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Student Violence on Palestinian Campuses Leaves 1 Dead and Many Questions

/ 15 Dec 2021

Student Violence on Palestinian Campuses Leaves 1 Dead and Many Questions

Violent altercations among students at three Palestinian universities, including a fatal stabbing, prompted campus authorities to temporarily suspend studies and halt student political activities. Higher education officials, meanwhile, called urgent meetings to discuss student violence.

Mahran Khaliliyeh, a 21-year-old nursing student, was stabbed to death in a brawl on December 4 at the entrance to the Arab American University’s campus in the Jenin governorate. The brawl was reportedly between students affiliated with the same political movement but from different towns in the region.

Dozens were also injured in clashes between student groups at Al-Quds and Birzeit Universities. (See a related article, “Palestinian Political Divisions Play Out at Birzeit University”.)

In an official statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research renounced violence on campuses and called for new penalties against violent behavior. The penalties would range from a warning to dismissal.

“Fatal incidents on campuses are quite new, and never in line with our academic and societal traditions. Therefore, we stress that universites must activate regulations for applying penalties.”

Raed Baraka   A spokesman for the higher-education ministry

The ministry also demanded more security on campuses.

The statement said the Palestinian Higher Education Council was preparing proposals for a new judicial system to be presented to university presidents. The council also proposed forming a committee to study the causes of violence in higher education institutions and adopting a code of student conduct that students must agree to before enrolling.

Raed Baraka , the spokesman for the ministry, told Al-Fanar Media: “Fatal incidents on campuses are quite new, and never in line with our academic and societal traditions. Therefore, we stress that universites must activate regulations for applying penalties.”

“A committee has been formed under the chairmanship of the Minister of Higher Education to discuss every aspect of these matters and put an end to these tragic incidents.”

Proposals Are Deemed Insufficient

Academics and students believe that the sanctions proposed by the Higher Education Council “are insufficient to contain the recent unrest.” This new wave of violence on campuses differs from the unrest institutions of higher education have experienced over past decades, they say.

Majdi Hamayel, a law professor and president of Al-Quds University’s Union of University Professors and Employees, told Al-Fanar Media: “The main reason for the clashes is the students’ frustration with political, economic and social conditions, the failure to hold elections on time in most Palestinian universities, as well as the interference of the security services in supporting certain student factions.”

The security forces intervene in student elections, Hamayel said, because they fear the results would be in favour of those opposing Fatah, the ruling political group in the West Bank.

Hamayel believes that “the solution starts with changing the heads of these universities and the deans of student affairs. Many have held their positions for more than 20 years, and their lenient policies let universities reach this stage.”

“When reality shackles them and renders them powerless, internal violence becomes an attempt to make up for the confrontation with the occupation.”

Ala Alazzeh   Head of the department of social and behavioural sciences at Birzeit University

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.”




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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام