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Israeli apartheid on campus

10 9 0

On May 13, the United States-based online outlet Mondoweiss posted a video on Twitter that showed Palestinian students who were peacefully protesting at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba being attacked by Israeli police. The students were protesting against the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem. As Palestinian students faced similar attacks at Israeli universities across the country, many of them fled campus and returned home.

Member of the Knesset Sami Abu Shehadeh and leader of Balad Party called on the Council of Higher Education and Minister of Education Yoav Galant to protect Palestinian students in Israeli universities. He said, “The protection of our students is a major and important demand for us due to the ongoing circumstances as they feel the loss of safety and security inside Israeli universities and school residencies.”

It would be easy to describe the attacks on university campuses as an exceptional occurrence, in a period of heightened political tensions, 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.

After visiting several universities in Israel, I found the history and campus of Hebrew University on Mount Scopus (HUJI) in occupied Jerusalem to be a great example of how higher education institutions became complicit in the Israeli settler-colonial project.

Founded in 1918, three decades before the establishment of Israel, the university was a marque initiative of Zionist activists in Europe. It was a place of refuge for exiled Jewish academics and students from Europe. But the building of the university was also considered synonymous with the remaking of Jewish nationhood. This symbolism was written into the design of the campus.

Standing atop Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, the university has an unhindered view of Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount. In fact, during the planning phases, it was called the Third Temple, signifying the re-establishment of the severed connection between the Jewish people and what they perceive as their divinely ordained homeland.

Aesthetically, the buildings of the original campus were inspired by Arab architecture as a way of ensuring that they seem indigenous to the surrounding landscape. However, as was pointed out to me by an Israeli architect, the grand Arab architecture-inspired domes and arches were meant to also “symbolise the muscularity of Zionism and the Jewish nation”.

The designers of the original master plan, Patrick Geddes and Frank Mears, chose to incorporate an Arab style of architecture, but they did so with a sense of contempt for the Palestinian population.

In a letter, Geddes wrote, “… any Western eye can see that the Arabs are dirty, untidy, in many ways degenerate, and is all too likely to overlook, or have........

© Al Jazeera

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