Archive for the Palestinian Education Category

Survey concerning Haifa University and its treatment of the Palestinian Students: A chronicle of discrimination and racism

Posted in Apartheid, Normalization, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 12, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Baladna Association for Arab Youth | August 2010


The reality of Haifa University is significantly remote from that of a campus based on values of academic freedom and action. The fact that in many cases the University acts as the extension of Israeli policy when addressing the Palestinian people as a whole indicates that the freedom of action is consciously limited, foremost when it comes to Palestinian students within the campus. This policy is expressed not only in issues relevant to freedom of action and expression but also in the processes for enrollment to universities, scholarship granting procedures as well as in the lectures themselves. In all of these cases it becomes clear that the general discriminative policy of Israeli governments can be identified with the decision-making procedure implemented by the University authorities.

University authorities, especially those of Haifa University, covering the highest number of Palestinian students, should hold immediate deliberation to lead to a new vision of the account of freedom of expression in Israel as well as the obligations of a campus in a multinational society. The indifference of Haifa University’s administration of the tense atmosphere within its campus, fully created under their responsibility, has come to destroy the value of freedom of speech. There is definite reason for serious concern that we will be facing a reality in which it will be too late to find a suitable solution.

This reality has dominated organizations of social change and human rights in Israel, especially Palestinian organizations. These organizations were apathetic to the human right violations of the Palestinian students especially when political parties like Beytenou felt the urge to implement their radical policies. Applying Lieberman’s policy is in fact a strike against universal values, the basis of civilized societies. This fact should trouble the Jewish population just as much as the continuation of integrating radical values into Jewish communities in Israel which has shown signs of failure in international politics.

Baladna’s Association for Arab Youth has been formulating a plan for the creation of a new discourse in all of the covered issues such as freedom of speech and action on campuses in Israel as well as prohibiting all forms of discrimination existent in the academic sphere. This discourse will be created together with Palestinian political groups within the campuses that work closely with promoting the rights of Palestinian students as well as the protection of Palestinian people’s rights.

To download the full report, click here.

Interview: “Israel has turned Gaza into the largest concentration camp in history”

Posted in Apartheid, Labor Organizing, Palestinian Economy, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 7, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Interview with Haidar Eid

Founding member of the PCACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).


The world was appalled by the Israeli massacre at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. But then Gaza disappeared from Western news media. What is the situation today in Gaza, a year and a half after that genocidal attack?

To best describe the situation in Gaza today would be to refer to what Richard Falk, the UN rapporteur to the Occupied Territories, called “prelude to genocide” and what the Israeli anti-Zionist activist Ilan Pappe called a “slow-motion genocide.” Despite the fact that bombs are not falling over us every few minutes as they did during the 22 day genocidal war, when the Israelis bomb or attack, they do so to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

After the occupation redeployed its troops around Gaza in 2006, what was a Bantustan turned into the largest concentration camp since Auschwitz and Warsaw during WW II as a direct result of the brutal blockade. We have over 90 medicines unavailable. Prenatal births, kidney dialysis and cancer patients are doomed to fatality as soon as they are diagnosed. Unavailable medical equipments and appropriate medical care are extinct and the slightest flue could have serious repercussions. A four year old child would not know what spaghetti or chocolate taste like because Israel has a list of 40 basic items that it allows in. We are treated as prisoners, rather much worse. Jimmy Carter said “Palestinians of Gaza are treated worse than animals!”

We wish we were prisoners in a so-called First World country for at least they have visitation rights which we don’t. Some of us have not seen their families and relatives for years now, and they could be only 40 minutes away in Jerusalem or in the other Bantustans of the West Bank. As a university professor, I have no resources to undergo research in my domain. The material I assign to my students is what I could find available on the internet—and only when electricity allows. Basic material like stationary and paper are unavailable. Books are also unavailable. Fuel is unavailable and I have lost my best students as a result of the deterioration of their conditions.

Many of their parents were factory workers but after Israel bombed factories and due to its hermetic siege, over forty thousand workers have lost their income. The occupation shoots, injures and often kills farmers as they harvest or water their crops. The fishermen are not allowed to exceed three miles at sea and are attacked, imprisoned and often killed at a distance of one mile depending on the soldiers’ whims. You can’t sleep, you can’t write, you can’t love, you can’t express yourself, or your pain under these conditions and the trauma is only growing as injustice continues.

How was the Zionist attack on May 31st against the humanitarian flotilla seen in Gaza?

It was a surprise and not a surprise. Yes, Israel is a terrorist state. One built on the blood and dead bodies of the Palestinians it has been ethnically cleansing since 1948. So, it’s killing of peace activists was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that it did it as the whole world was watching. We did not expect Israel to be stupid, but then again, isn’t that what fascist states mean to do? Ploy their own destruction? Zionism is a colonial movement and hence it is self-defeating.

Can we say it was a political victory for the Palestinian people, since the true nature of Zionism was revealed and Israel is isolated? Did that have a role in the temporary suspension of the blockade by Egypt? What is the situation on the Egypt/Gaza border?

How many more people should be killed for Israel to be held accountable in front of the international community and punished for its crimes? Weren’t the 413 children killed during the 22 day attacks enough? Weren’t the thousands of Palestinian killed since 1967 enough for the international community to put Israel in its place? The international community is complicit in the siege and in the killing as it stands silent and in denial. Richard Goldstone very clearly called Israel’s attacks “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity!”

You are wrong to believe that the Rafah Crossing is open as the movement of people freely through is not allowed. Out of thousands a few hundreds are allowed, and their conditions are usually severe, and they have tried numerous times before that. If all the crossing surrounding Gaza were opened and Rafeh remained closed, then the siege remains. Rafeh is the only crossing that guarantees the freedom of movement of Gazans; it is our only exit to the external world.

The Israeli attack against the activists of the flotilla of the Free Gaza movement shocked everyone who feels respect for human beings. Why does Israel still blockade Gaza?

With the support of the international community and in particular the support of the US, Israel will not back down, it will continue the blockade, the settlement expansion, and the home demolitions in the West Bank. Its arrogance and power are to no limits and it won’t stop at anything until it is put in its place. As I mentioned earlier, the blockade is a continuation of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide that it has been practicing since 1948. We are a “surplus population”, like Native Americans, that should not have existed in the first place!

