University stands apart from all this. But it is important to stress that the university was built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis, a village largely destroyed in 1948 and its inhabitants ethnically cleansed and forced to flee for their lives. The “Green House”, the former home of the head of the village, is one of the few original buildings of the village that remains and currently serves as a restaurant for university faculty. The President of Tel Aviv University refused to acknowledge its history and objected to the posting of a sign on the “Green House” that would explain its origin. The campaign to pressure the university to recognize its history has been led by the Israeli organization Zochrot. 
The university not only refuses to recognize its past, but is also an integral part of Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid regime imposed on the Palestinians, including the current savage bombardment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Typical is the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an external institute of Tel Aviv University, which boasts in its mission statement of its “strong association with the political and military establishment”. Advising governmental decision makers and public leaders on important “strategic issues”, it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the INSS has played a direct or indirect role in the current Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
In common with all other Israeli academic bodies and institutions, Tel Aviv University has never taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or criticized the closure of Palestinian universities which are part of a longstanding assault on Palestinian education. Unsurprisingly then, no voice was heard from Tel Aviv or any other academic institution in Israel condemning the bombing of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza on December 28th, 2008. In addition to Palestinian academics, we know that a significant number of their international and UK colleagues are shocked at the deafening silence emanating from the Israeli academy. As the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees asked in their recent statement , are Israeli universities willing to call for an end to the occupation? Are Israeli academics going to speak out in support of freedom of education and call for an end to their government’s assault on Palestinian education? Are they going to cut their organic and deep-rooted ties with the military-security establishment? Or are the members of the academy dutifully preparing for the reserve call-up just approved by their government, ready to serve in the death squads committing what international human rights organisations have described as war crimes?
While some may claim that an academic institution such as SOAS, should remain above ‘political frays’ and provide instead a neutral forum for the open exchange of ideas, hosting such an event, and particularly as Gaza is being decimated by Israel, is to support and acquiesce in Israel’s vicious and illegal actions. We urge the administration of SOAS to cancel the Special Lecture Series to avoid being held complicit in whitewashing Israel’s grave violations of international law, to take a minimal stand in solidarity with your Palestinian colleagues, and in response to the call issued by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, urging international civil society “not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights.” We agree with the statement’s conclusion that “without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.”
SOAS has the opportunity to uphold ethical principles and the universality of human rights by cancelling this ill-conceived propaganda exercise, thereby contributing to bringing about the conditions for a just and lasting peace for Palestine and the entire region.
likewise in scottland there is a call for boycott:
SCOTTISH COMMITTEE FOR THE UNIVERSITIES OF PALESTINE
Press release: 1-00 pm / 4th January 2009 – Glasgow
As evening closed in on Saturday 3rd January 2009 F-16 fighter planes renewed their bombing of one of the most densely populated areas of land in the world, killing more Palestinian civilians. In seven days Israel has killed over 500 Palestinians and injuring thousand of innocents. And now it has embarked on a full scale ground invasion.
We note and deplore the failure of the UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli massacre of Gazans in the Strip; the international body has proved itself a farce by once again colluding in the US-EU-Israeli effort to thwart peace. In these circumstances we call for all members of Scottish civil society to support all demonstrations against this atrocity, to join lobbies and write to representatives, and to contribute to medical aid through various organisations. We seriously urge the BBC to speak out against the Israel’s concealment of its atrocities, away from the world’s media. Again Israel defies international law and its own legal system. We say this is not the action of a democracy! Journalists and media organizations must therefore make formal objections to this ban. Israel cannot be allowed to conceal its war crimes.
We call for a boycott of Israel and for ordinary people to participate in peaceful actions everywhere opposing actions of the Zionist state and express real support for the Palestinian people. We also demand that the UK government withdraw its ambassador in Tel Aviv immediately and cease diplomatic relations until Israel starts conforming to the norms of international relations. A country that spurns diplomacy as an option for resolving its disputes must not benefit from the legitimacy that diplomatic recognition confers.
Israel must withdraw from the Gaza Strip immediately. The bombing and ground operation must cease without delay; and the border crossing with Egypt must be opened forthwith. There is no justification for withholding food, water, power and essential services to 1.5 million civilians. International observers and the press must be allowed into Gaza and, finally, the Scottish civil society must respond to the call issued by their Palestinian counterparts in adopting the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign and generate international pressure where the multinational institutions have been remiss. Israeli institutions and produce must be rejected. We urge shoppers to look for replacement goods from peaceful states.
