education, revolution and evolution: the Palestinian universities as initiators of national struggle 1972–1995

Share Embed


Short Description

Download education, revolution and evolution: the Palestinian universities as initiators of national struggle 1972–1995 ...

Description

This article was downloaded by: [University of Haifa Library] On: 08 May 2014, At: 05:41 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/thed20

Education, revolution and evolution: the Palestinian universities as initiators of national struggle 1972–1995 Ido Zelkovitz

a

a

Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel Published online: 14 Mar 2014.

To cite this article: Ido Zelkovitz (2014) Education, revolution and evolution: the Palestinian universities as initiators of national struggle 1972–1995, History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society, 43:3, 387-407, DOI: 10.1080/0046760X.2014.889226 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0046760X.2014.889226

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/termsand-conditions

History of Education, 2014 Vol. 43, No. 3, 387–407, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0046760X.2014.889226

Education, revolution and evolution: the Palestinian universities as initiators of national struggle 1972–1995 Ido Zelkovitz* Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

(Received 12 September 2012; final version received 24 January 2014) Since the concept of nationalism first emerged on the world stage, universities have played a key role in its collective formation and dissemination to the masses. Established under challenging circumstances and subjected to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the wake of the 1967 war, Palestinian institutions of higher education have trodden a thin line between the training of human resources requisite to their national movement and compliance with the dictates of a military regime bent on curbing such aspirations. This research examines the various roles played by Palestinian universities in the ongoing struggle for national independence. Spanning from its inception to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, this collection of first-hand accounts, historical documents and critical analysis explores the evolution and adaptation of Palestinian higher education amidst three decades of social and political turmoil. Keywords: history; identity; nationalism; politics; university

Universities served as important centres of knowledge, education and values, and played a significant role in the founding of nations.1 Higher education is a key factor in the formation of personal and group identity. This universal aspect is all the more apparent when discussing the role of Palestinian universities established under military regime following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the 1967 war. This article will discuss the establishment of Palestinian universities and their socio-political function from the point of view of the Israeli establishment, while at the same time examining the mission and goals the Palestinian universities had set themselves and the practices derived from these goals. These issues will be explored on the basis of archival material from the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) archives, which supply the formal standpoint of the Israeli authorities, alongside sources which describe the Palestinian viewpoint regarding the evolution under oppression of an academic system, and the latter’s role in the development of the Palestinian national consciousness. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is perceived by various groups on both sides as a struggle not only over historical consciousness, but also over their very existence. It follows that the conflicting historical narratives form part of an essentially existential political struggle, and higher education is often enlisted in service of political goals. *Email: [email protected] 1 John E. Craig, Scholarship and Nation Building: The Universities of Strasbourg and Alsatian Society 1870–1939 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 2. © 2014 Taylor & Francis

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

388

I. Zelkovitz

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 meant that it had also to manage and supervise the Palestinian educational system. Within its cultural and political context, Palestinian education in general – and higher education in particular – received substantial attention from the Israeli authorities. In the early 1970s, the Israelis conducted an extensive survey of the educational situation in the occupied territories, including the Sinai Peninsula. This survey examined the entire spectrum of education, from elementary schools to higher education. The survey also included comparative data pertaining to the pre-occupation period. The survey was conducted by educational officers of the military administration, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education.2 Until 1967, a university-level educational system had not been established in the West Bank or Gaza Strip; furthermore, Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had a historically divided educational system. In the Gaza Strip, education primarily followed Egyptian standards. West Bank education, on the other hand, was based largely on the Jordanian system. Consequently, each region had its own textbooks and educational outlook. With the onset of the Israeli occupation in 1967, the duality persisted, with a simple and essentially negative difference: Palestinian history and national identity were eliminated from textbooks throughout the entirety of the Palestinian educational system. Universities simply did not exist in the Gaza Strip and West Bank prior to the Israeli occupation. In accordance with international law, legislative authority in the territories was accorded to an Israeli military administration. Local legal systems continued to operate according to Jordanian municipal law and were overridden, when deemed necessary, through the legal system of the Israeli military.3 The Palestinian population were compelled to rearrange their lives in line with the reality of the Israeli occupation. The educational system required a substantial upgrade. The detachment of the occupied Palestinian territories from the Arab world, alongside a perpetually rising number of high-school graduates, required new solutions. By the 1970s, a system of higher education was beginning to develop within the Palestinian territories. In a decade five universities were established: Birzeit, al-Najah, the universities of Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank, and the Islamic University of Gaza on the Gaza Strip. Those universities had every right to be established in each context without any links to the Israeli presence. The newly founded Palestinian universities required an administrative infrastructure to manage their activities. This role was undertaken by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education, formed in 1972 to operate alongside the National Guidance Committee. The council, which received the blessing of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), comprised 55 members whose goal was the founding of an Arab-Palestinian university in East Jerusalem. The council received its early funding from the PLO.4 2

Dov Shefi, to Nathan Bar-Yaakov, October 7, 1973, 9/1338/98, IDF Archives. See also: Natan Bar–Yaakov to Dov Shefi, July 19, 1973, 9/1338/98, IDF Archive. 3 Ephraim Lavie, Ha-Falastinim ba-Gada ha-Ma’aravit: Dfusey Hitargenut Politit Tahat Kibush u-be-Shilton Azmi [The Palestinians in the West Bank: Patterns of Political Organization under Occupation and Self Rule] (unpublished PhD thesis, Tel-Aviv University, 2009), 46–47. 4 Moshe Maoz, ha-Manhigut Falastinit ba-Gada ha-Ma’aravit [The Palestinian Leadership in the West Bank] (Tel-Aviv: Reshafim, 1985), 179.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

389

The development of Palestinian higher education carried remarkable social significance. For the first time, higher education was no longer the sole province of the Palestinian socio-economic elite who were able to venture throughout the Arab world. The local establishment of an infrastructure of higher education opened new doors to education and social mobility for rural youths and refugees, as well as for middle- and lower-middle-class residents of the cities.5 The demand had come from the local Palestinian population and can be explained as a street-level incarnation of social-institutional organising. Institutes of higher education in the occupied territories had grown out of teachers’ seminars, which often served as preparatory colleges. The founding of the Palestinian universities was by no means simple. Power struggles between the local leadership in the occupied territories and the PLO abroad complicated the effort. Local leaders were the principal advocates of new universities. Aziz Shihadah6 had presented Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan with a preliminary draft for the founding of an Arab-Palestinian university in the occupied territories as early as 1968; a year later he pushed for the upgrade of a teachers’ college in Tul-Karim to an extension of the University of Jordan. Both initiatives failed.7 The founding of universities stoked fears within the PLO that local leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were consolidating civil and political influence. The organisation hence attempted to frustrate such efforts in order to attain greater control over the new institutions. In an article published in its academic journal, Shuun Filastiniyya, which dealt with the process of founding Bethlehem University, the PLO expressed objections to the way in which Palestinian universities were being established. While carefully avoiding direct criticism of the initiative itself, which carried great national significance, the PLO admonished the Israeli occupier and the difficulties it continued to cause.8 The Israelis were interested in supervising Palestinian higher education, the PLO claimed, in order to disperse these institutions throughout the West Bank and finalise the annexation of East Jerusalem as Israel’s unified capital.9 Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip faced an absurd reality, in which they were expected to restore order to local residents living under Israeli occupation. Such a mandate required them to cooperate directly with representatives of the military administration. David Farhi, Moshe Dayan’s special adviser on the occupied territories, supported the development of local higher education as a way of securing normality for local residents. Nevertheless, he feared that such institutes could manifest as new bases of political power.10

5

Glen E. Robinson, Building a Palestinian State: The Incomplete Revolution (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 31. 6 A renowned Palestinian lawyer and Human Rights activist from Ramallah, the son of Salim Shihadah of Jaffa, who served as a judge during the British Mandate. Aziz Shihadah was assassinated by an anonymous murderer in 1985. 7 Hillel Frisch, Countdown to Statehood: Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza (Albany: SUNY University Press, 1988), 59. 8 Ghatas Abu-Aytah, ‘Jami’at Bait Lahim, ma Laha wa-ma Aliha’, Shu’un Filastiniyya 50 (October 1995): 410. 9 Ibid. 10 Frisch, Countdown to Statehood, 60.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

390

I. Zelkovitz

The Israeli military administration’s perception of the Palestinian universities As the Palestinian universities were founded, the Israeli military administration needed to address itself to the question of how to handle them. To the IDF, the importance of higher education in building national consciousness was clear; from the outset, it perceived Palestinian universities as a hotbed of nationalism. In this context, it is important to mention that Palestinian universities considered themselves an integral component of the society in which they operated and spurned seclusion in ivory towers. They took upon themselves the important role of constructing Palestinian national identity and laid the ground for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel took notice and in 1974 charged Birzeit University President Dr Hanna Nassir with nationalistic activism and deported him from the West Bank. The response of the Israeli administration to the nationalist activities in the Palestinian academy was made clear by Captain Ellis Shazar, who served as spokesperson for the Civil Administration in the West Bank: ‘The Palestinian universities are not so much universities as they are institutes of political activism and part of the PLO’s infrastructure.’11 Israel’s attitude towards the academic system was at odds with its general approach, whereby it sought to maintain a normal way of life in the occupied territories, subject to the prevailing legal system. In both administrative and legal terms, Israel applied the same tactics to higher education that it applied to the broader education system in general. Israel kept the 1964 Jordanian law and derived regulations intact. The military administration sought legal pathways to maintain control over the universities and the Jordanian law served this purpose. As Palestinian universities had not existed prior to 1967, military order no. 854 was issued by way of achieving control. This regulation, issued on 6 August 1980, was signed by Brigadier General Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli commander of the Judea and Samaria region (the West Bank). The measure was taken after it was determined by the Israeli authorities that campus activity, on both the institutional and student levels, facilitated the political evolution of the Palestinian national movement. In effect, military order no. 854 was designed to deny Palestinian universities all academic freedom, handing the civilian administration total control over Palestinian academe. Adaptations of the old Jordanian regulations provided the Israeli authorities with near absolute authority. Military order no. 854 facilitated Israeli intervention in almost every aspect of the universities, all the way down to the individual student level. Namely, the military education officer retained the prerogative to veto the admission of a particular student to any university.12 This sanction led to the expulsion of Palestinian university students on security grounds. In practice, military order no. 854 was a political tool serving the military administration in its struggle against the Palestinian national movement, which was in turn transforming the campuses into West Bank and Gaza strongholds. Both students and lecturers took part in national activities. The Israeli civil administration, already well aware of student groups established within the PLO’s political framework, paid close attention to organised activities among lecturers. For this reason, 11

Anthony Sullivan, Palestinian Universities Under Occupation (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1988), 54. 12 Gabi Baramki, Peaceful Resistance: Building a Palestinian University under Occupation (London: Pluto Press, 2010), 94.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

391

heads of Palestinian universities and other academic leaders were periodically summoned to the offices of the civil administration for meetings. The Israeli civil administration’s desire to supervise the academic faculties of the Palestinian universities led to disputes over the question of academic freedom.13 The civil administration required that foreign lecturers, first and foremost at Birzeit University, sign employment permit requests. These requests required their commitment to abstain from supporting or sympathising with the PLO, lest the lecturers face deportation.14 Military intervention in the Palestinian academic sphere attracted global attention. The universal values comprising the foundation of academe, principal among them the freedom of thought, collided with the complex political paradigm within which the Israeli–Palestinian conflict unfolded. The very existence of regulation no. 854 indicated the military administration’s perceived need to deal with the expansion of Palestinian power bases by way of its academic infrastructure. Sanctions imposed upon the Palestinian universities by the military administration garnered extensive media coverage, with responses issued through international political channels. Due to the complexities of international academic relationships, the Israeli Minister of Science and Development requested that the IDF keep it abreast of developments in the Palestinian academic sphere. As academic communities from across the world unleashed a deluge of complaints, the minister found himself woefully uninformed and under serious pressure to issue an immediate response.15 Such pressure intensified throughout 1983, as campus tensions heated up in response to the 1982 war in Lebanon, the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, violent Palestinian civil conflict, and internal divisions within Fatah. Safeguarding academe was in the shared interest of the military administration, which paid close attention to the national activities held in the Palestinian campuses but wanted to show the world a picture of normalisation in the occupied territories, and the Palestinian universities’ leaders, who shared the same goal. Yet university academic leaderships, despite their desire to maintain a normal routine, were committed above all else to the Palestinian national idea. This was expressed in the Palestinian universities through dialogue between the academic leaderships and student leaders of the various PLO factions and the Islamic bloc. The student leadership, representing young intellectuals and the next generation of politicians, often subscribed to views even more radical than those of the PLO leaders abroad. The student leaders’ violent response to military order no. 854 contrasted sharply with the docility of the PLO, whose diplomacy called upon lecturers to compromise on the issue of employment permit requests. The PLO’s position derived from recognition that a normal routine was essential to the steadfastness (Sumud) of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Owing to their geographical location, the students of the West Bank and Gaza Strip faced different challenges from those of Palestinian students abroad. Unlike 13

The principle of academic freedom stems in part from the internationally recognised right to education. This right is enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR) and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of 1966 (ICESCR). According to the official commentary on the ICESCR, Article 13(2) requires education to ‘include the elements of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability’. 14 Alice Shazar to Governor of Ramallah, November 6, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 15 David Lev to Shalom Harari, June 13, 1983, 43/1171/88, IDF Archive.

392

I. Zelkovitz

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

their international counterparts, daily scrutiny by the Israeli authorities limited the ability of Palestinian universities and students to publicly extol armed struggle as a legitimate mode of resistance. While the notion of a youth-led armed struggle stirred Palestinian national consciousness abroad, the student of the occupied territories was tasked with building the institutions requisite to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The universities and their academic leadership were a major part of this vision. The Palestinian universities and the national struggle: the political dimension The dialogue with the Palestinian students and faculty association, together with the desire to maintain a robust academic lifestyle, required that the universities’ leadership juggle various political obstacles while proclaiming their joint national aspirations. Furthermore, the political crises within the Palestinian national movement also demanded the attention of Palestinian academic institutions. On account of the stance it had adopted concerning foreign lecturers, which was perceived by the Faculty Association and Student Council as submissive, the Birzeit University management was compelled to respond on a national level. Hence, at the height of the foreign lecturers crisis, University Vice-President Dr Gabi Baramki held a press conference in which he expressed support for the PLO and Yasir Arafat, who were losing political ground in the wake of the events in northern Lebanon in 1983.16 On a larger scale, the outcome of the 1982 war had brought PLO decision-makers to the realisation that they now needed to strengthen their grip over the Palestinian territories. This was due to a number of factors: (1) The PLO’s withdrawal from Lebanon put the organisation’s leadership at a much greater distance from Palestinians residing in the occupied territories. (2) In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a new crop of young political leaders in closer contact with the Palestinian streets had begun to emerge. Notably, this cadre derived the lion’s share of its power from connections with foreign-based leaders of the PLO. (3) PLO leaders were increasingly concerned with the various peace initiatives brought forth in the wake of the 1982 war. In particular, they feared a sudden and manipulative takeover of the Palestinian territories by the Hashemite regime in Jordan. The press conference was covered by the Israeli media and featured prominently in televised Israeli newscasts. Dr Baramki delivered his speech against a backdrop of PLO flags and images of Yasir Arafat, rendering the act a political challenge in the eyes of the Israeli Civil Administration. Head of the Civil Administration Brigadier General Shlomo Eliya claimed: The participation of the media in this event indicates that the intention of the organizers is to go beyond the definition of an internal conference, and to make [the event] public, by means of the media, without demonstrators being required to 16

In 1983 a Fatah colonel named Abu Musa rose up against Yasser Arafat with the support of Syria. The Abu Musa uprising led to a split in the Palestinian student leadership in North America.

History of Education

393

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

physically leave the university grounds … undoubtedly, such a conference has inflammatory potential and might incite the youth to further disrupt public order. A further lapse of the situation in northern Lebanon and continuance of the battles between Fatah factions there might result in additional regional deterioration. Furthermore, other universities might also attempt to organize similar conferences, possibly of a more severe nature. In light of all this, we recommend that both parts of the university, that is the old and the new campuses, be shut down for a period of two months.17

The press conference held by Dr Baramki led to the publication of a decree ordering the university’s closure. This was not the first time such sanctions were applied against Birzeit University. In fact, Birzeit was the Palestinian university subjected to the largest number of such warrants. Between the years 1979 and 1988, it was shut down 14 times by the Israeli military authorities.18 Four of these closures occurred in the period of 1980–1982, lasting more than eight months.19 The enforcement of Military order 854 brought the issue of academic freedom in Palestinian universities onto the public agenda. The struggle over imposing the resolution at Birzeit occurred shortly after a similar incident, which resulted in the closing of the University of Bethlehem. The Birzeit affair featured a sort of acquiescence between the students and university management, which had, on its own terms, mobilised to support the Palestinian national struggle. Concerning the University of Bethlehem, on the other hand, an intrinsic tension is evident between the student body and the university management. This tension eventually compelled the management to act in line with the students’ national aspirations, leading also to its closure. In the wake of events taking place during Palestinian Folklore Week, coordinated on campus by the student council between 21 and 23 October 1983, a closure warrant was issued to the University of Bethlehem. The exhibition highlighted popular themes and was intended for the general public.20 One should remember that Palestinian folklore expresses the Palestinian tragedy, which is almost total in scope: the loss of rights. At around 23:30 on the first day of the conference, a joint force of the IDF and the Israeli Police, backed by a military warrant, stormed onto the campus. Various exhibitions were confiscated, including Palestinian flags, political posters and banners that showed support for the PLO, straw baskets, traditional Palestinian clothing, furniture and homemade foods. University administrators later claimed that the exhibition did not breach the customary rules of conduct vis-à-vis the Israeli establishment.21 Following the incident of the folklore exhibition, commander of the Israeli Civil Administration, Brigadier General Shlomo Eliya, summoned the heads of the university to a meeting. The University of Bethlehem was represented by President 17

Shlomo Eliya, to Coordinator of Government Activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip/ IDF Central Command Commander, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 18 Salah al-Zaro, Al-Tʽalim al-Aʽali fi al-Ardhi al-Muhtalla [Higher Education in the Occupied Territories] (al-Khalil: Markaz al-Abhath li-Rabitat al-Jamʽain, 1989), 68. 19 See http://www.birzeit.edu/about_bzu/p/2652, last accessed September 27, 2013. 20 For the invitations issued by the University of Bethlehem Student Council see: IDF Archives, 44/1171/88. Partial translation of the materials retrieved in the Palestinian Tradition Exhibition in the University of Bethlehem, Bethlehem district, October 23, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 21 Bethlehem University, ‘Closure of Bethlehem University’, November 4, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

394

I. Zelkovitz

Dr Sansur and Vice-Chancellor Brother Thomas Scanlan. In addition to Brigadier General Eliya, the Civil Administration was also represented by the Governor of Bethlehem and the administration’s legal adviser. During the meeting, Brigadier General Eliya requested that the university heads account for their inability to prevent the distribution of inciting materials during the exhibition. Vice-Chancellor Scanlan responded by claiming that given the influence of the universities within Israel on the students of the region, and the effect of the freedom of speech and expression in Israel on the local student population, there was little he could do. The placards, he claimed, were produced ad hoc and therefore could not be inspected in advance, and in any case some 90% of the exhibition space was devoted to folklore and dancing. Furthermore, University President Dr Sansur argued that the socio-economic problems of the lower income students had fanned the flames of unrest. He claimed that, in his opinion, these poor and embittered students were simply letting off steam and no harm had been done.22 The Head of the Civil Administration, Brigadier General Eliya, then proclaimed that he held the university management unequivocally responsible for all of the students’ actions and declared that in the future he would not hesitate to resort to drastic measures, including shutting the university down. In response, the chancellor reassured the military governor that such incidents would not be repeated and committed himself to preventing incitement.23 Following the meeting, the management of the university was under the impression that the incident was over and done with. Return to normal university life, however, was short-lived; on 27 October 1983, the IDF conducted a series of arrests. Eighteen students were arrested and charged with leading a campaign of incitement on campus. Ten of the students, including all the women detained, were released the same day, after signing a commitment to appear at trial. That eight students remained under arrest, university administrators later claimed, was the catalyst behind the 1 January 1984 outburst of campus riots, which would prove the most violent in three years.24 Following these events, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories, Brigadier General Binyamin Fuad Ben-Eliezer, ordered a 60-day closure of the university.25 In response, the University of Bethlehem published an official public account of the events, which clarified their ramifications in terms of the university’s ability to function as an academic institution: The university cannot defend the violent demonstrations of its students and acknowledges the fact that individuals should be held accountable for their actions. Notwithstanding, the university has never, during the decade of its existence, witnessed such blatant provocation. This provocation was the outcome of a lack of judgment on behalf of the military authorities, who displayed a heavy hand in indicting student leaders for petty offenses…. The University was punished with the longest closure in its history, and the blame should be cast on a lack of jurisdictional proportionality on behalf of the military authorities. Justice requires that the authorities in charge of the

22

Danny Yehosha, to Governor of Bethlehem/Legal Adviser, November 7, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 23 Ibid. 24 Bethlehem University, ‘Closure of Bethlehem University’, November 4, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 25 Jerusalem Post, November 4, 1983.

History of Education

395

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

West Bank reconsider the situation and apportion blame and punishment in a more justified manner.26

Brigadier General Ben-Eliezer was determined to hold to his decision and defended his position in a letter to the Jerusalem Post. In addition to referring to the campus unrest, Ben-Eliezer posited an analysis of socio-political developments. He claimed, on the basis of his longstanding acquaintance with the University of Bethlehem, that the institution was undergoing a process of Islamisation. Even the Christian community of Bethlehem, he argued, was being marginalised by various factions of the PLO, who had seized control of the student council and begun to threaten the administrative staff.27 Ben-Eliezer’s claim of Islamisation was strongly contradicted by Vice-Chancellor Scanlan, who met the head of the Civil Administration on 4 November 1983. Brother Thomas took offence at this argument and asserted that the events on campus were the result of political, not religious, calculations. He requested a personal audience with Ben-Eliezer.28 Statistically speaking, the claim of Brigadier General Ben-Eliezer appears to be valid. An ethnic cross-section of the student population reveals that, despite the patronage of the Holy See, the institution had seen a sharp rise in the proportion of Muslim students.29 These socio-demographic developments, Ben-Eliezer theorised, bore far-reaching political consequences. The closure did in fact have political ramifications. As a subsidiary of the Vatican whose academic development programme was under the purview of De La Salle College in Canada, global attention on the University of Bethlehem was predictably intensified. Apparently, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories was aware of potential consequences stemming from his decision to shut the university down. According to Ben-Eliezer: The decision to close the university was reached after prolonged discussions, which took into consideration the fact that its timing coincided with the UN General Assembly gathering and the imminent UNESCO convention. The decision also implied that the Catholic university would be closed during Christmas time. I was eventually convinced that the threat posed by the student population to the normative Bethlehem community warranted shock therapy.30

Following the decision of the Government Coordinator and the resulting media attention, a quartet meeting was convened between university heads Dr Sansur and Brother Scanlan, and IDF officials Brigadier Generals Ben-Eliezer and Shlomo Eliya. The outcome was a decision to reopen the campus on 5 December 1983, abiding by the parties’ mutual recognition of the importance of higher education, and a desire to enable students and lecturers to promptly address the requirements of the Fall and Spring semesters, such that the Summer semester would not be delayed. In order to allow the reopening of the campus, the Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University, ‘Closure of Bethlehem University’, November 4, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 27 Jerusalem Post, November 4, 1983. 28 Danny Yehosha, to Governor of Bethlehem/Legal Adviser, November 7, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive 29 Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, 107. 30 Jerusalem Post, November 4, 1983. 26

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

396

I. Zelkovitz

administration pledged its commitment to maintain order in the public sphere and acknowledged that disorderly conduct might entail further sanctions.31 The back-to-back closures of the universities in Bethlehem and Birzeit was an indication that the Israeli military authorities were resolved to implement the full might of Military order 854. Al-Najah University in Nablus also suffered from the military authorities’ policy of closure, which was a form of collective punishment in response to student activism. Following student upheaval on the first anniversary of the 1982 war, the university was handed a three-month closure order effective between 4 June and 1 September 1983. Those responsible for the disturbances were forcefully dispersed by IDF forces, which stormed the campus and deployed riot control measures.32 In light of the strict supervision imposed on campus activism and the academic system as a whole, student leaders of the 1980s set aside their dreams of armed struggle to focus on social change instead. Furthermore, the stipulations of military order 854 also affected faculty. Al-Najah University President Mundar Salah and Vice-President Abed al-Rahman, as well as three deans – Taysir al-Kilani (Faculty of Education), Suliman Samadi (Faculty of Engineering), and Ali Saud Atiyya (Dean of Students) – were expelled by the military authorities, which refused to renew their residency permits.33 National-political struggle alongside structural administrative problems Palestinian universities were regarded by the Israeli authorities as fomenting support for the Palestinian national movement. Notwithstanding their assessment, in actuality Palestinian academic institutions suffered from structural problems that inhibited their effectiveness as agents of political change, alongside mounting difficulties in coordination and cooperation on the national level. If one examines how Palestinian universities were actually managed, it becomes apparent that these institutions’ structural woes were compounded by the traditions, culture and social structure of Palestinian society. These findings are supported by an inquiry into the composition of the boards of trustees, arguably the most influential body in the administration and academic development of the universities, and likewise a compass determining each institution’s national-political orientation. Such examination reveals that the various boards of trustees consisted of prominent local figures, and as a result no cross-regional board was established in any of the universities. A convergence of national interests, it follows, was absent, and the development and promotion of an academic master plan at the national-political level, which superseded narrower local-regional interests, was likewise missing. By the 1980s, the board of trustees of al-Najah University in Nablus, for instance, did not feature a single member who was not a resident of the city or its immediate rural environs. The same holds true for the universities of Bethlehem and Hebron. In Birzeit, the situation was much the same, to which it can be added that many of the trustees were related by kinship or various other family ties. Bethlehem University, Press Release, ‘Bethlehem University Reopened’, November 25, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 32 D’as Abu Kishk, Dirasa Fi al-Awda al-Tarbawiyya wa-al-Akadimiyya fi al-Aradhi al-Muhtalla [Study of the Educational and the Academic Situtian in the Occupied Territories] (no place of publication, 1983), 196. 33 Al-Zaro, Al-Tʽalim al-Aʽali fi al-Arahdi al-Muhtalla, 136. 31