But the direct reason as to why it still blockades Gaza is that Palestinians, “naively” taking George Bush for his words about “spreading democracy in the Middle East”, went to the polling stations in January 2006 and voted a party that neither Israel nor the Us and Official Arab regimes want, a party that is against the Oslo Accords. That was a huge blow to the Bush doctrine and the peace industry. Hence the collective punishment by Israel, with the direct support and participation of the West.

Do you see any possibilities of gains for Palestinians through the so called peace process led by the Quartet (USA, ONU, EU, and Russia)?

Haven’t we learnt from Oslo and Camp David that Israel translates its military power onto the negotiation table? There will be and should be no peace without justice. That means for Israel to be punished for its war crimes and crimes against humanity and for the UN resolution 194 to be implemented and the return of all refugees who were expelled in the Nakba of 1948. No negotiation is possible between the executioner and the victim. After Gaza 2009, we no longer have faith in the international community, but in civil society. Due to the huge imbalance of power, Israel being the largest nuclear power in the region and owning the fourth largest army in the world on one hand, and Palestinians with stones and sometimes firecrackers called “rockets” on the other, the only way this imbalance could be overcome is to build on an international solidarity movement. There have been turning points in the Palestinian issue, with the First and Second Intifada, with Gaza 2009, and now the massacre against peace activists.

Similar to the growing international solidarity movement that lead to, amongst other pillars of struggle, the liberation of South Africa and the collapse of the racist apartheid regime, the liberation of Palestine is through this path. And what could be more powerful than the global BDS movement against Israel that has resulted in the South African dock workers boycotting apartheid Israel, the British UCU union of colleges and universities boycott, the Scottish and Irish trade unions, and also the achievements of brave student bodies in the US– such as the Hampshire college, UC, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan at Dearborne– that resulted in divestment from some companies that support Israel.

How is the Obama administration seen in Gaza?

The Obama administration is not different from Bush’s. When Obama gave his much talked about speech at Cairo University, very few people took him seriously. They were proven right only last week when he held the white flag before Netanyahu upon the latter’s visit to the White House. Israel is still expanding its settlements, ethnically cleansing Jerusalem, besieging Gaza, killing Palestinians and Internationals with the full support of the Obama administration. Obama never had a single word of sympathy with the murdered children and starving women of Gaza. The only difference between Obama and Bush, when it comes to Palestine, is only in style, not substance.

Do you believe the Arab and Muslim governments supported the Palestinian people against Israel all they should?

A defeatist attitude governs the official Arab regimes. The idea of an invincible Israel and the constant fear and need to satisfy the US are prevalent. The organization of Islamic conferences along with the Arab league have failed the Palestinian people and failed to put an end to this deadly siege. The mainstream and dominant political discourse in the Arab world is to make peace with Israel, no matter what this entails.

What is the importance of the BDS campaign (Boycott, De-invest, and Sanctions) to isolate Israel? Why is it important to establish a link between Israel and South African apartheid?

Our BDS campaign is modeled on the South African boycott campaign. Its importance emanates from the fact that there is a huge power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians, similar to the imbalance between the apartheid regime and anti-apartheids campaign. The international community was called on to intervene and live up to its responsibilityagainst the racist regime. We expect the same. In the mid-70’s an UN resolution considered apartheid a crime against humanity. Israel is an apartheid state that discriminates against the 1.2 million Israelis of Palestinian descent. But the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS called also for the end of the military occupation and colonization of the 1967 areas and the return of refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194. In other words, the importance of the BDS emanates from the fact that it is a rights-based campaign and the fact that it addresses ordinary people all over the world, represented by civil society, to live up to their moral responsibility. The campaign is democratic, secular, inclusive and universal. It worked against the apartheid regime, and it is working now against apartheid Israel.

What is your view of the PNA? And of the political forces on the left such as PFLP and DFLP?

The PNA is the product of the Oslo Accords, which were signed in 1993 in betrayal of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The PLO recognized Israel, whereas the latter refused to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state. Oslo gave the wrong impression that there are two equal parties fighting for border adjustments. Israel managed to get rid of the responsibility of administering heavily populated areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and has kept total control over the land, air and sea. Israeli occupation forces were redeployed and never withdrew.

The Oslo accords led to the creation of a neo-colonial administration at the expense of the PLO; an administration that does not have real power in spite of the flag, the national anthem, the presidencies, premierships and ministries: all mean absolutely nothing except a perpetuation of the occupation, but in a different gown. After 17 years of the “peace industry”, Gaza has been transformed into a large open-air prison, a concentration camp a la Auschwitz and Warsaw, and the West Bank has been sliced into three major Bantustans—but with no sovereignty whatsoever.

The most dangerous outcome of Oslo is that it has managed to pacify the Palestinian Left. Nothing is left of Palestinian Left! Most left-wing activist, and I mean the hard-core here, have been NGOized. This process of NGOization, interrelated with Osloization, aims at washing out any revolutionary consciousness that the left is supposed to safeguard and replace it with false consciousness characterized by a new discourse about “empowerment of the disfranchised, projects, proposals, culture of peace, negotiations…etc”.

Al-Quds University flouts own academic boycott

Posted in Apartheid, Normalization, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 7, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010

Al-Quds University is maintaining a joint Israeli-Palestinian master’s degree program with Haifa, Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities, despite a decision taken by its own University Council in February 2009 to distance itself from Israeli academic institutions.

“[The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI] views this joint Palestinian-Israeli academic project as a clear violation of the Palestinian criteria for the academic boycott of Israel, which are widely supported by Palestinian civil society,” Omar Barghouti, a founding member of PACBI and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, told The Electronic Intifada.

“PACBI also believes that the timing of this announcement can only confirm the suspicion that it is intended to relieve Israel’s increasing isolation — after its criminal attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla,” Barghouti explained.

Supported by the UN’s agency for education and culture, UNESCO and the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS) in Jerusalem, the program in question is the third round of a joint master’s degree that would allow 20 Israeli and Palestinian students to study in Italy and learn about “cooperation, humanitarianism, peace and cultural preservation.” It is coordinated by Rome’s La Sapienza University.

This program is the result of the Declaration of Principles of Palestinian-Israeli International Cooperation in Scientific and Academic Affairs, which was signed in May 2004 by the Rector of the University of Rome La Sapienza and the Rectors and Presidents of five Israeli universities (Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science) and four Palestinian institutions (Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Bethlehem University, Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic Institute) (download the Declaration of Principles [PDF]).

According to Hasan Dweik, Al-Quds University’s executive vice-president, shortly after the declaration was signed in 2004, all other Palestinian universities withdrew their cooperation in line with the academic boycott.

“At this time, we said that we, as Al-Quds University, would take the responsibility of running this course,” Dweik told The Electronic Intifada, from the university’s campus in Beit Hanina, occupied East Jerusalem.

“Now, and after the Israeli attack on Gaza [in winter 2008-09], my university took a position that we should stop and re-evaluate our cooperation projects with Israel because the horrible thing that took place in Gaza cannot pass like that. We said, ‘We need to stop and boycott the Israeli academic institutions,’ not because we wanted to boycott them but because we wanted to give a message to the Israeli public and to the international community,” Dweik said.

Indeed, on 2 February 2009, Al-Quds’ University Board voted to cut all forms of academic cooperation with Israeli academic institutions.

The board explained that the Israeli attack on Gaza, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed (including more than 300 children), combined with settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the intensification of restrictions in the rest of the West Bank, fueled the decision to gradually phase out the programs.

“It’s just basically to put some pressure on NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and academic institutions both in Israel, the United States and Europe, to pressurize Israel to bring about peace in our area. This was our intention,” Dweik said.

Still, he explained that while Al-Quds University will no longer enter into new academic initiatives with Israeli universities, it would not restrict extensions or the continuation of existing projects, such as the joint master’s program in Rome.

“Any program that started a few years ago will continue. It will not stop,” Dweik said, adding that the university chose not to impose a complete boycott on its faculty and staff because it wants to preserve “academic freedom.”

According to Barghouti, however, the academic freedom argument does not hold water. Instead, he said that joint Israeli-Palestinian academic programs legitimize Israeli colonial policies.

“Joint projects help provide Israeli universities with a crucial fig leaf to undermine the boycott. We often read a recurring theme in Israeli criticism of British and other academic unions that support the boycott: ‘Why are you trying to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians? If Palestinian academics themselves are cooperating with the Israeli academy, why do you want to boycott it instead of promoting joint collaborations and the free flow of ideas?'” Barghouti stated.

“This was the exact same — flawed and distinctly deceptive — logic used by South African apartheid in rebuking international boycotters, particularly in the academic and cultural fields.”

A history of collaboration

The official Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was launched in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in April 2004.

Since that time, nearly 60 Palestinian civil society organizations have signed onto the PACBI boycott initiative, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the General Union of Palestinian Women, among others.

The Palestinian Council for Higher Education, a group established in 1977 with the mandate of coordinating between, and representing, Palestinian higher-learning institutions, has also repeatedly reaffirmed that it is against cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian academic institutions.

Still, in May 2005, Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh continued to ignore the growing call for an academic boycott, as he and Hebrew University of Jerusalem President Menachem Magidor released a joint statement denouncing the British Association of University Teachers’ (AUT) decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

“Cognizant of the moral leadership universities should provide, especially in already turbulent political contexts, we … have agreed to insist on continuing to work together in the pursuit of knowledge, for the benefit of our peoples and the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East,” the statement read.

The statement added: “Our disaffection with, and condemnation of acts of academic boycotts and discrimination against scholars and institutions, is predicated on the principles of academic freedom, human rights and equality between nations and among individuals.”

According to Anan Quzmar, the Coordinator of Birzeit University’s Right to Education Campaign, which demands “the right to education and unimpeded access for all Palestinians to their educational institutions,” all forms of cooperation with Israeli academic institutions should be severed.

“We simply cannot support Palestinian universities working with Israeli institutions under any circumstances while those same institutions either endorse of fail to condemn the ongoing denial of Palestinians’ basic human rights,” Quzmar said.

He added that Palestinian students are strongly in favor of the academic boycott, and are working on campaigns to gain international support.

“Recently a statement against any form of normalization was signed by all student councils in universities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and all major Palestine student and youth organizations around the world,” Quzmar said.

“Palestinian students have long supported an academic boycott on Israeli academic institutions and stood against any collaboration between Palestinian academic institutions and Israeli ones. I would go as far as saying that the academic boycott is the most widely supported form of boycott in the Palestinian society.”

Complicity in the occupation

According to a report released by the Alternative Information Center in October 2009 titled “Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories,” “Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians, despite the serious suspicions of crimes and atrocities hovering over them.”

The report found that all main Israeli universities are involved in supporting the occupation through various means.

For instance, the three universities involved with the joint master’s program with Al-Quds University — Tel Aviv, Haifa and Hebrew University — have sponsored various academic programs for Israeli military reserves, granted scholarships to students who served in the Israeli attack on Gaza and maintain ties to leading Israeli weapons manufacturers. Indeed, a report released by a student group at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies demonstrated Tel Aviv University’s “deep investment in the facilitation and prosecution (at both the material and conceptual level) of what amount to war crimes” (“Study: Tel Aviv University part and parcel of the Israeli occupation,” SOAS Palestine Society, 9 July 2009).

Dweik told The Electronic Intifada that Al-Quds University is presently involved with about ten joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, and that university faculty members, researchers and administrators will meet to re-evaluate these existing projects every two to three months.

This review will include the Israeli-Palestinian Master’s program in Italy, which Dweik said will almost certainly go ahead despite the destructive influence he readily admitted such projects have on the lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

“If you look at all the environment now, it does not help at all having cooperation with the Israelis,” he said. “I think the Israelis use [joint academic programs] in the media to say that things are normal and we are cooperating. I think it helps them internationally.”

According to Quzmar, all Palestinian universities must take a stand against joint academic initiatives, especially when it is clear how such projects legitimize Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights.

“Palestinian universities and students are suffering every single day from the abuses of an absurd occupation,” he said. “To object to the collaboration with those who support this occupation is a very small step and simple step, especially that such collaboration can be so dangerous in allowing Israeli academia the opportunity to whitewash its support to the very same occupation Palestinian academia suffers under.”

Originally from Montreal, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a human rights activist and multimedia journalist currently based in occupied East Jerusalem.

Academic & Cultural Boycott Reader

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on July 13, 2010 by Marcy Newman
View this document on Scribd


Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on July 8, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Besieged Gaza, Palestine

06. July.2010


Over and over again, champions of the boycott movement have condemned cooperation with apartheid Israel in acts of normalization. We, the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, have adamantly and insistently written to artists, musicians, writers and student bodies urging them to cancel concerts, refuse prizes, and divest from companies cooperating with Israel’s racist institutions and government.