For further information and contacts who may be interviewed please contact:
The Scottish Committee for the Universities of Palestine is a committee of academics and similar professionals, established in 2008 as a sister organisation to the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). The Scottish Committee is committed to furthering the boycott of the state of Israel. We aim to popularise amongst in Scottish universities and broader civil society the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s war policies. We aim to highlight the racist state of Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian universities and schools, hospitals, and municipalities. We work towards an end to the Israeli occupation, meaningful peace in the dismantling of the apartheid wall, the checkpoints and illegal settlements; and we campaign to further the building of a free state of Palestine.
i know it is a lot to ask of americans to think about palestinians as human beings (just look at the white house’s response to the death of its f(*&^%$ cat compared to the 857 palestinians in gaza as one example) whose rights and lives are more important than their precious positions in corporations or universities. this is why i had naievely thought that israeli terrorists targeting not only universities and schools, but united nations unrwa schools housing palestinian idps might just get their attention and force them to change their point of view. but clearly this is not the case as of yet. nevertheless, it is worth reading ameer ahmad and ed vulliamy’s piece in the guardian today on what they call scholasticide:
A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: “scholasticide” – the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.
“Learn, baby, learn” was a slogan of the black rights movement in America’s ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis “cannot abide… and seek to destroy”, according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. “We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine,” she says.
The Palestinians are among the most thoroughly educated people in the world. For decades, Palestinian society – both at home in the West Bank and Gaza, and scattered in the diaspora – has put a singular emphasis on learning. After the expulsions of 1948 and after the 1967 occupation, waves of refugees created an influential Palestinian intelligentsia and a marked presence in the disciplines of medicine and engineering across the Arab world, Europe and the Americas.
“Education is the most important thing – it is part of the family life, part of your identity and part of the rebellion,” says Nabulsi. “Everyone knows this, and in a refugee camp like Gaza, every child knows that in those same schooldesks sat your parents and your grandparents, whose tradition they carry on.”
Schooling and university studies are the fabric of life despite, not because of, circumstances: every university in the occupied territories has been closed down at some point by Israeli forces, many of them regularly. However, the closures and arrests of students (more than 300 at Birzeit university in Ramallah, says Nabulsi) only strengthens the desire to become educated.
In the current offensive, Israel began attacking Gaza’s educational institutions immediately. On only the second and third day of air attacks last week, Israeli planes wreaked severe damage in direct strikes on Gaza’s Islamic University. The main buildings were devastated, destroying administrative records, and, of course, ending studies. The Ministry of Education has been hit twice by direct hits from the air.
The Saturday of the ground invasion was the day on which most students in Gaza sit their end-of-year examinations. In the majority of cases, these had to be abandoned, and it remains unclear whether they can or will be sat again. Other schools were also attacked – most notoriously the UN establishment in the Jabaliya refugee camp where at least 40 people were massacred on Tuesday.
On Sunday, another Israeli air strike destroyed the pinnacle of Palestinian schooling, the elite and private American International School, to which the children of business and other leaders went, among them Fulbright scholars unable to take up their places in the United States because of the Israeli blockade. Ironically, the same school was attacked last year by a group called the Holy Jihad Brigades, and has been repeatedly vandalised for its association with western-style education.
The school was founded in 2000 to offer a “progressive” (and fully co-educational) American-style curriculum, taught in English, from kindergarten to sixth form, and was said by the Israelis to have been the site, or near the site, from which a rocket was fired. A night watchman was killed in the destruction of the building.
The chairman of its board of trustees, Iyad Saraj, says: “This is the most distinguished and advanced school in Gaza, if not in Gaza and the West Bank. I cannot swear there was no rocket fired, but if there was, you don’t destroy a whole school.” He adds: “This is the destruction of civilisation.”
The school has no connection to the US government, Saraj says, and many of the 250 who graduate from it each year go on to US universities. “They are very good, highly educated open-minded students who can really be future leaders of Palestine.”
Young Palestinians playing in Daniel Barenboim’s celebrated East-West Divan Orchestra – which this week again brings Palestinian and Israeli musicians together to play a prestigious concert in Vienna – say that music schools in their communities and refugee camps are “not just educating young people, but helping them understand their identity”, as Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, a violinist based in Nazareth, puts it, adding: “And the Israelis are not necessarily happy with that.”
Ramzi Aburedwan, who runs the Al-Kamandjati classical music school in Ramallah, argues: “What the Israelis are doing is killing the lives of the people. Bring music, and you bring life. The children who played here were suddenly interested in their future”.
In a recent lecture, Nabulsi at St Edmund Hall recalled the tradition of learning in Palestinian history, and the recurrent character of the teacher as an icon in Palestinian literature. “The role and power of education in an occupied society is enormous. Education posits possibilities, opens horizons. Freedom of thought contrasts sharply with the apartheid wall, the shackling checkpoints, the choking prisons,” she said.
This week, following the bombing of schools in Gaza, she says: “The systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel has countered that tradition since the occupation of 1967,” citing “the calculated, wholesale looting of the Palestinian Research Centre in Beirut during the 1982 war and the destruction of all those manuscripts and archived history.”
“Now in Gaza,” she says, “we see the policy more clearly than ever – this ‘scholasticide’. The Israelis know nothing about who we really are, while we study and study them. But deep down they know how important education is to the Palestinian tradition and the Palestinian revolution. They cannot abide it and have to destroy it.”
again, i must ask: what are you doing? what are you going to do? what sacrifices are you willing to make to support the palestinian people in gaza?