on education as liberation

israeli terrorists outside al quds university yesterday
israeli terrorists outside al quds university yesterday

friday morning a friend of mine had to make a delivery to nablus for work and offered to drive me down to beit lahem afterward so i decided to go back with him. my friend who i went to visit is a graduate student at al quds university in the european studies program. she has been complaining about the program all year, partially because the master’s program is a normalization program with an israeli terrorist university in herzliya. this means that the professors in her institution, who teach her classes, also teach in the same program there. ultimately the israeli terrorist students and the palestinian students are supposed to study jointly in germany, something my friend has already decided she would not participate in. but all year long she has had suspicions that her professors were not european or american, as her program coordinator munther dajani unequivocally stated, but rather she had strong suspicions that they were israelis.

of course those of you who follow anti-normalization and boycott news will recall that al quds university’s president sari nusseibeh–famous for his unabashed normalization with israeli terrorists–recently stated that al quds university would phase out its normalization projects (i blogged about this a few months ago). clearly, they are not only continuing these projects, but lying about them as well. the other day my friend saw an israeli terrorist id fall out of her professor’s pocket in class. the professor, aharon yair mcclanahan, does not seem to yield any results in english on google or in any of the major academic search engines. but here was a tell-tale sign of his real, hidden identity. in class the other day he was speaking about british decolonization in general. he decided to offer a specific example as professors should, of course, do. what was his example? the british decolonization of “israel.” i kid you not. he used this as an example to a classroom filled with palestinian master’s degree-seeking students. this is why when i took the photograph above saturday morning my friend said: which is scarier those israeli terrorists in uniform or those trying to hide themselves among us? indeed.

the other professor–one tal sadeh–lives in the colony of pisgat ze’ev on stolen palestinian land (as every israeli terrorist does regardless of where they live). apparently this professor didn’t hide his identity and told the students that he is a colonist occupying their land and their classroom. this second professor is not so difficult to find dirt on. in academic search premier he has a couple of articles about the zionist entity and economic trade with the european union. and he has a book on the eu on amazon.com. his articles on the zionist entity and the eu may seem banal to the uniformed reader. but of course none of these articles mention the way that all of these things that they export–such as agriculture–are entirely stolen from palestinians, from palestinian land. when he mentions tourism he fails to mention that they make it completely impossible for foreigners to tour palestine and actively work to keep tourists from spending money in cities like beit lahem. he is not innocent as with all zionist colonist terrorists he actively works to cover up the crimes of his usurping entity. i also found a letter he posted to the american zionist terrorist front page magazine in which he forwards the usual zionist propaganda. here is but one example of his deceitful propaganda:

The same goes for the Church of Nativity: It was the armed Palestinians who either forced the monks to give them shelter (which suggests that the monks are hostages), or the church who willingly let them in (which means it sided with the Palestinians in this war). Israel never wanted the violence to reach that church. The Palestinians use the church to fire at Israelis, which are morally prevented from firing back. And what about the poor children that get hurt? Indeed it is terrible. But rarely do western journalists take care to report how the Palestinians themselves are careless with their children, firing at IDF soldiers from within a crowd of kids. That poor Palestinian kid who was shot at the beginning of the Intifada – Mohammad Dura – There’s no proof at all that the IDF shot him. A recent German TV show found mixed evidence. Anyway, he was caught in the firing zone, nobody tried to purposely kill him. But like in many libels, the “sorry, we were wrong” part comes in ! small print and not in the front page.

of course, the zionist entity admitted that they murdered mohammad al durra and then later took it back. you can watch the episode of “focus on gaza” that i posted on my blog a couple of weeks ago for an entire episode about al durra and what actually happened.

when my friend went to her peers with her complaint–a complaint that clearly their director, munther dajani was unwilling to engage with since he covered up the fact that he hired israeli terrorists to teach palestinian students–there were some very odd responses. one student argued that they must keep things professional and academic and somehow academia is not the place for politics. but is not political to talk about selling palestinian orange juice that is squeezed from palestinian yaffa oranges, stolen by zionists, and sold to the european union as sadeh does in his scholarship? is this truthful, academic honesty? or for mcclanahan to suggest that the british decolonized palestine for the zionist colonists (who, of course, were not characterized as colonists by him)? these are distortions of the truth and palestinians deserve better.

but this situation is about more than this for me. as one who got her foundation about pedagogy from paolo freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed, as well as many others who followed his path, i understood pedagogy to be a form of resistance and liberation from my first days of graduate school. (interestingly, my friend who brought this all to my attention recently found freire and began reading him and saw quite clearly his theories as applicable to her situation.) i do not see how pedagogy can be connected to liberation in the least bit when the oppressor is teaching your classes. how can a student feel safe in such a class? how can students trust that the material they are being given is truthful? how can students challenge the teacher and the material being presented?

mcgill university in montreal, canada has an institute called the freire project where they carry on the theories of freire’s work. here is a video that encapsulates some of what they are all about. in the video that follows you will hear and read peter mclaren’s words that best describes this spirit:

Revolutionary critical pedagogy operates from an understanding that the basis of education is political, and that spaces need to be created where students can imagine a different world outside of capitalism’s law of value…where patriarchal hierarchies of oppression can be ended.

i wish i had my freire books here with me, but alas they are in amman. but some of the key concepts of critical pedagogy, depends upon key concepts that teach students to think critically. this involves giving students the tools with which to educate themselves, to inspire students to read, to learn, to know, and, perhaps most importantly to question. the freire project has an interesting four-part interview with christopher stonebanks and tariq ali that gets at many of these issues and themes. it starts with a discussion of ali’s novels to consider fiction as a tool to get people to think about history, given that his novels are historical inquiries into various periods of history in the arab world. but in part three he also addresses this need to teach students to think critically and its relationship between this and getting students to read. and in part four he addresses the need to teach students to doubt. this is what is sorely lacking in the educational system in many parts of the world, including here in palestine.

of course, the united states is also a country where teaching students to think critically is threatening. this is why professors like ward churchill and norman finkelstein have been under attack and fired from their institutions–cases that ali addresses in the above videos. another professor is currently under the same sort of scrutiny. this time it is william robinson at the university of california at santa barbara. he did a great interview with dennis bernstein on flashpoints the other day in which he specifically addressed the fact that an email he sent out comparing images of nazi germany to the israeli savagery in gaza was meant to teach students to question–an academic activity. here is the text of robinson’s original email, but if you click on the link you can get to the original images in question as well as to some context for them:

If Martin Luther King were alive on this day of January 19, 2009, there is no doubt that he would be condemning the Israeli aggression against Gaza along with U.S. military and political support for Israeli war crimes, or that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians. I am forwarding some horrific, parallel images of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Perhaps the most frightening are not those providing a graphic depiction of the carnage but that which shows Israeli children writing “with love” on a bomb that will tear apart Palestinian children.

Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw – a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.

The Israeli army is the fifth most potent military machine in the world and one that is backed by a propaganda machine that rivals and may well surpass that of the U.S., a machine that dares to make the ludicrous and obnoxious claim that opposition to the policies and practices of the Israeli state is anti-Semitism. It should be no surprise that a state founded on the negation of a people was one of the principal backers of the apartheid South African state not to mention of the Latin American military dictatorships until those regimes collapsed under mass protest, and today arms, trains, and advises military and paramilitary forces in Colombia, one of the world’s worst human rights violators.

there is a petition to sign for robinson, which you can get to by clicking this link.

education must be about encouraging students to think, to see things from a different point of view. it must also be about learning and reading–and encouraging students to do this. it is always so difficult to find students who are invested in their own learning process, who want these tools, who seek them out. this is why i was quite disturbed when i learned that a friend and student at my university has been blocked by her british teacher yet again from such learning in two ways. first, this student gave the professor money to buy her a copy of ilan pappe’s the ethnic cleansing of palestine. after quite a long wait the teacher gave the student back the money saying that the bookstore was not open when she went to al quds. as someone who goes to the two english-language bookshops on salah el din street almost every weekend–at various times of the day and evening–i found this to be quite shocking. indeed, i happened to go there on friday afternoon at the moment when everyone was rushing to the old city for friday prayer and it was open. i also know from experience that the bookshop is open in the evenings as well throughout the weekend. but this same student, who wants to do research comparing israeli terrorist policies in 1948 palestine with its terrorist ethnic cleansing policies in the west bank was told: no. why was she told no? because she was told that if she presented such research to a foreign, western audience they wouldn’t understand because they only see the west bank and gaza as occupied. thankfully, this student knows better.

but this is precisely my point: education should encourage students to sort such things out. a professor or teacher might mention that such biases exist, but show that student those biases and encourage the student to figure out ways to challenge those biases through his/her research. but this foreign teacher silenced this student (though thankfully she refuses to be silenced). but any other student might submit.

education must be about liberation. about resistance. why else would anyone teach?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s