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Twinning with Palestine
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Twinning with Palestinian Universities
In today's society there are fewer and fewer non-violent tools at our disposal to show our opposition to an oppressor and to show our solidarity with the oppressed; twinning is one of them. Twinning not only offers the hand of solidarity to the Palestinian people who are suffering daily under illegal Israeli occupation, but has many other benefits. If applied effectively, it can lend a much needed helping hand to the Palestinians both economically and socially. It also helps raise the issue of the Middle East conflict in our universities and in the media, helping to spark debate and discussion on the way forward.
Why should we twin?
Palestinian students are denied their basic right to an education though a series of checkpoints, roadblocks, harassment, even building a illegal wall through a university campus and numerous closures of educational establishments despite international pressure. 10% of Al-quds University's students are in Israeli prisons for example.
The Gaza "disengagement” plan has offered very little to the Palestinians. Gaza itself is effectively an open air prison stringently controlled by Israel, with many of the old restrictions on the Palestinians still remaining. The "disengagement” has been nothing but a smokescreen diverting attention away from the plans to consolidate and further occupation on the West Bank, as well as the extension of the apartheid wall. The wall was declared illegal last year by the International Court of Justice, but Israel has continued to flout international law by building a separation barrier which, far from separating Palestine from Israel, separates the Palestinians from Palestine. This "disengagement” has been widely hailed as an unilateral step on the part of Israel, and offers nothing of substance to the Palestinians. It is a further nail in the coffin of a viable Palestinian state. The current situation faced by the Palestinians under occupation means that our efforts at showing solidarity now should be doubled, and twinning is one of the primary ways of doing so.
As students we can campaign to twin our universities with those in Palestine such as Al Quds or Bir Zeit. Bir Zeit University runs a highly commendable "Right 2 Education” campaign to defend the Palestinians' right to an education, which is severely undermined by Israel building walls through Palestinian universities and otherwise preventing them from functioning, despite international condemnation. Even if we don't succeed on the first attempt at twinning our university with one in Palestine, it would still give us a great opportunity to raise the issue of Palestine and make our case, highlighting the problems faced by students and staff alike in Palestinian universities under occupation.
Quite often forgotten are millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied their right of return, a basic human right demanded by UN resolution 194 and reaffirmed innumerable times. We should also look at twinning with students in Palestinian refugee camps such the Balata refugee camp. This can help develop human bonds with the Palestinian refugees as well as sending out a strong political statement.
If we do manage to twin our university with a Palestinian one, we should not stop there. Twinning should be more than a piece of paper and a headline. Whilst that may show Palestinians that the world is indeed listening, which in itself is very important, twinning can help the Palestinians in many other practical ways. Setting up a regular video link or other way of communicating with students at a Palestinian university would help to strengthen the connection. This would foster friendships and understanding, enabling people to see the impact of the occupation upon the day-to-day lives of students in Palestine. Setting up academic links between departments at UK and Palestinian universities can help foster the growth of higher education amongst an oppressed people, especially as many of these universities often require additional resources and help that British universities may be able to provide. Concrete Action!
And of course, twinning activities doesn't all have to be academic: there can be room for fun and play too! Madison in Wisconsin, America is a prime example. After twinning with Rafah in Gaza, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) organised the successful Playgrounds for Rafah campaign in partnership with Playgrounds for Palestine to rebuild a playground in Rafah that was destroyed by Israel in January 2004. This project enabled them to create a new recreation area in Rafah where children living under military occupation can meet, play with friends, and simply enjoy being kids. After completion of this project, MRSCP embarked on the Milk for Rafah campaign to raise funds to deliver milk packets and nutritional supplements to malnourished Palestinian children. Through projects such as these, we not only show our solidarity and help the Palestinians on a practical basis, but we also raise awareness of the problems suffered by Palestinians living under occupation. www.playgroundsforpalestine.org
Try and included a commitment to a scholarship scheme to support Palestinian students who wish to study at your University.
Many of our groups encourage schools twinning. The Leicester Holy Land Appeal distributed a book explaining the historical sources of the conflict.
Birmingham have been working to twin two schools there with two in Ramallah.
Camden Abu Dis have local students in both communities exchanging letters and visits have taken place. Hampstead School is now twinned with Abu Dis Schoole.
The view from Abu Dis Boys School
Issues that need to be raised include problems students in Palestine have getting to schools and colleges, costs of legal issues (students in Abu Dis for example are often beaten up by Israeli police in school, detained and charged, and are only released on payment of a fine), ability of students and staff to get to and from school (many communities are actually divided by the wall).
Students are enthusiastic about twinning - bringing students over here to explain their lives under occupation helps create interest.
We hope ultimately to facilitate exchange trips for teachers.
Its not always possible to get to Palestine or for our friends to visit us in the U.K. However with the help of modern technology contacts can be made.
This link is about a Video Conference with Cardiff University held in March 2006.
Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) - (we need a link - if you have one please let us know).
Stavanger in Norway has an established school twinning. The Twinning School Project between Nablus & Stavanger - www.nabsta.jeeran.com
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Help us develop the Twinning with Palestine network
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