Occupation’s Consequence: Struggles for Academic Freedom in Palestinian Universities

By Joshua Stacher
Submitted to Session P4322 (Success as Subjugation: Palestinian Education under Settler Colonialism, 2016 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
When the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in 1967, a debate broke out in Israel’s political establishment about what the occupation should do for the welfare of Palestinians. Based off the statements Shlomo Gazit, Israel’s occupation was intended to create self-sufficient Palestinians whose quality of life improved. A more cynical interpretation is that Israel’s occupation was supposed to be benevolent in order to prevent an uprising in the Occupied Territories (OT). Although the apparatus has not changed much since it was implemented, the occupation has produced two intifadas as well as another one in the making. Israeli occupation forces implement separate legal systems, count calories going into the OT, and tightly control the economies of the occupied population. They also attack the educational institutions as a way to stop resistance. What effect does occupation have on the university education, research, and academic freedom of the occupied?

Employing structured case studies of five Palestinian universities in the West Bank, this paper examines Israel’s violations of academic freedom in those spaces. The argument is supported by a theoretical exploration of settler colonialism and education before turning to a historicized account of Palestinian universities in the West Bank since the occupation began in 1967.

As for my contribution, I plan to share the findings of my field research and interviews with academics and students at five different Palestinian universities (al-Quds, Bethlehem, BeirZeit, An-Najah, and Hebron). This research method - along with analysis of data collected from primary and secondary sources - will serve to demonstrate the current expression of academic freedom in the West Bank as well as strategies for resisting such violations. This paper also hopes to add a dynamic that explores how Israeli violations of Palestinian academic freedom have changed in the past two decades. Based on works such as Nick King, Neve Gordon, and others, this original research paper will combine the best practices of rigorous qualitative research methods and field research with a theoretically informed contribution about the causal relationship between occupation and quotidian violations of academic freedom.