“We should not remain silent about injustice, about oppression, the suppression of freedoms, and political arrests,” Palestian activist Muna El-Kurd said in her graduation speech at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank last week.
Weeks earlier, 23-year old Muna and her twin brother Muhammed were arrested by the Israeli security forces and taken in handcuffs from their home in Sheikh Jarrah for their part in protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes. Both were accused of participating in riots, but were later released.
“I carry with me greetings from the steadfast Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and from the steadfast castle of Silwan,” the new media-studies graduate told the gathering. With her family and comrades, she has become a symbol of the struggle by Jerusalem’s Palestinians against Israel’s systematic ethnic cleansing policy, especially evictions and home demolitions.
“God willing, the illegal closure imposed on the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood will end, and the forced displacement decisions against us will be revoked,” El-Kurd said.
She likened the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan expulsions to the 1948 Nakba and said that for the first time in many years Palestinians were united in resisting Israeli policies of uprooting them from all of historic Palestine.
The El-Kurd twins are among many Palestinian students detained by the Israeli occupying forces, which have intensified their repression against all segments of Palestinian society, not least Birzeit students and staff.
Fadi Washaha, a student at Birzeit University, was murdered by Israeli forces in May while protesting the ongoing military occupation and settler-colonialism in Palestine – including the aggression against Gaza. Recently 11 Birzeit students were arrested and dozens of the university’s community were wounded, including Lena Meari, a faculty member at the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences – targeted with a sound bomb by Israeli forces while protesting in Sheikh Jarrah.
Furthermore, universities inside the state of Israel, which regularly discriminate against Palestinian students, have recently attacked students who peacefully demonstrated against the attack on Gaza and Al Aqsa and the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
“It would be easy to describe the attacks on university campuses as an exceptional occurrence, in a period of heightened political tensions,” Somdeep Sen wrote last week in Al Jazeera, “but Israeli universities have long been complicit in the victimisation of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation. In the research I conducted between 2013 and 2016 in Israel, I found that Israeli universities systematically discriminate against Palestinian students and communities, engage with the Israeli military industrial complex and fully support the state’s apartheid policies.”
Academics for Palestine (Ireland) join our colleagues in Palestine and worldwide in denouncing the ongoing targeting of students and faculty. We strongly condemn the ongoing repression, the demolition of occupied Jerusalem neighbourhoods in favour of illegal Israeli settlers, and the use of force against protests by Palestinians against a brutal military occupation that threatens all aspects of Palestinian life.
In particular, we stand against complicit Israeli academic institutions through our pursuit of the academic boycott. In the last few weeks, the number of Irish and Ireland-based academics pledged to support the boycott has grown by more than 60 per cent.