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A mural that symbolizes Palestinian students’ resistance to the Israeli occupation’s practices, painted inside Birzeit University’s campus, was the concluding event of the university’s Right to Education Week, organized by the Right to Education Campaign online and on campus from November 22 to 25, 2021.
The mural, an artwork hand-painted by students of the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, summed up the core goal of the Right to Education Week. Carmen Kishek, the Right to Education Campaign coordinator, explained that the theme of this year’s week was chosen to highlight the escalating attacks on Birzeit University’s students, by the Israeli occupation’s forces, for peacefully exercising their rights and freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, which are protected under international human rights law.
“The Right to Education Campaign’s student volunteers want to raise and amplify the voices of their colleagues and classmates who have been detained by the Israeli occupation’s forces, and they’re doing this by showing their perseverance in the face of increased harassment, detention, and arrests that aim to deprive them of their right to education,” Kishek added.
The week’s first day began with a webinar titled “Silencing Palestinian Students: How International Solidarity is Important?,” held jointly with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) in the United Kingdom. The webinar featured Elyaa Abu Hijleh, a Birzeit University law student who was arrested in 2020; Milena Ansari, Addameer’s international advocacy officer; and Aleisha Ebrahimi, a member of the executive committee at LPHR.
In the webinar, the panelists discussed the role of the international community, particularly civil and human rights organizations, in raising the voices of Palestinian youth, especially students. While Abu Hijleh detailed her experiences of arrest and trial before an Israeli military court, Ansari and Ebrahimi covered the systematic Israeli policy of targeting students and how it constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights and a breach of international law due to the use of military courts to try civilians. The speakers stressed the importance of sustained advocacy work, such as submitting calls to relevant UN Working Groups and engaging with the parliamentarians of various countries around the world.
On the second day, former student prisoners Elyaa Abuhijleh, Layan Kayed, Waleed Hamad and Amir Hazboun detailed their experiences of producing knowledge and continuing their education inside Israeli prisons in an on-campus talk. The three students and alumnus (Kayed) discussed how they pursued their education while in detention through teaching their cell mates languages and sciences, reading books and self-learning. The talk was moderated by Dr. Lena Meari, an associate professor at Birzeit University’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
On the third day of events, former Right to Education Campaign volunteers Maha Batran, Ayoub Zaineddein, Haya Attatra, as well as and former campaign coordinator Anan Kuzmar, discussed their experiences and advocacy work as members of the campaign between 2003-2014. The event, organized in partnership with the university’s Alumni Relations Program, hosted both former and current volunteer students to exchange thoughts and views on how to better raise the voices of Palestinian students internationally and help stop the targeted Israeli arrests against them.
The concluding symposium explored the Israeli occupation’s news media propaganda efforts against Palestinians, particularly students. Khaldoun Barghouti, an Israeli affairs specialist, discussed the means and tools used by the Israeli occupation to promote myths and misinformation about Palestinians.
Rinad Sharbati, a Jerusalemite journalist who covered the recent Israeli attacks on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the escalating campaign against Palestinians in Jerusalem for Al Jazeera Live, shared advice on how Palestinians can use social media to counter the Israeli occupation’s claims and promote a pro-Palestinian narrative.