During the latest Palestinian crisis, a team of Palestinian academics, most of whom work at universities outside their country, was busy contacting European parliaments, Western governments and academic institutions to denounce and call for an end to the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian territories.
These academics’ activities began more than two years ago, in September 2019 in particular when they established the Palestine Academic Group (Pal-Ac) with the aim of joining together academic and political work to meet the challenges facing the Palestinians, away from affiliation with any of the Palestinian political parties on ground.
“We are trying to employ the moral and cognitive authority of the academic to affect the Palestinian situation,” Ibrahim Fraihat, the group’s founder and an associate professor of international conflict resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said in a phone call. He noted that explaining the issue to the West from an academic perspective is more influential than politicians’ explanations because professors are not motivated by personal interests and hold positions of respect in Western societies.
Firsthand Experience of the Occupation
Born in the Palestinian city of Jenin, Fraihat grew up in the West Bank and experienced the hardships of life inside Palestine, from passing the Israeli military checkpoints while going to school, to being arrested more than once, and to having to complete his first year at Birzeit University with a “resistance education system” in cafes and professors’ homes, after Israel shut down all Palestinian universities during the first intifada.
These difficulties left a mark on Fraihat, who taught international conflict resolution at Georgetown University and George Washington University in the United States. This made him aware that higher education’s real role is to resist tyranny and racial discrimination policies, especially when there is an occupier, and the moral necessity of avoiding neutrality in such a case.