Edward Said, the late Columbia professor and advocate of Palestinian rights, gave a talk in 1991 South Africa about the state of Western academia, declaring that “the world we live in is made up of numerous identities interacting, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes antithetically. Not to deal with that whole ... is not to have academic freedom.” In college, it is imperative that students leave their comfort zones and cultural milieus in favor of new and challenging ideals and discourses.
Over the past several weeks, I have had the great opportunity to see several excellent events covering the Middle East and spanning Columbia’s and Barnard’s campuses. Because I come from the ranks of Hillel’s Israel programming, I am normally involved in Middle East programming within the Jewish community. However, some of the recent events I attended were not run by Hillel but by other groups around campus.
For example, in early February, I attended a talk called “My Jerusalem: Tense Politics of the Everyday” by the esteemed Israeli professor Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian. Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian discussed, among other things, the traumatic experiences of children who grow up under the constant threat of war. These children have to deal with the daily hardships of passing through checkpoints and, in some cases, security fences and walls that separate the West Bank from Israel. Last spring, while abroad in Israel, I had the opportunity to meet several individuals and families in the three Bethlehem, West Bank refugee camps, as well as villagers outside of Bethlehem whose homes are right next to a security wall. Every single Bethlehemite that I talked to had very legitimate complaints about the security wall. Beyond any doubt, it often makes life miserable for the average Palestinian. I was not there to speak my narrative and try to explain why many Israelis, after years of terror and homicide bombers, insist that a protective barrier is necessary. I was there to listen.
Similarly, when Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian relayed stories from her various research interviews and discussed sensitive issues, I listened. And then I asked, “How are you working to make things better?” Her response was not overly optimistic, but it was truthful and, just as important, it was constructive. She said that she works with non-governmental organizations and research institutes in Israel to put her issues on the map. As a legal scholar, she fights the Israeli courts, using the system’s legal terminology to prove her points. Finally, she speaks out and spreads her knowledge through lectures. Never did she call for a boycott or divestment as other audience members did, perhaps because she knew that doing so would put her and the other million-and-a-half Palestinian-Israeli citizens out of jobs. Although I did not agree with everything said in the room during the talk, I learned a lot about an important issue in the Middle East today.
As a devoted 21 century Zionist, I apply Professor Said’s quote to Middle Eastern politics. In order to step out of my comfort zone and really learn what is out there, I read Khalidi next to Jabotinsky. Al-Bayati’s poetry rests beside Amichai’s, and Nusseibeh’s memoirs are across from Ben-Gurion’s. But more than that, there is a constant attempt to provide the community in Hillel—with all of its different internal goals, agendas, political leanings, and missions—with meaningful programming that helps everybody think outside the box. This is why I write to you now. For the week of March 1-7, the four Israel groups in Hillel, namely the Israel Committee, LionPAC, Just Peace, and Garin Lavi, have joined together to present events that we feel are in the interest of both Israeli and Palestinian peace, hence the name for our initiative, Peace Week for Israelis and Palestinians.
Much of our programming directly relates to issues surrounding both Palestinians and Israelis. Tonight, one of our groups is sponsoring an event that highlights the myriad grass roots movements in Israel that work to push the Israeli government toward peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Many of the groups whose information will be spread are either based in or work with Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. These include B’Tselem, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Jenin Freedom Theatre, and OneVoice. Thursday’s program, “Soldiers Speak Out,” will feature former Israeli soldiers giving their personal testimonies on how they dealt with moral and ethical issues while serving in Gaza and the West Bank. Our groups are attempting to engage with anyone and everyone interested in peace in the way we believe is most appropriate: through events that encourage constructive dialogue and not hatred and slander. This is the mission of our week, and we hope in earnest to see you there.
The author is a student in the School of General Studies and a junior in the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is majoring in MEALAC and modern Jewish studies. He is the Hillel Israel Coordinator and a representative on the Student Governing Board.
Bwog’s Infrastructural Warfare Correspondent Megan McGregor braved the snowstorm on Wednesday to report on Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkia’s lecture in the IAB.
On Wednesday evening, as we all know and enjoyed, classes and campus activities were cancelled due to the severe winter weather. Still, 707 IAB was packed with many shivering and damp individuals. Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkia, visiting from Jerusalem, braved the storm to deliver her passionate lecture, “My Jerusalem: Tense Politics of the Everyday,” to an eager crowd.
Professor Nadera is, among many things, a therapist, social researcher, feminist activist, senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the director of the Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel in Haifa. She visited from the Old City of “her Jerusalem” not only to promote her new book Militarization and Violence against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: A Palestinian Case Study, but “to share with [us] the day to day events” that effect the lives of Palestinians living in Jerusalem after the erection of the Israeli West Bank “wall of separation.”
Professor Nadera began the evening by telling three stories of “the invisible order of power” in Jerusalem. The first of the three stories caused shivers that were unrelated to the bitter blizzard–a haunting story of Reem, a then fifteen-year-old Palestinian girl. Before the Israeli government changed the border between the West Bank and Jerusalem, Reem could travel to and from school without too much of a hassle. However, after the wall included her house inside the Old City and her school in the West Bank, what should have been a peaceful everyday activity became the source of a young girl’s shame. Every evening, Reem fought a fruitless battle for reentry with the Israeli soldiers guarding the wall, regardless of the fact that they saw her walk to school every morning. Since Reem did not have the proper ID, she could not reenter Jerusalem, even though the soldiers knew she lived just four minutes from the wall. The nearest alternative aboveground entrance through which Reem could access Jerusalem was forty minutes away. Reem, in order to save herself time and energy, and to avoid risking her safety, was forced to travel via the sewage pipes to and from school everyday. After enduring relentless ridicule from her classmates and teachers, Reem decided to stop going to school: “I feel like sewage,” she said. “I am treated like sewage.”
Professor Nadera also discussed the “infrastructural warfare” that occurs between Palestinians and the Israeli government in Jerusalem. Palestinians live in constant fear of the loss, if not demolition, of their homes, for they cannot even get a permit to build new homes. They have become displaced in their own city; they have lost all security: “[Their homes have become] a social, physical and economic trap.” Professor Nadera, despite the gravity of the situation in Israel, ended her lecture on a positive note. Reem, now 18 years old, recently contacted Professor Nadera with the sad report that two rooms of her house have been demolished, but that she managed to finish school and seeks help in enrolling at a university. “[I] always manage to find windows of hope,” said Reem. Professor Nadera stated that she is always profoundly amazed that so many young people manage to go to school and find work, despite the hazards and hardships of life in Jerusalem. She concluded her solemn and provocative lecture by asking her audience, “What can we do and how can we make my Jerusalem a better Jerusalem?” Despite differing views in the room, during the question and answer session, everyone seemed to agree with Professor Nadera–something must change to enhance the quality of life in Jerusalem.
12 February 2010
Adalah filed lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian against Israel Airports Authority for stopping her from flying to enemy state, Tunis
28 January 2010
Adalah Submits Tort Lawsuit for Damages on behalf of Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian against the Israel Airports Authority for Humiliating and Degrading Treatment
In November 2009, Adalah filed a claim for damages to the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court on behalf of Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian against the Airports Authority and the State of Israel. The lawsuit followed the humiliating and demeaning treatment that she received at Ben Gurion Airport while on her way to attend a high-level academic conference in Tunis three years ago. In the lawsuit, Adalah Attorney Alaa Mahajna detailed the offensive treatment to which Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian was subjected from the moment that she arrived at the airport to the moment she had to cancel her trip after being prevented from taking her laptop computer on the flight to the conference.
Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Director of the Gender Studies Program Director at Mada al-Carmel and a researcher and lecturer in Criminology at the Faculty of Law and School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has an international reputation in her field and is invited to teach and lecture each year at numerous universities around the world.
Adalah emphasized in the lawsuit that her claim describes what is, too often, a regular occurrence for any Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel travelling from the country. "Travelling abroad has become a nightmare for Arab citizens of Israel because of the humiliating and racist treatment they receive. Discrimination between Arabs and Jews stems from the national belonging of Arab citizens, which is illegal".
Adalah argued that the humiliating conduct of the security staff towards Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian constitutes a serious breach of her right to dignity. Further, the fact that she alone was picked out from among the other passengers and subjected to a demeaning inspection and was prevented from taking her laptop computer is a violation of her right to equality. All of these acts breach her constitutional rights as protected by law and previous Supreme Court rulings.