US media outlets routinely disregard Israel’s attacks Palestinian universities, and is no surprise that the assaults on Birzeit University and the detention without charges of Palestinian students during the fall of 2015 and in January 2016 have gone unreported. The news of the January 2016 attacks on Birzeit University made the headlines, however, in many regional news outlets, including Aljazeera.com, the Palestine Chronicle, Palestine News Network, the Middle East Monitor, We Watch Israeli Violence.
Reporting for Aljazeera, Mariam Barghouti provides the following account of the persistent Israeli assault on the Palestinian university:”About 90 students and two faculty members at University have been arrested in the past few months amid an Israeli crackdown. On Monday, Israeli occupation forces raided the university campus and destroyed the offices of the students blocs, according to a post on the university’s facebook page.” (“Birzeit University rises up against Israel’s arrests,” aljazeera.com, 11 Jan 2016).
Elsewhere in her article, Barghouti writes:
Nineteen-year-old Jureen Omar Qadah, who majors in media studies, was arrested on October 28 when Israeli forces raided her home in Shukba. Her sister, Sabrin, recalled the night of the arrest. “They took her at around two o’clock in the morning. There were ten soldiers in the house, and they placed us all in a room without Jureen. While Jureen was being taken away, I told one of the soldiers who spoke Arabic, ‘Where are you taking her? I have the right to know where you’re taking her!’ To which the soldier mockingly retorts, ‘There are no rights – there is violence. You want violence?’ and they left.”Asmaa’ Qadah, who is not related to Jureen, is the only other female Birzeit student to have been arrested by Israeli forces. The English literature and language student, who is also an active member of the student council’s cultural committee, was arrested on December 18 while taking a taxi from Nablus to the university.Similar to Jureen’s case, Asma’a has not been officially charged as of yet. (“Birzeit University rises up against Israel’s arrests,” aljazeera.com, 11 Jan 2016).
The attack on Birzeit University is not an isolated incident arising from the current situation. In the 49 years of Israel’s occupation, Palestinian universities and schools have been regularly targeted and the education of Palestinian students has been subject to persistent disruption, as documented in the 2013 UNICEF report Education Under Occupation. “The primary humanitarian issues hindering access to education in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territories] are”:
Harassment & Violence by Israeli Soldiers and Settlers: experienced by students at checkpoints, on the commute to-and-from school, and even at school. This is a leading factor for student dropout, especially for girls, and psychosocial distress amongst children of both sexes.
Long Commutes along Settlement Bypass Roads: where cars have hit commuting students and/or had dangerous objects thrown at them by passing settlers. This is a leading factor for family separation and/or displacement, as families become inclined to move to communities that are closer to their children’s schools or at least send their children to live in these communities.
Demolition & Stop Work Orders: that prevent communities from building adequate facilities to educate their children; thus, making these students commute to other communities to access education, and along these commutes they may experience the harassment, violence, and dangers mentioned above.
On what grounds can anyone justify Israeli military raids on Palestinian schools and universities, the arrest students without charges and the overall degradation of educational facilities? Why do not Russell Berman, Carey Nelson, and the other MLA members affiliated with “Scholarship, Censorship, Exclusion”, who are so concerned about academic freedom, criticize Israel’s violation of Palestinians’ basic rights to education? Under the circumstances, the boycott of Israeli academic institutions is a reasonable, indeed a moderate, response to Israel’s systematic assault on Palestinian educational rights.