History of Education

397

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

Furthermore, control over the boards of trustees was subjected to political struggles between the Palestinian radical Leftist Bloc and its conservative Rightist counterpart. Nowhere was this more apparent in the early 1980s than at al-Najah. The university was founded by Hikmat al-Masri as an alternative to the powerbases of Nablus Mayor Bassam Shak’a al-Masri, the patriarch of a prominent and distinguished family characterised by a rightist-traditionalist approach, had hoped that by controlling an institution of higher education he might better steer the education and socialisation of the younger generation in accordance with his own worldview. Yet despite his domination of the board of trustees and the cash flows of the university, the charisma of Mayor Bassam Shak’a and passionate sentiments of the leftist-radicals of the Palestinian Rejectionist Front in the early 1980s constituted an enduring rivalry.34 The development of Palestinian universities in the shadow of the Israeli military regime restrictions In spite of the difficulties posed by the Civil Administration and the structural weaknesses that undermined its efficacy, Palestinian higher education continued to evolve throughout the 1980s. Amidst flawed coordination between universities, new Palestinian colleges and universities nevertheless sprang up across the West Bank to meet the rising demand of the local population. Undoubtedly, the most important institution established in the second half of the 1980s was al-Quds35 University in Jerusalem. In its founding, some saw the crowning fulfilment of a PLO aspiration dating back to the 1970s.36 Al-Quds University is in reality a union of four colleges established in the late 1970s in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Owing to the very nature of three of these colleges – namely the Religious Studies College of Beit-Hanina, the Islamic Archeology Center in Sheikh-Jarrah, and the Hind al-Husayni College for Women (also in Sheikh-Jarrah) – the university assumed an air of religious conservatism. These colleges were united with the Science and Technology campuses in al-Bira and Abu-Dis. Al-Quds University is the largest Palestinian institution in Jerusalem. The university is by and large a microcosm of the Palestinian political landscape in Jerusalem, replete with imposed restrictions and exaggerated divisions. Furthermore, the mere existence of the university within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem tells the story of the duality that characterises the lives of the Palestinian population within this domain.37 This dualism is demonstrated by the geographical dispersion of the university itself. The university’s administrative offices are located near the Rockefeller Pinhas Inbari, Meshulash ʽAl ha-Yarden Hamagaio Hahashaim bain Artzot Habrit Israel ve-Ashaf [Triangle Over the Jordan River: the Secret Talks Between the U.S., Israel and the PLO] (Jerusalem: Maariv Books, 1982), 135. 35 Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem. 36 Mati Steinberg, ‘Omdim le-Goralam: ha-Tod’aa ha-Leumit ha-Falastinit 1967–2007 [Facing Their Own Faith: the Palestinian National Consciousness] (Tel-Aviv: Miskal – Yedioth Ahronoth Books and Chemed Books, 2008), 171. 37 Hillel Cohen, Kikar Hashuk Reika – ‘Aliyata ve–Nefilata shel Yerushalayaim ha–’Aravit 1967–2008 [The Market Square is Empty – the Rise and Fall of Arab Jerusalem] (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2007), 154. 34

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

398

I. Zelkovitz

Museum, in the heart of East Jerusalem. Some of its buildings lie outside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and many of its students are prohibited from entering the city. In this respect, we shall understand that the choice of the name al-Quds, the Arabic name of Jerusalem, was more than merely symbolic. Furthermore, the university’s offshoots maintain the boundaries of a Jerusalem that predates the separation barrier and Israeli policy of closure.38 The 1980s were also formative years for the Palestinian Polytechnic University in Hebron. The Polytechnic was established in 1978 on the initiative of local academics, as an institution offering diplomas in engineering and in 1991 also began awarding Bachelor of Science degrees. Since its inception, the institution had been a member of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education. Israeli access to Palestinian institutions of higher education posed unique obstacles to the development of a technical institute. Beyond the general approach deducted from military order 854, which treated Palestinian universities and colleges as breeding grounds of nationalism, the nature of disciplines studied in the Polytechnic, the security backgrounds of the teachers and the academic administration at large were subjected to particular scrutiny.39 The Hebron Polytechnic displayed consistent hostility towards the Israeli establishment and on occasion ceased cooperation with the Civil Administration entirely. The appointment of the brother-in-law of Fahid Kawasmi, the former mayor of Hebron expelled by Israel on account of his endorsement of the PLO, as senior executive of the Polytechnic was likewise unwelcome to the Israeli authorities. As a result, applications essential to the academic development of the institution, such as requests for approval of curriculum and professional training for faculty abroad, were rejected time and again.40 Furthermore, al-Najah National University’s petition to establish a Faculty of Engineering was similarly denied by both the IDF Central Command Chief and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, on security grounds. The reasons behind the rejection were not elaborated, but the summary of a discussion held in the Civil Administration offices, in which the Civil Administration Commander participated, notes that on the matter of an Engineering Faculty at al-Najah: [al-Najah National University] must be informed that for security reasons, the suggested location near the Be’it-Ya’kov Prison and in proximity to a major [transport] route is unacceptable. They must present an alternative plan within the framework of the existing campus.41

This remark is part and parcel of the Civil Administration’s general policy to supervise and suppress the growth of the Palestinian higher educational system by confining its geographical expansion. In addition to the numerous bureaucratic requirements placed upon construction applications in the West Bank, regarding universities’ requests to expand their campuses, matters were further complicated by 38

Ibid, 154. Michal Keysari to Employment Coordinating Officer, November 20, 1983, 44/1171/88, IDF Archive. 40 Eli Lavi to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Headquarters/International Organization Supervisor/Mr Zakai, 138/943/84, undated, IDF Archive 41 Zion Sa’ad, to Deputy Civil Administration Commander, September 6, 1985, 39/1173/88, IDF Archive. 39

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

399

the manifold considerations of the various authorities involved. In addition, physical planning in and of itself required the approval of the legal adviser to the Civil Administration. Restricting the spatial development of Palestinian higher education derived from a political outlook based on an assessment of universities’ influence within the cultural-political sphere. This perception was demonstrated most clearly in a discussion concerning the detailed plan submitted by Birzeit University for the construction of a new campus. According to the head of the Civil Administration’s Economic Department, the issue of a new Birzeit campus required that the following questions be addressed: is there a diplomatic, political or academic interest in an expansion of the university?; do the needs of the region necessitate academic expansion?; is the request based on academic or political motives?; and will graduates find employment upon completion of their studies? In addition, argued the head of the Economic Department, the Civil Administration must consider whether the nexus of concerns and challenges can still be addressed, or was it being dragged along according to actions on the ground? Was the Civil Administration, he questioned, engaged in attempts to obstruct and interfere, or could it dictate a policy?42 In the discussion that followed, the head of the Economic Department questioned whether the development of institutions of higher education in the Palestinian territories was necessary, considering the existing proportion of institutions per capita and limited employment opportunities awaiting graduates. His consideration of these factors led him to conclude that an expansion of Birzeit was not justified, albeit, pragmatically speaking, that he questioned the ability of the Civil Administration to prevent it. In terms of economic planning, his concern was that a lack of local employment opportunities, compounded by the economic downturn of the mid-1980s and the slim chances of graduates being employed in Israel, would foment frustration among a qualified youth population. These graduates, he feared, would comprise a ‘significant contribution of highly aware, outspoken leadership elements to the cadres of the dissidents’.43 As projections revealed no imminent improvement in regional employment prospects for graduates, the head of the Economic Department recommended the expansion of Birzeit and other universities be prohibited. His recommendation was coloured by reservation, in which he claimed that ‘the key question is the extent to which we can influence this system, and I believe our prospects are not high’.44 This remark is indicative of the attention the Palestinian higher education system was starting to attract in official Israeli circles. The characterisation of Palestinian campuses as incubators of Palestinian nationalism gathered momentum in the 1980s and prompted stormy public debate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, had claimed in the presence of the Security Council that the ‘PLO is investing all its efforts into undermining the academic goal of the universities and converting them into centers of incitement, radicalism and terror’. His sentiments were backed in Israel by the former President

42

Ishay Cohen, to Civil Administration Commander, September 11, 1985, 39/1173/88, IDF Archive. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid.

