While the anti-Israel activists are busy protesting against Israel on Western campuses, Palestinian students and professors are left to be persecuted by their own governments.
By: Khaled Abu Toameh/The Gatestone Institute
These are the days when everything is backwards. The “pro-Palestinian” activists on university campuses throughout the Western world have gotten into the spirit: Palestinian students and academics in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza Strip endure daily harassment by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, because all that gets the activists going are “Israeli abuses.”
Apparently, today, to be “pro-Palestinian” one has to be “anti-Israel.”
For the self-appointed advocates of the Palestinians at Western university campuses, the Palestinian issue is nothing but a vehicle for spewing hatred toward Israel. In good, backwards form, Israel is castigated, and the PA and Hamas are free to abuse their own people.
It seems that in the view of the anti-Israel folks, the Palestinians should not even hope for human rights under the Palestinian regimes.
So while the anti-Israel activists are busy protesting against Israel on Western campuses, Palestinian students and professors are left to be persecuted by their own governments.
The ‘Grim Reality’ on Palestinian Campuses
Instead of campaigning for reform and democracy in the West Bank and Gaza, these activists spend precious energy trying to take down Israel. The Palestinian students and academics are left to their own devices.
Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas suffer an abysmal level of freedom of expression — and always have. This is the grim reality that the international community and protesting students prefer to ignore. For them, human rights violations must have a “made in Israel” sticker on them.
Here is a suggestion: Let us redefine “pro-Palestinian.” Instead of bashing Israel, the real pro-Palestinians will reveal themselves by demanding democracy for those they champion. True pro-Palestinian activists will scream for public freedoms for the Palestinians under the PA and Hamas regimes, which have always smashed dissent with an iron fist.
In the past few days, Palestinians on campuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have once again been reminded that they remain as far as ever from achieving a state that would look any different from the other Arab dictatorships in the region. The campus incidents, which have hardly caught the attention of the international media and anti-Israel activists in the West, also expose the media double standard about human rights violations in the territories.
In the most recent case, Hamas security guards detained a number of students at Palestine University in the Gaza Strip who protested against the administration’s refusal to allow them to sit for examinations because they had not paid tuition in full.
The students complained that the guards conducted “humiliating” body searches and confiscated their mobile phones. Some said they were physically assaulted.
In another high-profile incident in the Gaza Strip last week, The Islamic University suspended UK-educated Professor Salah Jadallah for criticizing Hamas and the university administration on Facebook. The move drew sharp condemnation from many Palestinian students and academics, who took to social media to voice their fury over the suspension.
Professor Jadallah’s suspension is far from unusual in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where students, journalists and social media activists have repeatedly fallen victim to the Islamist movement’s harsh clampdowns.
A founder of Hamas in northern Gaza, Professor Jadallah was until recently considered within Hamas’s inner circle. His scathing remarks on Hamas, which he posted on his Facebook page, have turned him into a persona non grata on campus and he is being treated as a “fifth column” by his erstwhile Hamas colleagues. Professor Jadallah is being targeted: what, one might ask, is happening to ordinary Palestinians?
Campuses in the West Bank are faring no better. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces systematically target students and academics under various pretexts. Hundreds of students have been rounded up by these security forces in recent years as part of a crackdown on critics and Hamas “supporters.” Many of the students remain in detention without the possibility of seeing a lawyer or a family member.
Just this week, Palestinian security forces arrested four more university students and teachers: Izaddin Zaitwai, Ehab Ashour, Zuhdi Kawarik and Awni Fares.
It is not only political critics of the PA and Hamas, however, who are of interest to the security forces in Palestinian regimes.
In the first case of its kind under the Palestinian Authority, the Kadoori University in Tulkarem suspended a student who hugged his fiancée in public after offering her a wedding ring. The student, whose identity was not revealed, was accused of “immodest conduct” and is facing a disciplinary hearing. A university spokesman accused the “hugging” student of “slandering” the university’s reputation and defended the punishment.
The decision to suspend the student sparked a social media storm, with many Palestinians accusing the Palestinian Authority and Kadoori University of seeking to be “more Hamas than Hamas.”
If the putative champions of the Palestinians in the West continue to disregard the trampling of Palestinian human rights by the PA and Hamas, there may not be any Palestinians left to champion.
The author, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.