Not more than a week ago, it came to our attention that the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS), with the support of UNESCO, engineered the partnership of three Israeli universities with that of Al-Quds University in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a Masters programme that allows 20 Israeli and Palestinian students to participate in learning about “cooperation, humanitarianism, peace, and cultural preservation” amongst other things. The program is to be coordinated by La Sapienza University in Rome.

We are appalled that this project is being carried out in spite of Israel’s indiscriminate killings of civilian Palestinians in Gaza 2009 in acts of “war crimes and crimes against humanity;” and in spite of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian Universities in Gaza, its military occupation of the West Bank, and its policy of racial discrimination against the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

Most Israeli academic institutions, including the Hebrew University, Haifa, and Tel Aviv University are built on stolen land; they don’t recognize the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, and are complicit in the Apartheid policies of the state of Israel against the 1948 Palestinians—not to mention the siege on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.

In sending Palestinian students over to Italy in order to have them learn about “peace making and cooperation” with a state that killed their grandparents, ethnically cleansed the land of their forbearers, and demolishes their houses is an insult to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid and occupation. This act of normalization aims to blur the boundaries between oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and colonized, occupier and occupied, executioner and victim, and ultimately aims at whitewashing Israel’s war crimes, the last of which was committed in the high seas against international peace activists on their way to break the deadly hermetic siege of Gaza. The projected program speaks about “peace and cooperation” without mentioning Israel’s gross violation of human rights, and deals with the Palestine question as one of conflict, rather than one of colonization and apartheid. It does not mention Israel being the only nuclear power in the region, owning the fourth strongest army in the world. It claims to be about “peace and humanitarianism” without a mention of justice and accountability. Therefore, it is a sham, an insult to the spilt blood of tens of thousands of murdered Palestinians, including students, since 1948.

On another note, we, as Palestinian Students and teachers, would accept this course only if it does not include cooperation with Israeli universities. We ask: is the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s book about the 1948 Nakba The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine an essential course text book in this MA program? Is there a course about the end of apartheid in South Africa and lessons that students can learn from the South African experience? Does the program include a discussion of Palestinian right of self-determination and right of return?

Israel must abide by International Law and end its policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid. That is our understanding of peace with justice.

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)
PSCABI ◌ Gaza, Palestine

Webpage: ◌ Email: pscabi[at]

Student council calls on peers to support goods boycott

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Palestinian Economy, Palestinian Education on May 19, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Nablus – Ma’an – University student councils offered their full support for the Palestinian Authority boycott of settlement goods on Wednesday, vowing to ensure students implement the embargo.

Head of the An-Najah University student senate Makram Daraghmeh said all Palestinian universities would organize events and activties in the coming days, aimed at encouraging students to participate in the boycott.

“The decision will build and pave the way for the boycott of all Israeli products in the future. It is a decision in favor of popular resistance against the occupation,” Daraghmeh said.

On Tuesday the PA launched the House to House campaign, which will see nearly 3,000 volunteers go door-to-door to distribute pamphlets on how to implement the embargo on settlement goods.

The first leaflet hand-delivered to West Bank residents contained a full list of products, manufacturers and factories producing on illegal West Bank settlements.

In January Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced that the PA would implement a wide-scale boycott of the illegal produce, creating the National Dignity Fund aimed at supporting the move and encouraging Palestinian and international consumers to opt for locally made Palestinian produce instead.

Gaza student denied travel to conference

Posted in Apartheid, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on May 17, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Published today (updated) 17/05/2010 19:11

Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Palestinian student from Gaza was barred from traveling on Monday to an international conference in the Czech Republic due to the ongoing closure of the coastal enclave’s borders.

Rifat Abd Elaal, an engineering student at the Islamic University in Gaza, was due to attend the International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, sponsored by the Czech government, the EU, the UN, and Price Waterhouse Cooper.

Speaking with Ma’an, Abd Elaal said he had attempted all avenues available to him to procure a visa, which can be obtained at the Czech Consulate in Ramallah, Tel Aviv or Cairo. However, due to the ongoing siege imposed by Israel, he was unable to travel to any of them.

The Czech Consulate proposed that he apply via email to request a visa without going through the formal interview process, given the restriction of movement faced by him and the population of Gaza, but he said he has yet to receive a response.

Despite the difficulties in obtaining a visa, Abd Elaal is instant on attending the conference and has asked the International Youth Leadership Conference to allow him to attend when it next convenes in July.

An open letter to Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations from Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Posted in Apartheid, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on March 21, 2010 by Marcy Newman


March 21, 2010

Your Excellency:

You are already well aware of the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza consequent on Israel’s devastating military attacks and its siege. As recently as December 27of 2009, you called the blockade of Gaza “unacceptable.” While this statement is certainly valid, it constitutes a gross understatement of the actual situation which amounts to slow genocide. Such understatement suggests that you are trimming your language to accommodate US pro-Israeli policy. We live an ongoing, illegal, crippling Israeli siege that has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk, to describe it as “a prelude to genocide”. Your own UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by the highly respected South African judge, Richard Goldstone, found Israel guilty of “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity,” as did major international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone report concludes that Israel’s war on Gaza was “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Mr. Ban,

The 1948 Genocide Convention clearly says that one instance of genocide is “the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.” That is what has been done to Gaza since the imposition of the blockade by a UN member state, namely Israel, and the massacre of 1434 Palestinians, 90 per cent of whom were civilians, including 434 children.

On your second short visit to Gaza since the end of the Israeli onslaught in 2008-09, you will find what Professor Sara Roy, an expert on Gaza, describes as “a land ripped apart and scarred, the lives of its people blighted. Gaza is decaying under the weight of continued devastation, unable to function normally…” Professor Roy concludes that “[T]he decline and disablement of Gaza’s economy and society have been deliberate, the result of state policy–consciously planned, implemented and enforced… And just as Gaza’s demise has been consciously orchestrated, so have the obstacles preventing its recovery.” Israel is intent on destroying Gaza e because World official bodies and leaders choose to say and do nothing.

As civil society organizations based in Gaza, we call on you to use your position as Secretary General of the UN, the world body responsible for holding all governments accountable for the safeguarding of the human rights of all peoples under International Law to bring to bear on Israel the full force of your mandate to open the borders of Gaza to allow the import of building materials as well as all the other requirements for decent living conditions for us, the besieged Palestinians of Gaza.

We understand you are coming to Khan Younis to inspect an UNRWA housing project designed to provide housing for Palestinians whose homes were demolished by Israel’s war machine and who have been waiting for over five years for replacement. Of course the building project will not have been completed because of the blockade, even though it is an UNRWA project. The brazen refusal of Israel to cooperate with the decision of the International Community to re-construct Gaza, for which several billions of Euros were pledged, should not be tolerated. Israel’s attacks have damaged or completely destroyed many public buildings and have according to the UN’s own OCHA report as of April 30, 2009, severely damaged or completely destroyed some 21,000 family dwellings. Many other Palestinians who have spent the past several winters in flimsy tents have also been promised the means to rebuild homes and schools, though to date nothing has been done to alleviate their suffering.

In addition to the very visible lack of shelter, we, in Gaza, also suffer from the contamination of water, air and soil, since the sewage system is unable to function due to power cuts necessitated by lack of fuel to the main generators of the Gaza power grid. Medical conditions due to injuries from phosphorous bombs and other illegal Israeli weapons as well as from water contamination cannot be treated because of the siege. In addition to the ban on building materials, Israel also prevents many other necessities from being imported: lights bulbs, candles, matches, books, refrigerators, shoes, clothing, mattresses, sheets, blankets, tea, coffee, sausages, flour, cows, pasta, cigarettes, fuel, pencils, pens, paper… etc.

Mr. Secretary General,

When you visit Khan Younis, keep in mind that a huge UN storage depot was directly targeted by Israeli phosphorus bombs only last year destroying tons of badly needed food and other essentials. At that time your UNRWA chief John Ging spoke of massive obstacles preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the civilian population of Gaza: those obstacles must be removed. The Red Cross called the Israeli assault “completely and utterly unacceptable based on every known standard of international humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles and values.”

We sincerely hope you will live up to your responsibility and speak for the suffering people of Gaza to those who hold the keys that could easily end the barbaric blockade, as the first step towards the implementation of all UN resolutions in Palestine.



Signed by:

University Teachers’ Association in Palestine

General Union for Health Services Workers

General Union for Public Services Workers

General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers

General Union for Agricultural Workers

Union of Women’s Work Committees

Union of Synergies—Women Unit

Union of Palestinian Women Committees

Women’s Studies Society

Working Woman’s Society

Arab Cultural Forum

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

One Democratic State Group

Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information Society

(List of names of individual activists and academics)

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)

Book review: Higher education under occupation

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on March 19, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Marcy Newman, The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2010

Gabi Baramki’s Peaceful Resistance: Building a Palestinian University under Occupation (Pluto Press, 2009) is a memoir of Palestine’s flagship university, Birzeit, by its former acting president. The memoir is an indispensable tool for teaching Westerners about the ways in which Palestinian education exists and flourishes under a constant state of siege and the barriers to academic freedom that Palestinians experience on a daily basis.

Baramki begins his memoir by explaining why Birzeit University is a threat to the Israeli regime: “If a university subjected to continual harassment by the Israeli state, including its closure by military order for almost five years, can survive, continue to maintain its principles of freedom, respect and dignity, and even flourish, one can only imagine what would happen if it were given the space to grow. The threat is to the Zionist dream of having Palestine — the land — without its people, to ‘spirit’ the Palestinians out of Palestine as Theodor Herzl suggested. What Birzeit did was to make sure that the people stayed on the land” (1).

Although the book focuses on the history of Birzeit University, the narrative is intertwined with glimpses of Baramki’s own biography beginning with his childhood in Jerusalem as a member of a Greek Orthodox family who can trace its roots back five hundred years. Born in 1929, he centers his narrative on his own educational experiences that began when he enrolled in the Birzeit Higher School in 1934, established by the Nasir family, which at the time was groundbreaking for its use of both English and Arabic as the languages of instruction.

Later, the village of Birzeit became a temporary home for the entire Baramki family, after his graduation, when the Nakba (the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland) turned his family into refugees. In spite of this, Baramki managed to study chemistry at the American University of Beirut since there was no university in Palestine. In 1951, after his return, with the help of the Ford Foundation, Birzeit emerged into a private two-year college, which Baramki joined as a member of its teaching staff.

Tracing the evolution of Birzeit from high school to college to university, Baramki weaves in various stories about the pedagogical changes the institution sought to inculcate, particularly doing away with rote memorization and encouraging critical thinking. But the story of building a Palestinian academic institution was not so straightforward; first they had to contend with the Jordanian Ministry of Education’s “negative attitude towards Birzeit” (21) and after the 1967 war (which broke out while students were sitting for exams) it had yet another barrier to education when all of historic Palestine came under occupation.

Building a university under military occupation meant, among other things, that its stewards were forced to submit to visits by the military governor and a barrage of military orders. Nevertheless in 1972 Birzeit began the process of becoming a four-year university since it became even more difficult for students in the West Bank to travel to Lebanon or even Jordan for university after 1967. One of the early battles for Birzeit was over textbooks as the military governor wanted to approve them, as Baramki explains: “As time went by the military government became increasingly obsessed with our reading lists. Books we ordered from abroad were often permanently confiscated without us even setting our eyes on them. Among those banned were works on archaeology and history, as well as several journals on Arabic literature” (38). To contend with this obstacle, Baramki describes an informal network of couriers who carried books and journals into Palestine.

In these early years president Hanna Nasir steered the university through various barriers, including numerous closures of the institution, the first of which occurred in 1973. By the following year, accused of “inciting students,” Nasir was deported to south Lebanon. In his absence Baramki took over the helm. To be sure, Nasir was not the only faculty member targeted by the Israeli occupation forces and Baramki details many of the faculty members who have been detained or whose residency permits have been withdrawn over the years.

Although the Israeli regime feigns concern about matters related to academic freedom, Baramki makes it clear that “no head of any other Israeli university ever enquired about the difficulties we might be facing as a university under occupation, or showed any interest in visiting us. All remained aloof, even when Birzeit was closed down. There was no sympathy whatsoever for our plight” (79). This was true for the 15 military-ordered closures Birzeit endured, including the longest one during the first Palestinian intifada context as Baramki describes the continuing collective punishment directed at closing schools and universities: “There was no protest from the Israeli universities against any of these actions against the Palestinian universities, which were making the daily lives of the university community unbearable. Our Israeli colleagues ignored our problems, although there were constant appeals by Birzeit against its treatment” (154). These comments are important, especially when it comes to demonstrating to a Western audience the hypocrisy of those who claim they cannot support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions because of academic freedom.

