Mustafa Jarrar, a professor of artificial intelligence at Birzeit University, believes that the university has become “an arena for the disagreements of outsiders who are trying to use the student movements affiliated to them.”
Birzeit University, near Ramallah, has witnessed frequent student clashes since the beginning of term, Jarrar said. “The main reason for the recurrence of these incidents is the university’s reluctance to deter students who attacked others in separate incidents earlier in the academic year,” he said.
Students’ Views of the Violence
A 21-year-old student at Birzeit University who wished to remain anonymous said he had not expected that his decision to represent a certain student movement in the elections would leave him with ongoing injuries and stop the entire electoral process.
The student also accused the university administration of being lenient with those responsible for the violence at Birzeit. He told Al-Fanar Media: “We submitted a complaint to the Deanship of Student Affairs a week ago after the attack, but the university did nothing about the accused.”
Meanwhile, clashes between representatives of competing student movements have developed into conflicts between the students affiliated to the same movement due to competition for positions, students say.
A representative of the student movements at the Arab American University, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The reason is that the students affiliated to these movements are promised positions of power and security after graduation, especially if one is a representative of Fatah’s student movement.”
Other movements regard the student elections as an attempt to prove their party’s popularity because there have been no legislative or presidential elections, the student added. “They view student elections as an indication of the opinion of the Palestinian public.”
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Ala Alazzeh, head of the department of social and behavioural sciences at Birzeit University, blames the violence on “the colonial context, and the violence it generated.” (See a related article, “Academics Condemn Israeli Arrests of Palestinian Students”.)
“When reality shackles them and renders them powerless, internal violence becomes an attempt to make up for the confrontation with the occupation,” Ala Alazzeh said.
Alazzeh explained that “violence is not new, but it used to have a political meaning. Now, it is more arbitrary and less political, and herein lies the danger.”