In yet another outrageous assault on academic life in Palestine, the Israeli military raided the home of Birzeit University (BZU) professor Widad Barghouti at dawn on September 1, 2019. Israeli occupation forces arrested Barghouti, who teaches media studies at BZU, just hours after her son Carmel was detained at a military checkpoint while returning from a wedding in Hebron. Her second son, Qassam, had been arrested a few days earlier during the Israeli incursion into the town of Kobar, northwest of Ramallah. Carmel (age 30), who graduated from BZU with a degree in accounting, is married with two young children and works at the Ministry of Culture. Qassam (age 25) is a graduate of Al-Quds University with a degree journalism and media studies, and is employed at the Birzeit University Museum. Both are still in interrogation by the Israelis.
The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) condemns this targeting of Palestinian scholars and students, and Palestinian society at large. Soldiers who raided Professor Barghouti’s home destroyed their personal belongings, beat her son Qassam, and sicced an attack dog on her husband, Abdul Karim, wounding his leg. Such home invasions by heavily armed Israeli soldiers are common, and done under the pretext of searching for “prohibited items”.
In an interview just after the raid and before her arrest, Professor Barghouti said, “Our home is not the only house that is regularly raided and searched [by Israeli forces]. This is their habit. I am now 61 years old and my home has been searched regularly for 40 years, beginning with my father, then with my husband and ending with the son. God knows when this will end! They locked us up in a room; a great number of soldiers took [my son] Qassam to the salon (living room) and closed the door. We heard the sounds of them beating him.”
This kind of brutalization of those who are attempting to sustain higher education in Palestine, while living under military occupation of their homeland, is unconscionable, yet it persists with the unconditional, bipartisan support of the United States.
Of course, Professor Barghouti has not been charged with a crime, yet she is locked up in an Israeli prison as a routine feature of “administrative detention” by the Israeli carceral regime. Typical of such detentions of Palestinians, she will likely undergo multiple hearings and postponements at the hands of Israel’s military court system, keeping her behind bars without charge or trial for extended periods of time and away from her job and family.
USACBI calls for the release of Barghouti and her family members, and for an end to the incarceration, torture, and kidnapping of Palestinian faculty and students, as well as end to the daily violations of human rights in Palestine.
What can we do in the US academy to to protest the siege of education in Palestine? We can refuse cooperation with Israeli academic institutions which uphold the scaffolding of the occupation and provide research for the militarized, carceral regime in Israel. USACBI also calls on all people of conscience to join the boycott of Israel academic institutions called for by our Palestinian colleagues, until Israel adheres to international law and the norms of human decency.
Please share Barghouti’s story with your colleagues and students, and if they have not done so already, please ask them to endorse USACBI at www.usacbi.org. If your campus has a Study Abroad in Israel program, please endorse the pledge not to participate in these programs and to honor the academic boycott.