• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Israeli Cruelty and Palestine’s Predicament

Photo by Jonas Moffat | CC BY 2.0

Standing on the campus of Birzeit University in Ramallah (Palestine) one gets a full flavour of the beauty of Palestine as well as of its electric tension. Dryness in the hills is broken by patches of flowers. Watching me look over at the flowers, a young student approaches me and asks what I am looking at. I point to a verge of flowers – red mainly, but also purple and blue. The student says, those are shaqa’iq an-naa’manor anemones. They are dazzling. The student tells me about the tensions at the university. There are always tensions at the university. A few days before, the Israeli police had tried to enter the campus to arrest some student leaders. It is a normal situation. A warm day, beautiful flowers and the threat of violence from the Israeli authorities.

***

Birzeit opened in 1924, when Palestine was Palestine, as a school of girls, adding in boys two years later. Hanna Nasir, whose father and aunt founded the school, took it further after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and made it a university in 1972. The Israeli state told Hanna Nasir that this act was ‘illegal’. There is not one piece of evidence to show that the Israelis – from 1948 to now – have been keen on the education of the Palestinian people. Birzeit University, the most prestigious of the Palestinian schools and of its institutions, has been under military threat from then till now.

But, as the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said wrote in 1998, ‘The sheer survival of Birzeit is of course one of the many stories of Palestinian resistance against outright Israeli oppression’. Said could have said cruelty. One more example of this cruelty is now in evidence. For the past eight years – since 2010 – Israel has refused to turn over postal mail to the Palestinian Postal Service. Now, boxes of mail have arrived in Jerico, where postal workers find not only letters but also a wheelchair.

Murder by Israeli snipers at the Gaza perimeter fence, bulldozing of entire villages in the West Bank, seizure of key parts of East Jerusalem, racist statements by Israeli politicians, a law that says that Israel is a Jewish state (and that is Muslim, Christian and atheist citizens are now secondary), denial of education and mail service – this is the list of cruelty.

***

In 2005, Palestinian activists called upon allies outside Palestine to join a Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement. The goal of the BDS struggle was to put pressure on an obdurate Israel and force the occupying power to negotiation with the Palestinians. Israel’s propaganda outfits aggressively said that BDS was anti-Semitic; any criticism of Israel or Zionism, they said, was tantamount to racism. But, more and more people joined the BDS struggle, finding it an adequate – and peaceful – way to put pressure on an increasingly right-wing and xenophobic Israeli ruling class. Musicians and intellectuals, sports teams and tourists all began to put their stamp on the BDS movement.

The popularity of this movement has led Israel and its international allies to take drastic moves. Israel passed an anti-Boycott law in 2011 and has used whatever means possible to block the entry into the country of BDS activists. It has also gone after anyone who has said anything critical of Israel, Zionism or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even liberal US journalists, such as Peter Beinart, have been harassed at Ben Gurion airport. No-one who has a word to say against Israeli policy is given a second chance.

It is, therefore, to be expected that Israel has now blocked the entry of half of the foreign nationals who teach at BirZeit and at other Palestinian institutions of higher learning (from Gaza’s University of Palestine to Jerico’s al-Istiqlal University). Amongst them is a history professor who has taught at BirZeit for thirty-five years – Roger Heacock – and the health specialist – Laura Wick. I met Roger and Laura several times in Lebanon over the years and found them to be warm and generous people, committed to the values of truth, justice and decency. They moved to Palestine in 1983, coming from Central America, where they had gone to provide their services to the Sandinista revolution. In 1987, Roger was convicted of ‘disturbing the peace’ for taking part in a demonstration. ‘This is a black day for jurisprudence’, said Roger, who had gone to town to get some juice, saw Palestinian women protesting and went to see what was written on their signs. He is, therefore, no stranger to Israeli cruelty. Now, Roger, Laura and the other foreign nationals who play a key role in Palestinian institutions have been prevented from re-entry.

These are the professors. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities continue to bulldoze Palestinian schools and try and prevent Palestinian children from getting to school through checkpoints. In the al-Tawani neighbourhood in Yatta (Palestine), the Israelis sent in an army of bulldozers to destroy the mobile classrooms. In Beit Ta’mar, south-east of Bethlehem, the Israeli forces came and destroyed the caravans that had been used as temporary schools. It is no surprise, therefore, that 40% of communities in the West Bank have no elementary schools. It is why children have to walk a distance to study, often to be stopped and harassed at Israeli checkpoints. This is a war against education, a war against Palestinian children, a war against memory and history.

The classes to be taught at Birzeit by the foreign nationals, meanwhile, await their teachers.

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 22, 2019
T.J. Coles
Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services
Thomas Knapp
A US War on Iran Would be Evil, Stupid, and Self-Damaging
Johnny Hazard
Down in Juárez
Mark Ashwill
Albright & Powell to Speak at Major International Education Conference: What Were They Thinking?
Binoy Kampmark
The Victory of Small Visions: Morrison Retains Power in Australia
Laura Flanders
Can It Happen Here?
Dean Baker
The Money in the Trump/Kushner Middle East Peace Plan
Manuel Perez-Rocha – Jen Moore
How Mining Companies Use Excessive Legal Powers to Gamble with Latin American Lives
George Ochenski
Playing Politics With Coal Plants
Ted Rall
Why Joe Biden is the Least Electable Democrat
May 21, 2019
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Locked in a Cold War Time Warp
Roger Harris
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Patrick Cockburn
Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes
Robert Hunziker
Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming
Lance Olsen
Renewable Energy: the Switch From Drill, Baby, Drill to Mine, Baby, Mine
Dean Baker
Ady Barkan, the Fed and the Liberal Funder Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
Maduro Gives Trump a Lesson in Ethics and Morality
Jan Oberg
Trump’s Iran Trap
David D’Amato
What is Anarchism?
Nicky Reid
Trump’s War In Venezuela Could Be Che’s Revenge
Elliot Sperber
Springtime in New York
May 20, 2019
Richard Greeman
The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle
Manuel García, Jr.
Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?
Robert Fisk
From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes
Tom Clifford
From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf
Chandra Muzaffar
Targeting Iran
Valerie Reynoso
The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition
Howard Lisnoff
They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade
Eileen Appelbaum
Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings
Binoy Kampmark
Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam
J.P. Linstroth
End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue
Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail