Bulletin: Israel Detains Birzeit U. Student in Ramallah; MESA Condemns Indiana U.’s Ban on Professor

Ongoing Violence in Gaza Takes Lives

The relentless Israeli war machine shows no signs of stopping, as evidenced by the mass graves recently uncovered in and around three hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said some of the bodies showed signs of mutilation and torture, demonstrating the extent of the Israeli army’s massacres against civilians.

Meanwhile, residents of Rafah said Israeli forces had bombarded areas of the southern city, where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering, even while indirect negotiations to halt the hostilities were still underway in Cairo. Those talks ended without an agreement, Reuters reported, and Israel has signalled that it intends to continue its assault on the city in pursuit of Hamas.

All parties must exercise restraint as the death toll continues to rise. Gaza health authorities say at least 34,900 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since 7 October 2023, and more than 78,500 have been injured. The evidence of destruction, loss of life, and suffering, including images of bloodshed, children, women, and displaced individuals, leaves no room for denial or forgetfulness.

Don’t fault college students for their peaceful protests against the war in Gaza; they are risking their futures to voice dissent. The continuous images of violence and bloodshed understandably provoke anger in any ordinary person.

Any discussion about political manœuvres, interests, or politics is irrelevant until the blood shedding stops. 

Mohammad El-Hawary
Al-Fanar Media editor-in-chief

News from the Region:

Birzeit U. Student Is among those Arrested in Israeli Raids

Palestine’s Birzeit University, in the West Bank, reported this week that a pharmacy student, Yara Abu Hashish, had been arrested by Israeli forces during a raid on her home in Ramallah’s Al-Tira neighbourhood. In a brief statement, the university expressed hopes for Yara’s swift release and the release of all Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

According to a joint statement from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, cited in news reports, Abu Hashish was among 22 Palestinians arrested in a series of raids across the West Bank on Monday night and Tuesday morning. The statement said more than 8,665 Palestinians have been detained by Israeli forces since October and that humanitarian agencies were concerned about their treatment in Israeli jails, as well as the excessive force used by Israeli troops in conducting raids against civilians.

Also this week, Birzeit University announced the launch of a “Martyrs University for Gaza”, symbolising solidarity with the sacrifices made by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. This collaborative effort involves various student groups and university elements to establish an open and free space for educational activities focused on Palestine, Gaza, freedom concepts, and solidarity with oppressed peoples. The initiative aims to supplement traditional lectures by addressing topics such as genocide and the challenges faced by Gazans and other affected communities.

MESA Condemns Indiana U.’s Banning of Professor Arrested in Protest

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) has expressed serious concern over Indiana University’s decision to ban Professor David McDonald from all university properties for a year. The university took this step after McDonald and two other professors, along with 30 students, were arrested during a peaceful demonstration on 25 April and charged with criminal trespass, the student-run Indiana Daily Student reported.

In a letter to university officials, MESA said that McDonald, who is an associate professor of folklore and ethnomusicology at the university’s Bloomington campus, was trying to protect students as state troopers disrupted a pro-Palestinian encampment on a university lawn.

MESA’s letter describes the ban on Professor McDonald as a “harsh and arbitrary action” and an “egregious infringement of the principles of academic freedom and a gross violation of the norms of academic life”. It calls on Indiana University to rescind the ban, emphasising the importance of upholding free speech rights and due process for faculty and students alike.

MESA Holds Hebrew U. of Jerusalem Responsible for Persecution of Academic

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS) have also expressed concern regarding the continuing harassment by Israeli authorities of the Arab Israeli scholar Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, which the associations assert stems directly from actions taken against her by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalhoub-Kevorkian holds positions in the university’s Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and its School of Social Work and Public Welfare.

In a letter to officials of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MESA’s leaders describe a series of intimidating actions that Israeli authorities have taken against the professor, including her arrest and brief detention last month, subsequent interrogations, a police search of her home, and the confiscation of her mobile phone and laptop. This escalating campaign against her, they say, started after the university first sought her resignation last November, then suspended her this March. The association protested those actions in letters dated 9 November 2023 and 21 March 2024.

In its latest letter, dated 6 May 2024, MESA says that while the university reversed its suspension of Shalhoub-Kevorkian, its actions nevertheless compromised her security and safety, as well as the safety of her family members and students. The university’s actions contribute to “eroding the values of academic freedom and freedom of thought that should be at the heart of the mission of any university”, MESA’s leaders wrote. They called on university officials “to desist from further engaging in or encouraging the persecution of Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian” and to publicly apologize for their involvement in precipitating these events.

Students from 42 Abu Dhabi Participate in Programming Hackathon 

The coding school 42 Abu Dhabi, part of an international network known for its innovative approach to programming education, and Beacon Red, a company that provides cybersecurity solutions, recently held the third edition of a hackathon event called “Capture the Flag”. More than 70 students from 42 Abu Dhabi participated in the event, which the school and the company described as a platform for students to showcase their skills and learn from leading experts in the field.

Marcos Müller Habig, acting chief executive of 42 Abu Dhabi, emphasised the crucial role of hackathons in cybersecurity education, preparing students to tackle industry challenges. The goal is to foster a culture of collaboration and hands-on learning, empowering the next generation of cybersecurity professionals who will safeguard Abu Dhabi’s digital landscape.

Heriot-Watt U., MBZUAI to Launch Doctoral Centre for AI Studies

Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh and Dubai, and Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), in Abu Dhabi, have partnered to create an international centre for doctoral student training focused on robotics and artificial intelligence in the United Arab Emirates.

In a news release, the two universities said the centre would allow doctoral students access to support and supervision across both institutions. The four-year programme will include taught courses and an industrial placement in the first year of study, along with annual conferences and workshops in both the Emirates and Scotland.

The statement said the centre would be capable of supporting up to 60 doctoral students at any one time, with the aim of building capability and intellectual property in the Emirates, in alignment with the UAE National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031.

Bulletin: Israel Detains Birzeit U. Student in Ramallah; MESA Condemns Indiana U.'s Ban on Professor
Officials at Heriot-Watt University and Mohammed bin Zayed University for Artificial Intelligence after agreeing to cooperate in establishing an international center to train doctoral students in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence. (Photo: Heriot-Watt U.)

Medical Centres Hold Awareness Events on World Thalassemia Day

Public and academic health officials at medical centres around the world, from St. George’s University School of Medicine in the Caribbean, to the Yemeni Society for Thalassemia and Genetic Blood Patients in Sana’a, to the Thalassemia Centre of Al-Khidmat Hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, held thalassemia awareness events on World Thalassemia Day, observed annually on 8 May. 

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder prevalent in Mediterranean coastal areas, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and southern China. It stems from genetic mutations impacting hæmoglobin production, leading to low levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The disorder is attributed partly to consanguineous marriages in certain countries, and preventive measures such as genetic testing and medical counselling, especially for people about to get married, are vital in reducing the likelihood of its transmission to children.

Speakers at events in Yemen and Pakistan stressed the importance of early screening. They mentioned Egypt, Italy, Greece, and Bangladesh as countries that had markedly reduced the prevalence of thalassemia by taking preventive measures.

From Al-Fanar Media

Tips and Resources:

An Undergraduate’s Guide to Writing Research Papers

Preparing research papers is an essential task for most university students. It requires practice, knowledge, and continuous learning to accomplish optimally. It is a task that follows a similar pattern across many subjects. Al-Fanar Media has gathered tips and insights from various specialists and institutions, as well as insights from two Egyptian academics, to guide students through the process. Read more in this article.


Demystifying Blockchain and Cryptocurrency: Professor Offers Insights

Simply put, a blockchain network is a huge, shared distributed ledger (or digital ledger) that records transactions. It is perhaps best-known as the technology that makes cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, possible, but this secure and transparent mechanism can be used to make data in any industry unalterable. In an essay for Al-Fanar Media, Adel Khelifi, a professor of computer science and information technology at Abu Dhabi University, explains the basic concepts underlying blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He also discusses career opportunities in blockchain and what his university is doing to strengthen blockchain education, research, and entrepreneurship in the Arab region. Read more here.


Palestinian and Sudanese Authors Talk of War and Exile at AUC Cultural Festival

Two award-winning Palestinian and Sudanese authors drew an enthusiastic audience response in their talk about war and exile at the American University in Cairo’s first Tahrir CultureFest. The writers Ibrahim Nasrallah and Hammour Ziada spoke on a panel called “Echoes of Journeys: Cairo’s Encounter with Khartoum and Ramallah in Literary Narratives”, one of dozens of events held during the weeklong festival. Read more in this article.

In Conflict:

Columbia U. President Faces Backlash over Handling of Pro-Palestine Protests

With Columbia University embroiled in protests and controversies marked by actions against students and professors for expressing pro-Palestinian views, the leadership of President Nemat (Minouche) Shafik is coming under question on multiple fronts. Her summoning New York City police to quell a protest on the campus, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, as well as her testimony to a U.S. House of Representatives committee, have come under strong criticism within academic and human rights circles in the United States and beyond. One Egyptian academic said Shafik’s response to the crisis engulfing her university “epitomised a profound failure in academic and administrative leadership”. Read more in this article.


Al-Fanar Media maintains a database of quality scholarships available to Arab students, which we continuously update. To stay up to date on the latest scholarships available in international universities, check the Scholarships section here, and watch for updated feedback on free learning opportunities in our News and Reports section, here.

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