When the closures first began Birzeit set up an underground network, which the Israeli regime denounced as “cells of illegal education”: “secretaries would grab their files and teachers their books. News would then be circulated about the locations in which secret classes would be held. Science students, whose practicals could not be shifted elsewhere, would be smuggled into the campus at night to do their lab work. A student who needed specific books would indirectly contact our librarian, who would climb into the closed library through a back window, find the volumes in question and pass them to the student outside” (81).

In 1980 yet another barrier to academic freedom was the issuing of Military Order 854 placing the Israeli regime’s military commander of the West Bank in charge of all educational institutions. Collectively all Palestinian universities chose to resist this order, although not without consequences. Under this military order foreign staff were required to sign a “loyalty oath” that demanded they refrain from any contact with a “terrorist” organization like the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Of course the story of Birzeit is also the story of its students and Baramki’s narrative also details the ways in which students have been targeted, from the first Birzeit student murdered by occupation forces on campus in 1984 and the constant arrest and detention of students. He reveals that, not including the recent assault on Gaza, 199 Palestinian university students were murdered between 1976 and 2007. There have been 372 Birzeit students in particular imprisoned between 2003 and 2009. Birzeit responded by pioneering a network to help prisoners’ families by setting up a prisoners’ committee on campus.

Such networks were necessary especially given what little outside support Birzeit had. At times European partners advocated on behalf of Birzeit. Baramki illustrates how different the US and Europe are with respect to both international law and academic freedom with a story about one Italian foreign minister who, after visiting Birzeit, was encouraged to argue for “freez[ing] the agreements they had with Israeli universities in the fields of research and cooperation until Israel reopened the Palestinian universities. Sure enough, the subject was brought up in the European parliament and the decision was taken to freeze this cooperation agreement in 1990” (125).

This action led to the re-opening of Bethlehem University, but not other universities, although Zionist propaganda made it appear as if it applied to all of them. This episode is particularly important in contradistinction to the action — or lack thereof — on the part of American academics and/or congressmen. Baramki explains that the only support coming from the American Congress has been financial, but he warns of the serious strings attached to that funding: “Many US (and even some European) grant-giving bodies will offer funds to Palestinian universities only for projects which also involve Israelis. This is seen as promoting peace and understanding by the donors, but actually humiliates the potential Palestinian recipients without any real advancement towards peace” (126). This scenario is told in the context of explaining to his readers how the Israeli regime “likes to present itself as the champion of academic freedom everywhere. This stance is the basis for its public criticism of the growing international movement for an academic boycott of Israeli universities” (124).

The history of Birzeit University is also in some ways a history of the Oslo accords, given the many Birzeit alumni and faculty who participated in that process from its earliest stages. Baramki’s reflections on that process and the key Birzeit players reveal a range of moods from great expectations to disappointment. One of the ways this hit the education sector most clearly is in the limitations of a government under occupation’s inability to write its own curriculum. Since 1967 Palestinian schools had been dependent upon Egyptian (for Gaza), Jordanian (for the West Bank), and Israeli (for 1948 Palestine, or “Israel proper”) curricula, all of which deleted references to Palestine. After Oslo, with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, there was the hope that a real curriculum about Palestine could be developed, but Baramki explains: “Teaching geography, for instance, could mean having to teach borders which were still unknown. We resorted to teaching ‘Palestine under the mandate,’ and referred to all towns and villages as parts of historic Palestine. The Israelis objected that this meant we did not recognize Israel. Our argument was that, until Israel decided where its borders were, we would continue to use historic Palestine as our base” (153).

For readers well versed on the subject of Palestine much of Baramki’s narrative contains contextual historical material that is documented elsewhere. But by placing this context within the frame of the assault on Palestinian education and the various ways in which Palestinian academics resist this siege makes this essential reading for those who are new to the subject as well as those who are on the fence about joining the academic boycott of Israel. Indeed, although the memoir only discusses the creation of the Palestinian academic and cultural boycott of Israel briefly towards the end of the volume, it is an important culmination of the material that comes before it. It is the obvious conclusion for educators reading this volume, or indeed anyone else, to consider the boycott as the logical response and a way that those outside Palestine can participate in the “peaceful resistance” that Baramki chronicles.

Marcy Newman is a professor of literature at Amman Ahliyya University and a member of the organizing committee for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Presentation to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Posted in Apartheid, Palestinian Education, Profiting from Zionism, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on December 14, 2009 by Marcy Newman


Trusteeship Council Chamber
United Nations
New York, New York

November 30, 2009

Remarks by Bill Fletcher, Jr. & U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Excellencies:

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for inviting me to participate in today’s meeting and offering a presentation in connection with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

My name is Bill Fletcher, Jr. I am the Executive Editor of the on-line magazine and a member of the leadership committee of the coalition known as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. I am the immediate past president of the advocacy group TransAfrica Forum which was the leading voice within the United States of America against South African apartheid and white minority rule in Africa. I am also a long-time trade union activist.

I sit before you today to discuss a contemporary apartheid: that practiced by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.

As an African American in and from the United States, I am keenly aware of the similarities between the systems of Israeli apartheid, South African apartheid, and the home-grown apartheid in the United States of America once known as “Jim Crow segregation.” Despite every effort of the Israeli state to wrap its actions in religious garments, to claim a God-given Judaic exclusive right for its actions, the description of the racial differential or national-ethnic differential that exists between the officially sanctioned Jewish citizens of Israel and the Palestinians within Israel, those in exile and those in the Occupied Territories sounds all too familiar. It is also far from Holy. Notwithstanding the efforts of heroic individuals such as William Patterson, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X to bring the case of African Americans before the United Nations, the international ramifications of the oppression suffered here were often and conveniently ignored by the great powers of the global North. The South African apartheid system was, to a great extent, modeled on the Jim Crow system in the United States, a fact noted by many people in South Africa and in the global South. The United Nations failed to take up the challenge to racism in my own country a generation ago; it must not fail to take up the struggle against Israeli apartheid today.

The realities of the Israeli apartheid system, in contrast to South Africa, were often hidden from view, at least outside of Israel and, later, the Occupied Territories. It was, however, the close collaboration—including military and nuclear collaboration—between the Israeli regime and the South African apartheid regime at a point when the South African apartheid regime had become an international pariah state that raised more than a few eyebrows and encouraged many people to more closely examine the theory and workings of the two states.

