Notes from the West Bank: 1 April 2004

Adah Kay has been keeping a diary on the Palestine/Israel frontline. Over the coming months in our print magazine, she will be offering a personal insight into life in the West Bank. Here is the first entry.

May 1, 2004
5 min read

Since September 2000, the Israeli army has killed 3,000 Palestinians including nearly 500 children – a rate of nearly three a day. The “wall’ now under construction divides Palestinians from their land, water and essential services. Checkpoints, Israeli settlements and their bypass roads have split the West Bank into 64 separate enclaves. Under the closure policy originally introduced by Israel in 1991 to restrict freedom of movement, all Palestinians need permits from the Israeli military for travel between towns. The economy is stagnant, largely dependent on external aid. This condensed catalogue is the ever-present context of occupation. But despite this, solutions to conditions emerge and new initiatives take off.

The 65-kilometre journey by road to the new Arab American University just south of Jenin (in the north of the West Bank) and through the Jordan valley on the eastern “border’ of the West Bank takes more than three and half hours. The intensively farmed, fertile Jordan valley is dotted with Israeli settlements and agricultural businesses, established on land expropriated from the Palestinians by Israel after 1967. There are over 150 illegal Israeli settlements with more than 400,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and their expansion is accelerating. In 2003 the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics recorded a 35 per cent increase in new settlement building. Water rights are a major issue. In 2002 the 5,000 Israelis in settlements in the Jordan valley consumed as much water as 75 per cent of the entire Palestinian West Bank population of 2 million.

The Arab American University, the first non-government funded university in Palestine, stands on a hill overlooking a panoramic landscape. Waleed Deeb, the president of the university has been developing this project for over seven years. He has a clear vision: “My priority is education, to encourage critical thinking, research and self-learning. I want my students to be able to compete not only locally but internationally.’ His staff praise his participative management style and his students admire his open-door policy.

Now in its third year and with 2,500 of an eventual 4,500 students, the university offers a number of unique degrees in Palestine including dentistry, information technology, biotechnology and physical and occupational therapy. The continuing education department is an important local resource. Its programme for adults targets both general public education needs as well as future employability with courses in nutrition, immunisation, water, agriculture, the environment, computer and secretarial skills and stress management. Given the ongoing deficit in services, the university plays an important role by providing surrounding communities with free dental and health check ups and treatment by students under supervision.

The quality of the university’s buildings, landscaping and student facilities is impressive. Although the students chatting in groups between classes could have been from anywhere, the occupation is always a factor.

Lena from a village near Jerusalem is one of the first group of graduating students. Inspired by Waleed, whom she met at a young scientists club he established in Palestine in 1996, she abandoned her ambition to be a pilot. Now completing her first degree in biotechnology she plans to go on to a postgraduate degree abroad. She says: “I have visited other Palestinian universities but the AAU is special. The teachers know us all and encourage us to question, not only listen. When I wake up I see trees, not settlements. The teachers really want us to do our best.’

Rami, another “top’ graduating student, is finishing a degree in information technology. As the only student from Gaza, from a refugee camp, he cannot travel and is largely confined to the campus. His experience was more difficult:

“The hardest thing was learning to depend on myself. These past two years were devastating, especially being away from my family and knowing that they face daily incursions by the Israeli army. During the invasion of Jenin when there were no phone lines, we lost contact for six weeks. They thought I had been killed.’

After the second Intifada, both Rami’s parents lost their jobs and had to use the money they were saving to buy some land and move out of the camp. “I can’t think of postgraduate study now. I need to give them [my parents] something back. I feel very burdened. You can see my vitiligo (loss of skin pigmentation). The doctor says it is from stress.’

The logistics of creating any new university are complex but especially so here where there is an increasing gap between aspirations and what is achievable.

Waleed wanted to attract Palestinian students from outside Palestine and to recruit foreign faculty who would bring different perspectives. This is increasingly difficult to achieve. Study is often disrupted. Students and staff alike face the daily delays and humiliation at checkpoints or sudden city closures.

The economic impact of the occupation on family incomes is reflected in the 15 per cent dropout rate. Although over 60 per cent of students get grants or loans, many like Rami have to chose between studying or dropping out in order to help support their families.

But the most difficult issue for Waleed is morale: “The students feel hopeless so often. It is hard to keep hope alive when everything around you indicates otherwise.’


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill