The Israeli Occupation is not only is responsible for the physical dismemberment and destruction Palestine’s assets, it is also socially destructive. Denying Palestinians their right to education prevents the development of young people’s minds as well as the creation of a body of professionals and leaders necessary for Palestine’s future.
Environmental degradation (discussed previously) and social disintegration are two fundamental and interlinking components which are precluding the development of a viable Palestinian state. The following accounts have been collected by the Zajel Youth Exchange Program of An-Najah National University in Nablus. These are but a small selection of the daily harassment and abuse students and education workers receive at the hands of the Israeli occupation.
Please note that the following testimonies are just a few samples from a few students and faculty of An-Najah University. Every student and teacher at every one of the approximately 35 universities and colleges in Palestine are subjected to daily violations of their right to education, in a variety of ways, by the Israeli Occupation Forces.
The Israeli occupation’s ongoing siege against the Palestinians impacts education in a variety of ways. Checkpoints often prevent teaches and students getting to classes while closures prevent them from returning to their families. Military incursions interrupt classes in addition to causing wide scale damaged to school property. In numerous cases schools and educational institutions have been transformed into military bases during incursions. Israeli authorities which control Palestine’s borders have on numerous occasions prevented students from undertaking scholarships abroad. The segregation barrier has cut communities in half and forced many teachers and students to pass through gates which are only open at particular times, thus forcing many students to leave classes early. Stories like those you are about to read are happening all over the occupied territories.
Faculty Member Detained in his House
12th, July 2006
Armoured vehicles invaded the city this morning, and went to the Majeen neighborhood where teacher Mustapha Shunnar was detained by the Israeli soldiers. Mr. Shunnar is 45 years old, married with children, and teaches in the Social Science Department. Witnesses said that six Israeli jeeps surrounded the No 3 building of the university housing estate, where many of the university employees live. The masked Israeli soldiers who were accompanied by dogs were seen ringing on the door and then entering and detaining Mr Shunnar. His home was searched in detail, and then he was taken away to an unknown destination.
Asef Issa, a 19 year old student, was leaving Monday, April 24th 2006 from An-Najah National University to his home. Israeli soldiers prohibited him from passing through Beit Iba checkpoint which he usually used in his way back to his residence in Kofor Tholoth village in the region of Qalqilia City.
Under the heavy rain Asef was forced to head back to the village in the company of another person through the rough roads next to the checkpoint. Due to the heavy rain of that day a flood pulled Asef into a tunnel at the time they were passing close to the Saloous stone quarries. This happened as they were trying to take an alternative route through difficult roads in order to avoid being stopped by Israeli soldiers, who have tightened the siege around the city particularly during the past three weeks.
The fire brigades of Nablus’ Municipality managed to rescue the person who accompanied Asef, but Asef was found dead; water pulled him all the way to Al-Madina Club, on the side of Tulkarim City road. His identity could not be retrieved as a result of the water’s destructive force. Sources of the Fire Brigades explained that Asef had got some bruises after slipping into the water, having also suffered from a number of tough impacts, several medical crews of Nablus showed in the area of the accident and Asef was about to be taken by the Red Crescent ambulance when an Israeli force appeared and decided to take the body by force claiming that the absence of an identification means that he might be a wanted Palestinian resistant, seems that even in death Asef couldn’t rest. The Palestinian crew of the Red Crescent didn’t agree to this obvious stealing operation but decided to follow the Israeli army vehicle to Kadomeem settlement where the Israelis gave the crew a paper confirming they have the body and promised to return the corps once it could be identified. Few hours later the body was moved to Abu Kbeer Morgue near Tel Aviv, and the Palestinian medical crews to come pick the corpse.
Student Killed at Road Block
Kamleh Muhammad Shuli, a 20 year old student in the Faculty of Education, An-Najah National University, was killed this morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire on the taxi she was in. At the time, she was in the process of going to Ramallah so that the younger of her two children could receive medical treatment. She was with several other passengers at the Imatin road block, near the Kadomim settlement. Kamleh was shot twice in the chest, and died on the scene. Afterwards, her body was briefly taken by Israeli soldiers. None of the passengers in her taxi were armed or wanted, and there was no reason for the use of lethal force. Kamleh is survived by her husband and two young children.
Palestinian Academic Denied Freedom to Practice Religion
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled against instructor Adnan Idrees who had requested to leave the country to visit the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia. He has been denied permission to leave the country several times since 1997, when he first attempted to visit Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage (Haj). The Israeli Court did not give the reasons for its decision. An-Najah National University appeals to human rights organizations and all NGO’s working for justice and freedom to put pressure on the Israelis to stop their abuse of Palestinian citizens’ rights.
Respected Academic Abused and Humiliated at Checkpoint
(3/19/2005) Dr. Muhammad Sharaqa, 45 Years, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law/ An-Najah National University
Dr. Sharaqa lives in Asira Alshamaleya village. From here, the journey should take seven minutes. However, with the occupation and impending siege around Nablus and its surrounding villages the journey becomes a three hour long farce. Dr. Sharaqa has to endure four roadblocks on the short journey including one right in front of his apartment. Dr. Sharaqa states ‘I became familiar to the Israeli soldiers and my face is well known to them as far as I am passing through the roadblocks twice a day in order to go to my work at the university and to send my children to school. However, they still search me and search whatever I carry with me.
One day, at around eight in the evening whilst returning home from visiting family an Israeli jeep stopped me and the soldier and his captain ordered me from my car. There had been no incidents recently and I was the solitary figure in the area. I was harassed and interrogated, in the pouring rain I was forced at gunpoint to lay face down in the mud whilst they proceeded to trample on me. They broke my mobile and took my ID.
They asked what I taught at the university and I confirmed I was a professor of Law and Human Rights in the Faculty of Law. They accused me of lecturing in how to become at terrorist to which I replied that I was an advocate of tolerance and peace and that is how I teach my students. I went on to explain how I was the UNESCO director for human rights for seven years and had never previously had problems with the Israeli soldiers. They increased their insalivations to me for a further forty minutes. After this, despite being but meters from my home the soldiers ordered me back down the road I had come down, I pleaded to them to let me past but I was rejected and forbidden to take my car with me
Ever since I must get up early at six o’clock in order to get through the checkpoints, rush my children to school and then arrive at the university on time. It is incredibly ironic that I then teach the principles of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. It frustrates and depresses me that a ‘democratic’ state can behave in such a way, allowing its soldiers to dehumanize the Palestinian civilians and insult them day and night. Life is so precious and a sacred right to everybody. Israeli’s should not cross the red line of human dignity; the freedom of movement is also a nonnegotiable right to all humans. I have been in many workshops with Israeli activists to defend the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. I believe that my own experiences spur me onwards to continue to demand the implementation of the global community’s laws and demand Israel to respect international agreements in regards to human rights and the Geneva Convention in particular.
Peace Delegate Jailed by Israeli Occupation Forces
(6/5/2004) Moein Masod, Journalism Department
I attended several conferences about peace and stability in the Middle East in the United States, invited by the A.B.L.E. International “Association for Better Living and Education” and ”Association for Peace and Understanding in the Middle East." These conferences, meetings, and sessions were attended by Muslims, Christians, and Jews from all over the world, and focused on building peace, stability and understanding between nations, with particular focus placed upon the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
During my return trip from the States, I was arrested by the Israelis on the 3rd of April 2003 at the Allenby Bridge. Without any investigation, I was placed in administrative detention for a period of 6 months, and was given no chance to defend myself. My time in detention was an awful experience. I was first kept at the Huwwara Detention Camp where I spent 75 days surrounded by hostile guards, being beaten, and deprived of food. After this, I was moved to the Kitseot Detention Camp in the Negev desert to serve out the rest of my detention time. I was in a bad state of health when I arrived there, which only continued to deteriorate during the rest of my imprisonment. Consequently, I am still receiving medical treatment to deal with the health problems caused by my detention.
Student Loses an Eye
Sunday the 9th of April 2006 began just like any other day for Shireen and Ruba, 20- and 21-year-old students at the Information Technology Faculty. How could they know this day was going to carry an incident that would change their lives forever…
That day, the two girls left the university towards the city center to buy some things before heading to their homes, the villages of Nisf Jbeel and Beit Mreen near the city of Tulkarim. Before even starting their shopping, news of Israeli occupation force, IOF, having invaded Faysal Street, east of the city was spread. This made the girls hurry up in order to leave the city before the situation would get critical. On their way to the western garage where they were supposed to pick up their bus, they passed through Falasteen Street -known for being a crowded, commercial street-, where the presence of over 8 army vehicles got them by surprise. Unexpectedly they found themselves amidst the Israeli forces, which started to shoot randomly as a few kids threw stones at them. Without realizing what was happening, these bullets made the two girls new victims of the IOF’s brutal non-stop violations on Palestinian civilians. Shireen tells the story with her own words: "Suddenly I felt something hitting my hand. I don’t know what happened to me after that, it wasn’t a faint, it was just a deep pain in my hand. We were all close to a Sport’s Shop. They took me inside and then the shop owner drove me in his car to Rafidia hospital. I didn’t know that Ruba had got injured too, I just heard about her in the car, when the son of the shop-keeper told us that the girl who was wearing the gown got a bullet into her eye. There I realized that this girl was my friend Ruba".
