A thousand-and-one reasons why Palestine must get independence…

…and here’s perhaps the most important

The following report from Bethlehem University that academic staff had been attacked yet again, this time by Israeli squatters, reminds me of how the Israelis apparently resent the Palestinians’ fine education tradition. They have seen to it that Palestinian universities suffer the severest restrictions in delivering knowledge.

Bethlehem University, which includes many Muslims among its students, has been closed a dozen times by Israeli storm-troopers.  In 2002 it sustained 4 Israeli missile hits, three to the Millennium Hall and one to the Heritage Centre in the Library. 100 soldiers later stormed into the buildings and did further damage.

In January 2003 the university’s president pleaded: “Can anyone do anything to change this systematic strangulation?” Nevertheless staff succeed and students continue to flourish against all odds.

On one of my visits I spoke with Brother Cyril, a kindly, mild-mannered American from Minnesota, who ran the University. He was about to go on leave. “What do your friends back home say when you tell them what’s happened here?” I asked.

He shrugged. “They listen for ten minutes then switch off.”

 

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Yara Odeh
 
 
Miss Yara Odeh, a Bethlehem University masters degree student, was one of the
victims of the violent attacks.
 
 
 
6 September 2011
Bethlehem, Palestine
 
Dear Alumni and Friends of Bethlehem
University,
 
 
Generally, I am delighted to write to you with some encouraging news about happenings at Bethlehem University. Today, however, I have some disturbing and unfortunate news to share with you.
 
A Bethlehem University Professor and Student Survive Two Separate Attacks by Israeli Settlers 
 
In the early morning hours of Monday, 5 September 2011, while travelling in the West Bank between the Palestinian villages of Al-Lubban and Turmos Aya and near the Israeli settlements of Ofarim and Bet Ariye along the Nablus-Ramallah, Dr. Adwan Adwan, a faculty member in the Arabic Department at Bethlehem University, was the victim of a violent attack by some 20 Israeli settlers who threw rocks in his face, injuring his head, shoulder, and stomach. His car was blocked by a pile of burning tires when he quickly came under what he said felt like a well-orchestrated ambush. Dr. Adwan eventually was able to speed away from the scene and get himself to a hospital for treatment. “I felt lucky to escape with my life,” he says.
 
On the same day and further along the same road, near the settlement of Shiloh in the Palestinian Territories, Miss Yara Odeh, a Bethlehem University masters degree student, was the victim of a violent attack by some Israeli settlers. Yara found herself stuck in what appeared to be a traffic jam caused by Israeli settlers pelting cars with rocks. With the road blocked, she escaped from her car through the passenger door and ran toward nearby Israeli soldiers, calling for help. She reports being refused help and being told to return to her car. “The settlers seemed not so much interested in damaging the car as they were in harming me,” she says of the incident.
 
The Bethlehem University administration is extremely disturbed by these attacks on members of the academic community. “We value the lives of our faculty and students,” says Dr. Michael Sansur, Executive Vice President at Bethlehem University. “Each and every day our faculty engage our students in promoting democracy, peace, and justice. We are fortunate to have a campus atmosphere that is known to be an oasis of peace. These violent and aggressive attacks on our students and faculty from Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories are horrifying and unjust.
 
We are grateful for the well-being of Dr. Adwan and Yara in surviving these traumatic events and pledge to continue in our efforts to prepare our graduates to take their place as ethical leaders in fostering shared values, moral principles and dedication to serving the common good.”
 
As reported in the media and by the United Nations, there appears to be an increase in the number of Palestinians who are being attacked by groups of Israeli settlers. The United Nations and other international human rights and aid organizations report that more than 500,000 Israeli settlers, many of whom are armed, occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem.Please continue to keep us in your prayers.
 
Blessings to you,
Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD
Vice President for Development
jcurran@bethlehem.edu
 
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Rue des Freres
Bethlehem – Palestine
Tel: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
www.bethlehem.edu
Bethlehem University
‘Inspiring Innovation and Creating the Future’  
 
Hecker Center, Suite 330 3025 Fourth Street, NE | Washington, DC 20017 US
 

It is unclear whether the British government intends joining the US and Israel in their spoiling tactics when the Palestinians’ bid for independence is put to the United Nations later this month. I have asked my MP about that and I hope UK readers will press their own MPs on the subject.

 

8 September 2011