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The Role of Palestinian Intellectuals

Tuesday 21 October 2008, by Ahmad Jaradat and Lubna Masarwa

Al-Quds Open University in the Hebron District. The university, together with the AIC, held a workshop on the roles of Palestinian intellectuals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Alternative Information Center (AIC), in cooperation with the al-Quds Open University – Hebron District, conducted a workshop this weekend on the roles of Palestinian intellectuals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Organized in the framework of its From Alternative Information to Building Bridges Project, the workshop was attended by 25 Palestinians, primarily professors and lecturers from various universities in the OPT and Israel.

Dr. Rabah Halabi from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened the workshop with a review of the effects of the 1967 Israeli occupation on the relations between Palestinians in Israel and the OPT. Halabi argued that it is through the physical-military separation between the two areas that psychological differences grew between the two groups of Palestinians. Halabi also detailed how Israel implements socio-economic policies that further drive a wedge between 1948 and 1967 Palestinians and have a detrimental impact on the identity of Palestinians within Israel.

Areen Hawari of the Alsiwar feminist movement in Haifa, raised the question of Palestinian women’s rights within the OPT and Israel, particularly highlighting the ignorance that exists concerning their political and economic rights. Basing her presentation on the recent doctoral research of Huneida Ghenaim, Hawari detailed how Palestinian intellectuals from Israel have tended to neglect women’s rights as they fight against the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. A lively discussion ensued, in which the interaction between national liberation and liberation of the individual was examined in its theoretical and practical meanings. Together with the participants, Hawari explored means to narrow the gap between the theoretical understandings and practical implications for women’s rights. Workshop participants further examined practical steps for creating real and solid bridges between the women’s organizations in the OPT and Israel.

Finally, Dr. Noman Amro, Director of al-Quds Open University in the Hebron District, raised the question of what roles intellectuals should play in times of political and social crisis. Amro noted that intellectuals should play a tangible role in generating social change and improving the specific situation of various groups within society, and not simply make due with describing what is happening.

Workshop participants were enthused about this meeting, noting how crucial the 1948-1967 contacts are given that Palestinians in both the OPT and Israel face policies of occupation and apartheid in different forms.

Workshop facilitators, Ahmad Jaradat and Lubna Masarwa of the AIC, were extremely pleased with the meeting and the strong needs it met. “The participants requested that the AIC continue to facilitate the meeting of these groups, adding new participants and helping to build a group that can act to develop new critical thinking and a common plan of action,” noted Masarwa, herself a feminist 1948 Palestinian social-political activist. “This workshop provided a singular platform in which challenges and questions could be raised and confronted,” added Jaradat, a political-social activist from the Hebron area. “The goal of this project is to help Palestinians, whether from the OPT or the areas of 1948, and Israelis to identify their shared interests in changing the current situation and facilitate the process for doing so. Today was a strong step forward in this long-term process.”

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