Nevertheless, Shireen didn’t realize what exactly had happened to Ruba until she started to wake up from the shock. She received treatment for her injured hand and started to feel better but her mind was with Ruba, since deep inside she knew that Ruba’s injury was much more serious than hers: "I cared about her more than anybody else, even more than for myself. I was allowed to see her later at the hospital, she was taken to the emergencies section". Ruba’s family was called, although telling them the whole truth was not easy. At the beginning the family was only informed that the injury was located close to her right eye, while her papers were ready to be transferred to Saint John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem.
The same day in the evening Shireen called her friend’s family to check on her condition, but till that time they didn’t know their daughter had lost her right eye forever. Ruba left the hospital a couple of days afterwards. As Shireen sadly comments, "I can’t believe that this ambitious girl has lost her eye, but I believe that Ruba has strong moral values and will accept destiny and God’s will".
This is only one example of the aggressions An-Najah National University students daily encounter on their way to and from university… at checkpoints, on rough roads, or even inside the campus. Over the past five years dozens of students have been insulted, harassed, detained and injured just because they were trying to pursue their basic right of going to university. Due to economical difficulties and restrictions over mobility, as well as constant siege and incursions, education in Palestine is becoming a privilege, not a right. 52 students of An-Najah have lost their lives while struggling for their right to education.
University Professor Suffering Health Crisis while illegally being held prisoner by Israel
On the night of Thursday March the 2nd 2006, an Israeli force broke into the residence of Prof. Esam Al-Ashqar, of An-Najah National University Physics Department and arrested him with no clear justification. Israeli soldiers brutally searched the house accompanied by dogs causing damage and chaos in the house belongings, then dragged Prof. Al-Ashqar bare-footed and without giving him the time to wear proper clothes; his wife says:” I couldn’t bear this violent scene, my two children were crying and he was treated in the most inhuman way, I don’t know where I got the courage from, I started shouting at them…Don’t treat him this way, he’s a respectful university professor with serious health problems”. Without giving that much attention to the grieving wife he was taken to an unknown destination.
Apparently Prof. Al-Ashqar suffered that night from a severe elevation in the blood pressure, two weeks later after the arrest the family found out that he was kept all that time in Belenson Military Hospital before moving him to Ofer detention camp, a formal accusation wasn’t yet presented against him, he was kept without any charges and experienced hard arrest circumstances. No communication between him and the family was allowed except the two short phone calls he managed to make from the jail administration office.
The wife says that during all this period Prof. Al-Ashqar was not investigated or accused with any charges, the only explanation given was that he is a “threat to Israeli security”. He was later given a trial without his presence and was charged for six months of administrative detention, the violation lies not only in the illegality of such a trial but in the fact that such trials usually give the Israeli military courts the right to keep extending such detaining periods every six months without giving any clear accusations and without giving the detained the right to get an appropriate investigation or pleading. Fares Abu Al Hassan, the lawyer of Prof Al-Ashqar, mentions that an appealing session will be taking place in the coming few days, and that he will ask for the release of Al-Ashqar as no charges are presented and especially that keeping him in the detention facility is becoming a threat to his life.
The wife complains that until now the family wasn’t allowed to visit Prof. Al-Ashqar, they applied for permissions of visit through the Red Cross Office in Nablus, and while her permission was refused, the mum was asked to prove her relation with her son to get the permission, “what an irony” the wife says, “ his mum was asked to prove that she’s actually his mum, my permission was refused, and we got no response for the sister’s and children’s permissions”. She also mentions that she contacted several local and international human rights organizations asking for help to release the husband or at least make sure he gets the needed medical care as he takes more than ten different kinds of medication; and lawyer informed her that he started to gain new symptoms as a result of constant high blood pressure; like change in the color of the skin plus exhaustion, nobody was able to help yet.
Prof. Esam Al-Ashqar, who is an associate professor at the Physics Department of the Science Faculty, obtained in 1990 his Ph.D. condensed matter physics major from Ohio University, USA, he obtained his Bachelor and masters degrees from Jordanian Universities and was supervising a number of master thesis before his arrest.