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Ben-Gurion University
[BGU] Studying under Dr. Maya Rosenfeld "Palestinian Society in the Diaspora and in the Occupied Territories"

Dr. Maya Rosenfeld

Visiting Professor

Politics and Government, BGU

Email: msma@mscc.huji.ac.il

Editorial Note:
In recent weeks IAM has frequently reported on the dispute between the CHE and Ben Gurion University.  As well known, the International Evaluation Committee expressed serious reservations about the Department of Politics and Government.  Among others, the Committee suggested that a political-oriented faculty may fail to offer a well- balanced education.
Over the years, some students complained about instructors who tried to indoctrinate them rather than implement the Humboldtian model of a classroom as a "marketplace of ideas."
The following is a report written by a student in a course with Dr. Maya Rosenfeld in 2011.  Dr. Rosenfled is a well known pro-Palestinian activist, active in Machsom Watch and other organizations.

Course: Palestinian Society in the Diaspora and in the Occupied Territories: Trends of Social and Political Change

During the spring 2011 semester, I attended a course at Ben-Gurion University taught by Dr. Maya Rosenfeld entitled “Palestinian Society in the Diaspora and in the Occupied Territories: Trends of Social and Political Change”.     

On March 6, 2011, Dr. Rosenfeld discussed a leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ghassan Kanafani whose essay The Land of Sad Oranges was an assigned reading.   Kanafani was among the founders of the radical Marxist terror group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) under Dr. George Habash.  As a senior leader of the PFLP, Kanafani was involved in the September 1970 hijacking of five aircraft to Zarka, Jordan and the Lod Airport massacre where, in May 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by the PFLP killed 25 passengers and wounded 80.  Most victims were Christian pilgrim from Puerto Rico, but Aharon Katzir, the world renowned scientist from the Weizmann Institute, and nine other Israelis had also perished. Shortly before his death in a car bomb in Beirut July 8, 1972 attributed to Israel, a picture of Kanafani with one of the Japanese terrorists was published.  None of this information was conveyed to the class; it appears that to Rosenfeld, Kanafani was not a terrorist but a Palestinian refugee from the 1948 war who was famous for his writings about refugees and Palestinian exile.  In her view “the only battles that Kanafani fought in were battles in literature and writing.”   Describing Kanafani as a “victim of a revenge operation,” Rosenfeld stated that he was a “loved writer” who remains “well-known and well-translated,” adding that she personally likes his writing, and feels that “it’s a pity he died” because “he would have produced more good works.” 

On May 1, 2011, Rosenfeld assigned reading was a book written by Saleh Khalef a.k.a. Abu Iyad.   Rosenfeld referred to Abu Iyad as one of the founders of Fatah, which she considers to be a “Palestinian resistance organization,” an erroneous designation given the fact that for most of its existence, Fatah has maintained a number of terrorist groups such as Force 17, Black September, Fatah Hawks, Tanzim and most currently, the Al Aqsa Brigades.  As one of the architects of Black September, Abu Iyad was responsible for a large number of terrorist attacks, including the murder of the Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics in 1972. However, in later years Abu Iyad came to support direct talks with Israel, a decision that upset many in the Fatah leadership.  He was assassinated by a body guard of Yasser Arafat in January 1991.     

On May 15, 2011, Rosenfeld started the meeting by asking whether any of the students attended an alternative torch ceremony on Independence Day.   No one raised their hand.   Rosenfeld confessed that she had attended an alternative torch ceremony in Jerusalem.   She explained that the alternative gatherings were created in response to the official event on Mount Herzl where torches are lit in honor of Israel.   In alternative torch ceremonies, people speak up about their “activism against the Israeli occupation” and in “solidarity with marginalized groups such as labor migrants, Negev Bedouins, the Palestinians, and certain human rights non-governmental organizations.”   In the event which she attended, there was a discussion of the “struggle in Al Araqib,” as well as expressions of support for “women who have worked at IDF checkpoints.”   She also noted that participants called for “civil disobedience against certain rules that prevent Palestinian movement.”  Rosenfeld then expanded the discussion to an analysis of the occupation policy; she claimed that after Israel created a military government, she “deprived” people of shaping “their own life.”  At this point, a self -described Zionist student pointed out that occupation is legal under the Geneva Convention.   Rosenfeld agreed with this, but noted that she was not talking about legalities but about the how the “occupation affects populations.”   The discussion took an unexpected turn when, after a further exchange with the outspoken student, she accused him of being “not fair” for not seeing the contradictions between the system of occupation and the democratic system in Israel.   Rosenfeld seemed really upset that the exchange delayed a scheduled presentation by another student.  But when a left-wing student decided to join the discussion, she welcomed his comments, though the presentation was further pushed back. 

At no point did Rosenfeld tried to put the occupation into a historic context by explaining that in July 1967 Israel offered to return virtually all of the territories in exchange for a peace agreement only to be rebuffed by the Khartoum Conference of August 1967. She did not mention that those Israeli authorities instituted limits on Palestinian traffic through checkpoints only after devastating terror attacks in which thousands of Israeli civilians were killed or wounded.  Rosenfeld did not explain that after nearly a decade of efforts to implement the Oslo peace agreement, in 2000 the Palestinian leadership rejected the a Labor government offer to return almost the entire West Bank and all of Gaza and divide Jerusalem in exchange for a peace treaty.   She also failed to note that as part of the Oslo process, most of the West Bank population lives in Areas A and B, under control of the Palestinian Authority and that the Gaza Strip is entirely controlled by Hamas.    

On June 5, 2011, Rosenfeld raised the issue of whether Israel was a colonial state in the classical sense of the term.   In her opinion, Israel is difficult to label because “Israel didn’t occupy for economic reasons,” making Israel different from “European colonialism.” Nevertheless, she believes that Israel exerts a “colonial control,” over the territories; over time, “the system of occupation did develop a facet of economic exploitation,” even though it was “not the initial cause.”  Rosenfeld explained that “tens of thousands of Israeli employers benefited from Palestinian labor,” making the occupation a functional equivalent of the colonial state.  



Palestinian Society in the Diaspora and in the Occupied Territories: Trends of Social and Politics Change
Semester: Spring
Sunday 12:00-16:00
Course Number: 124-2-0331

This course examines four major factors that affected the social and political history of the Palestinians since the 1948 War: displacement, refugee existence and UN intervention on behalf of Palestine refugees; regime policies of the Arab "host" countries vis a vis the Palestinian refugees; Israel's prolonged military occupation over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the development of the Palestinian national movement.

Accordingly, the course is roughly divided into four parts: starting with the commencement of the Palestinian refugee problem in the aftermath of the 1948 War, the first part analyzes the sixty-two year old intervention of the international community, in particular that of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), on behalf of Palestine refugees and underscores the major consequences of this intervention for four generations of refugees. The second part discusses the considerably divergent legal, social, economic and political statuses of Palestinian refugees in three Arab "host" countries, Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait (up till the expulsion of Palestinians from this country in1991), each of which represents a different regime type, and the impact of variant regime policies on the social structure and social history of Palestinian refugee communities.

The third part of the course reviews the prolonged Israeli occupation over the West Bank and Gaza as a system of military, economic and political control. It examines the cumulative impact of the occupation regime on socio-economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza in general, and on specific sectors and segments of Palestinian society in particular, over the course of more than four decades. The fourth part traces the stages of development of the Palestinian national movement in the Diaspora and Palestine since 1948, with a focus on the post 1967 emergence of the PLO and with special emphasis on the occupied territories-based branch of the national movement, the first Intifada, and its long-term consequences. The concluding discussions will examine the major trends of development within the Palestinian national movement since the Oslo Accords and establishment of the PNA in 1994, including an overview of the Oslo era, the second Intifada, the rise of Hamas and the major divide that currently dominates Palestinian political life.



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