The parallel between the Israeli apartheid system and the Jim Crow system under which African Americans suffered and died here in the United States of America also helps to explain a phenomenon that seems to puzzle many mainstream commentators. How is it that there exists such a relatively large reservoir of sympathy among African Americans in the United States of America for the cause of the Palestinians? It is a vicious slander to assert that such sympathy is based on anti-Jewish sentiment, though I would be naïve to ignore that such sentiment does exist in some isolated quarters. Rather, for African Americans, we can at one and the same time stand with the Jewish victims of the Nazi’s Holocaust, while at the same time reject the Israeli apartheid system and its victimization of the Palestinian people. The horrors of the Holocaust, as the great Martiniquan writer Aime Cesaire pointed out, were not unprecedented, but found their basis in the brutal holocausts committed against the peoples of the global South by the colonial powers and the settler states. It was based on that shared history that African Americans viscerally understood and, therefore, placed ourselves in opposition to the racist motivations that lay behind the actions of the German Nazis and later the Italian Fascists in their persecution and then attempts at annihilation of the Jewish people.

Yet none of this, that is, none of the reality of the Holocaust suffered by European Jews, excuses what has happened to the Palestinian people in the period since World War II, and especially since May 1948. And it is this that many people, in what is colloquially known as “Black America,” understand so well. The Israeli apartheid system that expropriates land from the Palestinians; restricts mixed marriages; condemns Palestinians to separate AND inferior education; and repudiates their internationally recognized right to return to their land and their homes, simply carries with it the same stench of the decadent and oppressive system that we came to know here in the USA as Jim Crow segregation.

The work of your committee and the attention that you devote the situation facing the Palestinian people receives insufficient notice in the mainstream media. As a result, the actual conditions of the Palestinian people are not fully understood in many quarters, most especially here within the United States of America.

This year’s gathering comes at a critical moment. The release of the Goldstone Report, the international attention it has received and its adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly are representative of a shifting discourse on the conditions of the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination and full human rights. While the Goldstone Report is critical of both Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces, the report is very clear that the preponderance of both force and atrocities were those committed by the Israeli side. The situating of the Israeli atrocities within the larger context of collective punishment of the Palestinian people generally, and the Gazans in particular, as done in this report, reminds the world that there is no equivalent power relation when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Try as they may, the Israeli government cannot succeed in getting most of the world to forget that there is an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory that they have perpetrated since 1967.

The challenge of the Goldstone Report, however, is to move beyond discourse to a shift in actual policy – to make real the Report’s commitment to accountability. That is a challenge for all of us, but most especially for you, the United Nations. Because so far, despite clear evidence of the flaunting of international law by the Israeli government, whether through the violation of the Hague conventions or Geneva conventions when it comes to the Occupation, few actual sanctions have been taken in defense of the Palestinian people or to punish the Occupiers for their transgressions. As a citizen of the United States of America I am reminded of this on a daily basis. As you are aware, the Congress of the United States of America voted to condemn the Goldstone Report. Distorting the findings of the report and declaring it to be biased with no concrete evidence to support such allegations not only disrespected Justice Goldstone, the Report, the United Nations Human Rights Council and indeed the United Nations as a whole, and the Palestinian people, but also disrespected the intelligence of the people of the United States of America. The actions by the Congress of the United States attempted to short-circuit any possibility for a timely and fair examination not only of the facts and implications of the Goldstone Report, but also attempted to eliminate the possibility of undertaking the sort of healthy debate on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and the role of the United States in it, that is so desperately needed. We in the U.S. and global civil society, however, have no intention of allowing the effort to bury the Goldstone Report to succeed. It is, therefore, my hope that the planned “Gaza Freedom March,” scheduled for 1 January 2010 will be another opportunity to both call attention to the Goldstone Report, but also and more critically, re-raise the world’s attention to the continuing violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people of Gaza at the hands of the forces of the Israeli State.

As important as is the Goldstone Report, the analysis of atrocities committed at the time of the Israeli aggression against Gaza represents only part of the overall picture. The Goldstone Report opens the door to a broader discussion of the Israeli Occupation and the question of the suppression of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, including the rights of the Palestinian refugees, and equally important the denial of full equality to the Palestinian minority who are citizens of the state of Israel.

The Israeli Occupation has come to be broadly understood as an apartheid arrangement. Civil society around the world, including the UN-accredited International Coordinating Network on Palestine, has been working for years to build and broaden public understanding of that concept. Within the United States of America, the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation has made the issue of apartheid a major part of our work. The courageous stand taken by former President Carter in his book—Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid—has dramatically helped to increase awareness of the dramatic similarities in the situation faced by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and those faced by non-whites in apartheid-era South Africa. Whether one is discussing the illegal seizure of Palestinian land and its being granted to Israeli settlers (Note: UN reports indicate that 40% of the West Bank land is now inaccessible to Palestinians for residence, agriculture, transportation, commerce or any other human activity); roads that are restricted to Israelis alone; the creation of an internationally condemned separation wall; or the ethnic cleansing of Occupied East Jerusalem, again and again the situation and circumstances conform to the norms that the United Nations established more than thirty-five years ago in defining apartheid as a crime. What was particularly noteworthy, I might add, regarding the steps taken by the United Nations in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid was that it defined apartheid not as a crime limited to the South African context but, as was stated at the time: “… ‘the crime of apartheid’, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa…”

The plight of the Palestinian people is not limited to the actions taken in the Occupied Territories by the Israeli Defense Forces and other Israeli government agencies. While there are important distinctions to be made, the Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be understood to be free and equal citizens of a country that denies them so many basic rights of citizenship. Rather, Palestinian citizens of Israel find themselves in a second-class status by comparison with those citizens officially recognized as being of Jewish background. The examples are shocking and, in another context, might be mind baffling. A report from the Institute for Palestine Studies noted that in 2007, for instance, the Knesset voted to extend and broaden a law that denies the Palestinian citizens of Israel a basic human right, namely to marry and raise a family which naturally shares the same citizenship rights as the citizen who marries. If Palestinian citizens of Israel take a spouse who lives in the Palestinian lands under military occupation, Israel denies citizenship to its own citizen’s chosen spouse!

