The following report from Bethlehem University that academic staff had been attacked yet again, this time by Israeli squatters, reminds me of how the Israelis apparently resent the Palestinians’ fine education tradition. They have seen to it that Palestinian universities suffer the severest restrictions in delivering knowledge.
Bethlehem University, which includes many Muslims among its students, has been closed a dozen times by Israeli storm-troopers. In 2002 it sustained 4 Israeli missile hits, three to the Millennium Hall and one to the Heritage Centre in the Library. 100 soldiers later stormed into the buildings and did further damage.
In January 2003 the university’s president pleaded: “Can anyone do anything to change this systematic strangulation?” Nevertheless staff succeed and students continue to flourish against all odds.
On one of my visits I spoke with Brother Cyril, a kindly, mild-mannered American from Minnesota, who ran the University. He was about to go on leave. “What do your friends back home say when you tell them what’s happened here?” I asked.
He shrugged. “They listen for ten minutes then switch off.”
It is unclear whether the British government intends joining the US and Israel in their spoiling tactics when the Palestinians’ bid for independence is put to the United Nations later this month. I have asked my MP about that and I hope UK readers will press their own MPs on the subject.
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued a career in industrial marketing.
More recently he worked as a freelance and with innovation consultancies. Psychology degree Exeter University, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor 1993-97 and on the Police Authority. Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Since retiring has been a newspaper columnist and produced two photo-documentary books. He is a regular contributor to a number of internet news magazines.
Stuart’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, tells the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. It can now be read on the internet by visiting RadioFreePalestine.org.uk.