400

I. Zelkovitz

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

of Tel-Aviv University and head of the Israeli right-wing Thiya party Professor Yuval Ne’eman, who advocated the closure of all Palestinian universities.45 In spite of the inconsistent policy towards the Palestinian universities, it seems the Israeli consensus was that the campuses were indeed the driving force behind the development of the PLO. The military offensive against the Palestinian campuses was further escalated in the second half of 1987. On 19 August 1987, Israeli forces stormed the offices of the faculty and student association of al-Najah University. In addition, an atypical raid was carried out in Hebron against the Graduate Union office, which administered the local polytechnic. The incursion unfolded in broad daylight, with inhabitants confined to the building for over five hours. Books, research reports and official publications, together with the Union’s private documents, were confiscated.46 Academic activity amidst campus siege: the challenge of the Intifada Regardless of the views of the Israeli political leadership on this matter, the Palestinian campuses undoubtedly played a key role in mobilising the public following the outbreak of the First Intifada in December 1987. As the commotion unfolded, the Israeli defence apparatus was concerned that the universities would serve as staging posts for student-movement activists. The campus of the Islamic University in Gaza, for instance, was a dominant force in the organised processions of the first day of demonstrations there, as were other campuses in the West Bank. The students belonged to a younger generation suffering from a variety of ailments. Their problems were further aggravated by the economic crisis, unemployment and an ongoing sense of humiliation fuelled by the increased exposure to Israeli society. Students, therefore, were the vanguards of ensuing violent clashes with the IDF forces. As the unrest intensified, the Civil Administration determined a series of direct sanctions against academic campuses and university administrations alike. Israel held the academic institutions directly responsible for the conduct of students and hence ordered the indefinite closure of all Palestinian campuses. The universities remained closed until the autumn of 1991 with the exception of the University of Birzeit, which remained closed until 29 April 1992 when the tumult of the Intifada had finally sufficiently withered.47 Sari Nusseibeh reveals that the University of Birzeit was prepared for the imposition of sanctions upon the onset of an uprising: At Birzeit everyone was prepared for trouble: the soldiers showed up with their guns and riot gear, while we ordered ambulances, broke out the first aid kits and prepared the press releases. The army declared the campus a closed military area and surrounded it with its troops.48

In spite of the imposed closures, Palestinian universities sought to fulfil their national duties and academic calling. They resolved to preserve the scheduled curriculum, albeit beyond the confines of the campus, in private residences and 45

Sullivan, Palestinian Universities Under Occupation, 17. Penny Johnson, ‘Palestinian Universities Under Occupation, August–October 1987’, Journal of Palestine Studies 17 (Winter 1988): 145–6. 47 Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, 106. 48 Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country, 268. 46

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

401

public meeting places, which would serve as alternative classrooms. The first experiment of this sort was held between 1 July and 30 September 1988. About 240 students participated in the programme, some 80% of whom went on to complete their academic pursuits.49 Palestinian universities were required to reorganise their systems to accommodate the prevailing circumstances. Their adopted course combined shorter semesters and distance learning pedagogies adapted from the open universities. Acting President of Birzeit University, Dr Gabi Baramki, later claimed that ‘the Intifada raised the awareness of the universities of the need to develop programs which would assist them in coping with the closures and punishments’.50 The informal pedagogy was also adopted by the University of Bethlehem. In the course of the Intifada, the university incorporated off-campus teaching methodologies. During the summer semester of 1989, in addition to instruction in private homes, it also offered courses in a guesthouse, a hospital, three hotels, an infant health centre and the facilities of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem. Yet, compared with Birzeit University, the extent of academic activities was reduced. Most of the courses on offer were in the fields of the humanities and education, with limited instruction in computing sciences, business administration and social studies.51 The need to conduct academic activities outside the campuses posed problems mainly for computer science studies, as access to study and research laboratories was all but proscribed. It follows that the lion’s share of informal classes were necessarily devoted to education, social studies and the arts. Prevailing circumstances had also forced the heads of the Palestinian academic system to meet outside the perimeters of their universities. Despite the closure imposed on campus, the University of Birzeit decided to hold an international academic conference entitled, ‘Two Decades of Occupation: From Resistance to Uprising’, planned as scheduled for 25 May 1988. On account of the events, the conference programme was adapted to meet the demands of the hour and attract the crowds. Dr Gabi Baramki maintained that it was his duty to insist the conference be held as scheduled, as part of the university’s public and moral obligations. He even claimed that, ‘the military authorities never gave us an opportunity to shut ourselves in an ivory tower. We never perceived the university as secluded from the community which surrounds it.’52 Notwithstanding the sense of obligation the universities had felt regarding the continuation of their academic activities, some voices from within the academic establishment criticised the decision to conduct business as usual. Dr Wali al-Dajani from the University of Bethlehem claimed that the continuation of academic activities, in particular through the informal teaching system, was playing into the hands of the Israelis. ‘While demonstrations against the lingering occupation on campus are banned, one can point to the continuation of studies so as to divert criticism from this fact [the closing of the campuses].’53 This sort of criticism was based on a deeply rooted feeling shared by many Palestinians that the Israelis were taking advantage of the informal education network established by the Palestinian academic 49

Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, 107. Penny Johnson, ‘Palestinian Universities Under Occupation, February–May 1988’, Journal of Palestine Studies 17 (Summer 1988): 117–18. 51 Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, 107. 52 Johnson, ‘‘Palestinian Universities Under Occupation, February–May 1988’, 118. 53 Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, 107. 50