In the realm of education, Israel has operated what is, in effect, a racially segregated state school system since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. A recent and outrageous example demonstrates the logical conclusion of such a system. Writer Jonathan Cook reported that an Arab couple suffered the humiliation of the expulsion of their one year old daughter from an Israeli daycare center because six other Israeli parents, six parents of state-recognized Jewish background, complained that an Arab child was in the center. The course of action available to this couple is very limited due to the nature of Israeli law when it comes to racial or national/ethnic discrimination. Cook went on to point out that Israel spends approximately $1100 on the education of each Israeli student who can demonstrate the requisite religious/ethnic credentials to the Israeli state compared with $190 for each Israeli student marked as “Palestinian”. The gap, Cook noted, was even wider when comparison is made to state-run religious schools. There Israeli students who belong to the requisite state religion receive nine times more funding than Palestinian Israeli students of Christian, Muslim or secular background. When it comes to teachers, 8000 Palestinian teachers are reportedly unemployed even though, as of the middle of 2009, the Israeli educational system was suffering from staff shortages.

With regard to land ownership, it was reported in the New York Times on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence—or for the Palestinians, the anniversary of the Nakba—that Arabs occupy a tiny percentage of Israeli land despite the fact that they make up twenty percent of the population. In fact, in a separate article “Defining Apartheid: Israel’s record,” the author, Uri Strauss, noted that 93% of the land within Israel has been designated State land and, in effect, denied to Palestinians solely on the basis of their ethnicity, regardless of whether they hold Israeli citizenship. So, in order to be clear, we are talking about less than seven percent of the land even being available to one fifth of Israeli citizens WITHIN Israel. While even U.S. citizens who move to Israel and can be recognized by the Israeli state as being “Jewish” routinely receive permits to construct homes, nothing approaching such ease is true for Christian, Muslim or secular Palestinian citizens. Obviously, for Palestinians under the Occupation the situation goes beyond a matter of being denied permits to build; their homes are regularly being seized and demolished, often because of the military occupier’s claim that the home itself was illegally constructed.

In every major category, whether land and education—as noted earlier—or health and employment, a racial or national/ethnic differential exists between the officially recognized Jewish citizens vs. the Arab citizens of Israel. In fact, according to that same New York Times article, Arab families, whether Christian, Muslim or secular, are three times more likely to be below the poverty line than are officially recognized Jewish families. This racial or national/ethnic differential even extends to marriage, where the Israeli government only recognizes so-called “mixed marriages” when they have taken place in other countries.

The Israeli system of apartheid also includes the disparity regarding the rights of people to enter Israel. The Israeli law of return allows any officially recognized Jewish person, from anywhere in the world, regardless of whether that person has any actual tie to the state of Israel, to arrive in the country and receive immediate citizenship, with all the rights and privileges that follow. Palestinians who themselves were forcibly expelled from what is now Israel during the 1947-48 war or later, are prohibited from returning to their home, even if they still hold the key to their house, despite specific requirements of international law, including UN Resolution 194.

It is important to acknowledge both the situation in Israel as well as the Occupied Territories in order to emphasize that the Israeli apartheid system is not one limited to the occupied zones. The system of racial oppression or national/ethnic oppression that is so evident in the Occupied Territories is directly related to the manner in which Palestinian citizens of Israel are both viewed and treated. On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People this fact cannot be forgotten or glossed over. While the experience in Israel, for the refugees, and within the Occupied Territories for Palestinians is not identical, it does reflect the fundamental thinking of the racial-settler state of Israel that Palestinians, much like African Americans in the United States of America as described in an infamous court decision from the 19th century, do not have rights that Jewish Israelis are bound to respect.

I was recently sent a copy of a letter that was written in April 1948 in direct response to the news of the massacre of the Arab residents of Deir Yassin by Jewish terrorists. The letter, written by a naturalized American citizen of Jewish background, and sent to the executive director of an organization known as “American Friends of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel” read in part:

When a real and final catastrophe should befall us in Palestine the first responsible for it would be the British and the second responsible for it the Terrorist organizations build up from our own ranks.

I am not willing to see anybody associated with those misled and criminal people.

You will have to forgive the typos and the grammar. The author was not known to be a fluid writer. His greatness lay elsewhere. His name was Albert Einstein.

It is worth quoting Einstein and calling attention to his letter on this, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, for several reasons. One, to remind us that the terrorists condemned by Einstein later gained international legitimacy when the Israeli state was recognized and many of these same terrorists achieved positions in the military and in government. Thus, today’s terrorist becomes tomorrow statesperson, or at least so it often seems when accountability is absent.

Two, that Einstein, someone who had fled the persecution of the Nazis and who understood the full horror and implications of the Holocaust, was not prepared to use that historical reality to countenance the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in Palestine at the hands of individuals who claimed that they did not want the world to forget what had happened to Jews. Einstein did not cower in the face of news of an atrocity committed by Zionist terrorists, nor did he attempt to explain it away by claiming that atrocities were committed by both sides.

Three, Einstein recognized that there could be, what he called a “…real and final catastrophe…” in Palestine. Though that catastrophe happened to the Palestinians in 1948 and not to the Zionist colonizers, the failure of the Israeli state to repudiate its apartheid system and to recognize the human rights of Palestinian people has set in motion events that could lead to a massive catastrophe for the people of the Middle East. With an Israel armed with 100 to 200 nuclear weapons and an escalating arms race throughout the region, a catastrophe could be beyond what even Einstein could have contemplated in 1948.

Einstein set an example, an example that many members of the Congress of the United States of America and alleged supporters of Israel, would benefit from both remembering and understanding. Common sense says that oppression, discrimination and, indeed, genocide, committed against one group never explains away or justifies crimes committed by that same group against another people. The flaunting of international law through an occupation lasting more than 40 years accompanied by clearly illegal colonial settlements, along with the institutionalization of a system of racial/national-ethnic apartheid in order to guarantee that the subordinate group never exercises their human rights and instead disintegrates as a people into the dust of the Middle East, simply cannot be tolerated. Not only are the governments represented in these halls called upon to take action against such criminality, but people of conscience around the world, including WITHIN Israel, must and are taking a stand. Whether through public statements in the mainstream media; petitions; resolutions; or through the boycotts, divestments and sanctions to bring non-violent pressure on the Occupying Power, the international desire for peace, equality and justice for the Jewish Israelis and for the Palestinians—including, Israeli citizens, the refugees and those under Occupation—must move beyond conferences and fine words and materialize ultimately as actions that those who have perpetrated this oppression and who profit from the suppression of the Palestinian people will not only hear, but will clearly understand.

I, again, am honored to have been offered these moments to address the General Assembly, and thank you for recognizing that there is a civil society voice on the matter of justice for the Palestinian people that must be heard.

Thank you very much.

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