SJP in The Journal: Birzeit University students host web-link with Edinburgh

The JournalThe Edinburgh University student newspaper The Journal wrote an article about the video-link with Birzeit University that SJP organised for the Right to Education Week in February 2010. An article written by Harriet Grecian, published on the 3rd March 2010 in The Journal, issue 32.

Palestinian students have told of their struggles for education as they communicated with their counterparts in Edinburgh last week through a live feed.

The event was organised by the Edinburgh Students for Justice in Palestine group as part of the EUSA-supported Right to Education Week.

Anan Quzmar, Birzeit’s co-ordinator of the Rights to Education campaign, spoke about the 85 Birzeit students currently under arrest by the Israeli authorities.

The majority of these students are under what is known as ‘administrative detention’, an old British mandate, which essentially means that they are held without charge. It is thought that the students are targeted for participating in student unions.

A first-hand account was relayed by sociology major, Omar, who has taken seven years to complete a four-year degree because of repeated arrests.

Omar told The Journal: “During the second arrest I was in solitary confinement for about 36 days. I was never given a definite reason for my arrest but there were accusations banded around that my sociology degree had ‘helped to organise secular terrorist cells’.”

Omar is one of many students at the university to be affected by the Israeli presence in the region. Those coming from the south of the country must go through five main military checkpoints, forcing 3,000 students to stay in dorms on campus.

Third year economics student Sophia spoke of the numerous arrests that take place, mostly at the beginning of each semester. She believes that these are exercised with the intention of discouraging students from active participation in students’ unions.

If students do make it to lectures they may find that their lecturers do not. The Birzeit students reported that 50 percent of staff have difficulty returning to the country.

Asked whether the students of Birzeit would encourage British students to join a boycott of Israel, similar to the motion that was put forward and rejected at the EUSA AGM last November, Mr Quzmar said: “We do not want Israeli students denied an education internationally. However, we would ask for institutions to boycott connections with Israeli institutions.”

The Edinburgh audience were urged to highlight these difficulties to other students so that they understand the situation on the West Bank.

Omar said: “Any pro-Palestinian movement gives us hope. Together, we can create a change for justice.”