402

I. Zelkovitz

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

apparatus in order to present to the world a falsified image of an ostensibly normative daily routine in the occupied territories. Indeed, the Israeli defence establishment enabled the non-formative studies of Palestinian universities to take place in an orderly manner and, despite the fact that the authorities were informed about lessons being held, only rarely did they interfere. From Intifada to political negotiation: the impact on higher education In the aftermath of the First Intifada, the higher education system in the Palestinian territories resumed its regular academic activities. It seems that the trial and error inherent in establishing a non-formal education system had helped develop the universities’ organisational muscle and stability. In light of the difficult conditions they had managed to overcome, they were reinvigorated and filled with hope regarding their capabilities as academic institutions. Nevertheless, the Intifada had dealt the Palestinian academy a mighty financial blow. With irregular student registration universities could not rely on tuition fees, yet they still had to pay the wages of academic faculty and other employees. In addition, the economic crisis and dwindling of contributions from the wealthy Gulf States, stemming from the PLO’s endorsement of Iraq during the Gulf War, further eroded their coffers.54 The economic hardship also led to strained relations between the university administrations and their faculty and staff, who demanded the improved remuneration and cost-of-living allowances for which they were legally eligible. Despite a strong desire to get the system back on track, employees held fast to their rights and on 7 October 1991, organised a demonstration in front of the offices of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education offices in al-Bira, demanding enhanced terms of employment.55 Despite these difficulties, the Palestinian universities were determined not to let their development be undermined. The Intifada had instilled in the university managements a renewed sense of their national role. During the Intifada, the stonethrowing boy had become the image and symbol of the uprising. The university heads felt that the universities themselves should build upon that, by assuming a voice of certainty, able to call upon the international community for an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The face of Palestine was that of a boy, but its voice was the voice of the university.56 The establishment of new Palestinian universities in the early 1990s dovetailed with the fundamental political developments of the time. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had rekindled hopes that major regional changes were imminent. The prevailing atmosphere drew many prominent academics to assume diplomatic roles in the negotiations57 and become more involved in the political Christa Bruhn, ‘Higher Education as Empowerment: The Case of Palestinian Universities’, American Behavioral Scientist 49 (April 2006): 1131. 55 Nikaba Mudrasi wa-Muwaẓifi al-Jama’at wa al-M’ahid al-Khasa far’a Jama’a Birzeit, alTakrir al-Sanawi lil-dawra al-Nikabiyya lil-ʽam 1991–1992 [Association of Teachers and Clerks of the Universities and Colleges: the Birzeit Branch,Annual Report of the General Assembly for the year 1991–1992] (Ramallah: Birzeit, no date of publication), 29. 56 Bruhn, ‘Higher Education as Empowerment: The Case of Palestinian Universities’, 1132. 57 For instance Hanan Ashrawi was the spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference, alongside Saib Arikat, at the time a senior lecturer at al-Najah University, who also assumed a key role. 54

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

403

arena. In the wake of the difficult years of the Intifada, they strove to have a key role in the in the remodelling of Palestinian society. Perhaps it was no coincidence that on the eve of the Madrid Conference two new Palestinian universities were officially inaugurated: al-Quds Open University and al-Azhar University in Gaza, the second to be established in the Gaza Strip. These universities became celebrated national institutions, embodying the political aspirations of the PLO, or more precisely, the voice of Fatah, which had begun to establish itself as a governing party following the signing of the Oslo Accords and Arafat’s return to the territories. The momentum behind erecting new universities and further development of those already existing coincided with the rise of political Islam in the West Bank and Gaza.58 The latter process was most apparent in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and the rural areas. The PLO wished to leverage the campuses as springboards for further rooting its political power, as demonstrated by the cases of al-Quds and al-Azhar universities. Al-Quds University, which was actually an association of four colleges in the areas of Jerusalem and al-Bira, was renowned as a stronghold of religious fundamentalism. Dr Sari Nusseibeh, who was eventually appointed President of al-Quds University in 1995, describes the early days of the university: I place ‘university’ in quotes because the school was in fact a disconnected confederation of four separate colleges – a jumble of buildings, and a student body swarming with Hamas supporters…. I also knew the Hamas students, at 90 percent of the student body, would resist me at every turn.59

Al-Azhar University in Gaza was founded in 1991 by virtue of a decision reached by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, and also enjoyed the support of the PLO.60 Until that time, the Islamic University in Gaza City was the only university in the Gaza Strip. In the mid-1980s, Muslim Brotherhood supporters had managed, by political means, to overtake the whole of the bureaucracy at the Islamic University of Gaza. The ensuing power struggle between the nationalists and the Islamic Bloc quickly turned violent, with those loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood eventually wresting complete control of the Board of Trustees, the academic faculty and the student council. The PLO leadership, who were well aware of the importance of higher education in the political socialisation of the coming generation, feared this development greatly. In response, the PLO opted to establish al-Azhar, an institution to rival the Islamic University, which would promote a national agenda. Al-Azhar prided itself 58

With a rejuvenation of academic life, the legitimacy of political negotiations and the recognition of Israel became central questions among student activists. Embarrassingly, many of the Palestinian negotiators were teachers who had become formal representatives of the PLO. Palestinian students found themselves unprepared for the swift launch of the Oslo process and consequent formation of the Palestinian Authority. Pressures on party recruitment and debate concerning the recognition of Israel eventually split the Palestinian national stream, a harmful development for Fatah’s youth movement. Parallel to the weakening of Fatah, adherents of the Islamic Bloc who – alongside their rejection of a political settlement – had set a clear social agenda in accordance with Sharia law, managed to preserve and even enhance their own position. This trend played out across the university campuses, including Birzeit. 59 Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country, 382–5. 60 Abu-Husam (Husni Salim Z’arab), min Dhakirat al-Majd fi Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filastini “Fath” Tali’at al-Thawra al-Filastiniyya [Memories From the Glory Days: Fatah the Pioneer of the Palestinian Revolution] (Khan Yunis, 2000), 129–31.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

404

I. Zelkovitz

as a national institution founded on the explicit directive of Yasser Arafat. Arafat’s aim, according to current University President Dr Jawad Ashour, was ‘to fulfil the aspirations of the Palestinian people for knowledge and national freedom’. Activities conducted within al-Azhar University, which was part of a venture to build the institutions of a future state, identified and were in full compliance with the governing authorities and the spirit of PLO resolutions. The university had been designed to provide an educational, socio-political response to the takeover of the Islamic University of Gaza by Hamas loyalists. Accordingly, in February 1993, the university’s Public Relations Department set in motion the ‘First Palestinian Popular Heritage Exhibition’. By promoting such activities, which featured both male and female students dressed in traditional garments,61 al-Azhar University endeavoured to establish a traditional yet lively cultural sphere to counteract the fundamentalist atmosphere fostered by the Islamic University of Gaza. Political protest taking place on the al-Azhar campus followed the same path. For instance, a demonstration initiated by the student council against the carrying of firearms was apparently directed toward the phenomenon at large. Not only did the right of PLO factions’ security personnel to carry arms remain unchallenged, it was supported. It follows that the target of the protest was actually Hamas loyalists in possession of illegal arms. The unauthorised carrying of firearms could well have led to armed clashes and chaos, which would have jeopardised institutional and social efforts toward state-building epitomised by the Palestinian system of higher education.62 From revolution to state building: the Palestinian higher education system in times of political transformation As the political process gained momentum, and subsequent to its apex – the signing of the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993 – the Palestinian universities assumed pioneering roles in the process of state-building. In the wake of the agreements, some of the universities, which until that point were regarded as hotbeds of resistance, began dictating curricula that promoted political compromise. Although this trend was by no means all-encompassing or necessarily the direct outcome of explicit policy, it was undergirded by substantial funds dispensed by the European Union, which provided to Palestinian universities an annual $18 million for a period of five years.63 In addition to the political activities of their national struggle, many university faculty members took part in the deliberations with the state of Israel. Some had accumulated many hours of discourse with Israeli officials through their roles as unofficial spokespersons of the PLO. Part of the PLO’s inner circle, they were committed to play a significant role in the transformation of the political atmosphere, in service of an envisioned future promised by the Oslo Accords. Overt relations between the Palestinian universities and both academic and political authorities in Israel, albeit neither common nor continuous, began to surface. From a political point of view, most far reaching was al-Azhar University in Gaza, which officially hosted a delegation of some 40 Israeli members of the ‘Peace Now’ Israeli movement.64 61

