Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Infamous Wall-Separating Palestinians from the Right to an Education

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Infamous Wall-Separating Palestinians from the Right to an Education

Article excerpt

As the present Israeli government continues to construct what they euphemistically insist is a mere "fence," more and more Palestinians find themselves isolated from their jobs, their markets for produce, and their education. The Israeli Wall must rank as one of the more repugnant schemes of the modern era, surpassing even the Berlin Wall in its arrogance. To be sure, the Berlin Wall was built to prevent people from crossing the line-but it was built by East Germany on its own land, not on that of West Germany's. By contrast, the Sharon government is building a barrier to keep other people from crossing-and not necessarily only into Israel. In many places, this wall prevents a people from crossing from one part of its own lands, to another. And, in order for the wall to accomplish its malignant mission, it must be built, at least partly, on Palestinian land.

Jerusalem's Al Quds University in Jerusalem is a case in point. The university traces its origins to an All-Islamic conference in 1931, calling for a university to be called "Al-Aqsa," in order to reinstate the tradition of Jerusalem as a center of Arab and Islamic learning. By the end of the British Mandate, however, there was only the Arab College as a result. Subsequent events-including the occupation, the diaspora, Jordan's emphasis on establishing a university in Amman, the 1967 war, competing universities in the West Bank and Gaza, and continuing encroachments by Israel-delayed the university's existence until 1995, when several Palestinian colleges were consolidated.

Today, Al Quds University is facing problems as great as any since the 1930s. A "moderate" university by today's political standards, it nevertheless suffers because of its location, Jerusalem. It must, however, remain where it is, and cannot be moved, for Jerusalem residents who study outside the city-be it in Jordan, the U.S. or Egypt-risk losing their Israeli-issued residence permits for Jerusalem, thus forfeiting the right of returning to their homes and families.

What does this have to do with the Wall? The answer is that the Sharon government is building the wall right through the campus. An urgent appeal by university president and professor of philosophy Dr. Sari Nusseibeh warns of the university's major Abu Dis campus being "next in line in Israel's relentless Wall program," and of the Israeli army having already seized some of the university grounds. The Israeli plan will do more than prevent the construction of proposed botanical gardens; it will benefit only those who depend on rancor to further their political ends, whatever their nationality may be.

From Jerusalem's Hebrew University

The volatility of the situation is perhaps best expressed by a call for support from faculty and students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who are ". . .horrified at the cruel insensitivity displayed in this act aimed at a sister university in Jerusalem, with which we have fruitful academic and collegial links."

The academics point out "Al Quds University is a voice of reason and moderation in the midst of the ongoing conflict. . ." adding that ". . .there are no doubts about [the land confiscation's] poisonous effects on the relations between moderate Palestinians and Israelis who have been trying to build bridges, not walls, between the two battered communities."

Any reasonable assessment of the Wall, including parts of it running through a university, shows its purpose is neither security nor peace. …

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