Canadian Delegation Participates in Round-Table Discussion with the Faculty, visits the Old City and its Refugee Camp.

The Forum of Democracy, Identity and Education Under Occupation, Group of educators, who have come to learn and share ideas about formal and non-formal education under occupation in Palestine, visited An-Najah and met its Faculty members. The delegation toured the campus and interviewed some students. A workshop including some representatives, heads of departments and faculty members took place. Each person gave their perspective regarding life under occupation, based on their specific disciplines in a broad sense, as well as how it impacts on their students and their teaching,

Mr. Sami Al-Kilani, Director of the Community Service Center, CSC, said the round-table forum was an opportunity to give our guests some highlights of our work at An-Najah and the challenges that we face to keep this institution up to the standards and objectives that we aim for. In his presentation, he focused on the university’s involvement in serving the community of Nablus district and Palestinian society in general. He also explained the mission of the CSC to make this involvement as fruitful as possible. The community service through the efforts of CSC has become an equal third pillar of the institution, side by side with academic life (teaching and learning) and scientific research. Such visits are very valuable for An-Najah, especially at this time, because it expands our co-operative programs with international partners like McGill University and Manitoba, and we hope that our friends will continue their cooperation with us in order to develop such co-operation for work.

The other faculty members from journalism, political science, sociology and social work made presentations about their fields of interest in relation to the situation in Palestine. Mr Al-Kilani said that those presentations were useful and clarified what is going on daily at An-Najah; he hoped that they would open new horizons for co-operation between staff members of the same interest in both sides. 

Howard Davidson, PhD Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Continuing Education, said that: “My primary interest is in the impact of occupation in education, and what educators in North America can do to inform North Americans about the occupation and efforts to end the occupation and settlements. In addition, I have an interest in political prisoners, their conditions, the self-education they carry out inside prison and the situation they face when they released. On the education side, I have been involved in three projects; in 2004, we did the summer institute in education, democracy and conflict at the University of Manitoba which involved seven Palestinian educators and seventy Canadian educators for two weeks at an intensive course. The Palestinian educators also met with community organizations, unions, religious groups and community political activists. The second project is the current educators’ forum at Bethlehem University held from July 4th-15th. This forum involves seven international educators and approximately fifty to eighty Palestinian educators including teachers, principles and administrators and academics. The third project is to publish writing and article stories about political prisoners in the journal of prisoners in prisons and in other publications. One last project was to organize the Canadian-Palestinian Film Festival that occurred in Canada in September 2004. The festival was shown in Winnipeg, Calgary and Halifax in 2005; the festival will be held again. The funds for the Forum and the institute came from the community organization, unions and the University of Manitoba `s continuing education Division Endowment Fund.”

“The round-table discussion with An-Najah Faculty highlighted major issues, major political, social and psychological conditions. We discussed the current struggle and this changed from previous years; most important was the need to focus on both coping with current conditions and bringing about an end to the occupation and creating a genuine chance of Palestinian self determination. Following the round table we took a tour of the old city of Nablus with particular attention to the damage done to the buildings and the killing of both freedom fighters and civilians. This was followed by a trip to Askar Refugee camps; this was new information because we did not know about refugee camps that are not under the UN supervision and about the particular problems faced by Askar and their struggle to overcome these problems. We learned something about education for prisons and an important opportunity to speak with a woman who is a refugee about her history, current situation and her deportation from her land in 1948.”

“In comparison to previous visits, it seems there is been shift because, by the minor withdraw of Israeli pressure in this situation, I hear Palestinians speaking more about how to create their future under severe conditions especially the impact of the wall on the economy and social life and education. At the same time, I hear Palestinians asking about changing the current reality, how this will be done and the leadership required to do it.”

Lee Rother, PH.D, part-time professor at the University of McGill, teaches Media Education and Technology, and a member in the delegation, said: “The experience has been an eye-opener. It has given a first-hand in-depth analysis of the situation that could not be found in the western media; it is one thing to see it on TV News, but you don’t get the sense of how extensive the damage has been to the land and people. Visiting the refugee camps was depressing and incomprehensible that people are still living under such conditions and how little we really know about it, and I wonder why there is not more knowledge of this back home. I plan on providing my people with the images; I took a lot of pictures. I want them to question and dialogue about how they see and what they have seen on media and how that compares to what I present to them. I don’t want to give them my belief but want them to understand what is in the spaces in between. I am more confused now about my understanding and beliefs about the situation between Israel and Palestine than before I came; but now, I am more confused on a higher level. For instance, there are issues that I wont even been aware before, like the refugees’ issue. I knew about them but not in depth as now.”

The volunteers of Zajel Youth Exchange Program organized a tour for the delegation in the old city of Nablus where they witnessed the old city’s devastations. They then were accompanied to the Refugee Camp of Askar where they had another tour and met eyewitnesses of the Palestinian deportation of 1948.