Jami’at al-Azhar, Akhbar al-Jami’a (1994): 1. Ibid., 8. 63 Bruhn, ‘Higher Education as Empowerment: The Case of Palestinian Universities’, 1133. 64 Jami’a al-Azhar, Akhbar al-Jami’a (September 1998): 3. 62

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

History of Education

405

Yet not all Palestinian academic institutions followed suit. The process of reconciliation with Israel was not comprehensive and was based by and large on the personal initiatives of prominent Palestinian academic figures, rather than at the official behest of their institutions. This was due in part to the disappointment harboured by Palestinian academics, who had expected Israeli academic circles to publically denounce Israeli policies towards the Palestinian universities, or at least to demonstrate a greater level of support for their struggle to secure academic freedom and to keep Palestinian academic institutions open throughout the Intifada. No Israeli university had openly protested the Israeli policy of closure carried out against the Palestinian campuses, notwithstanding the many unofficial initiatives of both lecturers and students in Israel, which had begun even prior to the prolonged closures of the First Intifada. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian universities came under the purview and supervision of the newly established Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Within the context of state-building, the Palestinian universities had been assigned a key role by the ministry. The institutionalisation of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the formation of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, had paradoxically undermined the independent administration of the Palestinian universities. The various funds and financial contributions, which in the past had gone to the universities directly, were now channelled through the Ministry.65 As a result, university cash flows were stymied and direct relations between university heads and the Arab political echelon were suspended. At the expense of public benefit, including higher education, resources directed to the nascent Palestinian Authority were earmarked first and foremost for its own public and political reinforcement.66 The building of a state is a complex process that requires both financial capital and skilled human resources. The complete subjugation to the Palestinian Authority of the system that manufactures ‘human capital’, so to speak, proved that the PLO was now both the sovereign and principal in defining the character of the coming state and the image of Palestinian society at large. A similar approach was adopted regarding the other constituents of Palestinian civil society.67 In the wake of Oslo, Palestinian universities channelled their energies into the preparation of development tools and training of human resources critical to the state-building initiative. The universities perceived themselves to be an integral part of the social apparatus surrounding them. Their main goal was to transform themselves from centres of political resistance to institutions focused on achievement and the building of a national infrastructure. This shift occurred not least because of a prevailing atmosphere amongst the Palestinians in which the vision of a sovereign nation had come within reach. The efforts of academe to bring this vision to fruition endured amidst budgetary difficulties and an ebb and flow that characterised the implementation of the acclaimed accord between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian universities continued to develop curricula designed to train the next generation to meet the requirements of the future Palestinian state. For instance, 65

Baramki, Peaceful Resistance-Building: A Palestinian University under Occupation, 128–9. Bruhn, ‘Higher Education as Empowerment: The Case of Palestinian Universities’, 1135. 67 Hillel Frisch, Countdown to Statehood: Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza, 128–9. 66

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

406

I. Zelkovitz

at Birzeit, a new Department of Journalism was established. In order to provide its students with practical experience in journalism and public outreach, the department undertook the publishing of its own newspaper, Al-Sahafi. Al-Quds University founded a School of Medicine, which focused primarily on the Allied Health Professions, whereas the University of Bethlehem emphasised the development of tourism studies, which championed the development of a meaningful national resource and its associated local employment opportunities. The Palestinian higher education system stood alongside the Palestinian Authority in this process of state institution-building. While their cooperation deepened, at the same time a process was unfolding that threatened the cohesion of the Palestinian academic strata. Many senior lecturers resigned their academic posts in favour of direct involvement in the political sphere or, alternatively, the various non-governmental organisations of the Palestinian civil society.68 Such processes dovetailed with the economic crisis, which bore dire consequences for the universities. The allure of copious funds flowing into the Palestinian Authority drew the attention of many of the academic elite, who opted to improve their financial positions and consolidate political influence. Nevertheless, the academic institutions continued to absorb the droves of young Palestinians flocking to their campuses, training them in the service of the emerging nation. In this manner, the Palestinian universities fulfilled their raison d’être, which was to lead Palestinian society on the road to progress, transform the Palestinian collective consciousness and empower the local communities.

Summary The path towards realisation of that vision embarked upon by the Palestinian universities – which had in the three decades of their existence been transformed from centres of political resistance to pillars of the Palestinian state-building process – drew upon established channels of communication with the international community.69 The financial crises and loss of manpower to politics had indeed damaged the academic infrastructure of the universities. On the other hand, their vast experience in maintaining the academic apparatus in a perpetual state of uncertainty actually promoted their effectiveness and facilitated their adaptation to ever more dynamic political and social circumstances. Since their establishment in the 1970s, the Palestinian universities have evolved as a significant contributor to the Palestinian national identity. Though they generate and pass along knowledge, they serve first and foremost as centres for the forging of identity. This national identity is further bolstered throughout the duration of one’s studies, in major part during informal time spent on campus. The ramparts that envelop each of the Palestinian universities extend to create separations in space and time. Within these campus walls, the prevailing hardship can be discussed in a more abstract manner. Yet political reality and academic contemplation are never too far 68

Sari Nusseibeh, Hanan Ashrawi, Riyad al-Maliki, Saib Arikat and Ali al-Jarbawi all exemplify this widespread phenomenon. Many academics had at the time concluded that their occupation did not fit the economic and political status they desired. The civil society and government service, which were well funded by the donor states, offered them an opportunity for upward social mobility. 69 Bruhn, ‘Higher Education as Empowerment: The Case of Palestinian Universities’, 1135.

History of Education

407

apart; on the way to university and back, students confront these realities on a daily basis. Physically safeguarded, the role of the campus in moulding the image of society was enhanced. In the name of universal values, the organisational charm of the Palestinian campuses made them a sphere both for the promotion of national struggle and the training of the human capital requisite to building the Palestinian nation-state.

Downloaded by [University of Haifa Library] at 05:41 08 May 2014

Notes on contributor Dr. Ido Zelkovitz is research fellow at the Ezri centre for Iran and the Persian Gulf Studies and teaches in the Department of Middle Eastern History at the University of Haifa, Israel. Dr Zelkovitz will fulfill the position of a Schusterman Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota for the Academic Year of 2014/15. His research, academic courses, and public talks reflect a focus on cross-disciplinary analysis of Palestinian History, Politics and Culture, The Arab-Israeli conflict, and the role of High Education and Students in Building National Identities in the Middle East. He is the author of The Fatah Movement: Islam, Nationalism and Armed Struggle Politics (2012 Hebrew), among his list of publications you can find various articles, the most recent is, “A Paradise lost? The Rise and fall of the Palestinian Community in Kuwait.” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol 50 , No, 1 (Winter 2014), pp. 86–99.

View more...

Comments

Copyright © 2017 KULDOC.COM Inc.