’Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.
(Alexander Pope, Epistles to Several Persons, 1734)
What do the convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti (currently serving five life sentences), the suicide bomber who murdered nine people and wounded over 20 others at Tsrifin in 2003, the founder of the Hamas military wing Yahya (‘the engineer’) Ayash and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have in common?
All of the above terrorists – and several more – studied at Birzeit University near Ramallah which has been under the control of the Palestinian National Authority since the mid 1990s according to the Oslo Accords.
Birzeit is notorious for its extremism and the fact that in elections for its student council, rival terror factions compete for the student vote.
“A third example of a Palestinian university where there has been major crime incitement is Birzeit University near Ramallah. At the end of 2003, elections were held for the student government council. The campaign featured models of exploding Israeli buses. In the debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: “Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?” Needless to say, the “Zionists” are largely Israeli civilians”
As an American student at Birzeit noted in 2009, little has changed on that front since the end of the second Intifada.
“Today was the culmination of election season at Birzeit University, for the university’s student council. Let me first start by explaining a bit about the student council. Elections here are nothing like student government in the U.S., as students take them incredibly serious. Technically, the student council and the student unions (parties) are supposed to be about academics and the university and not about politics, but in reality they are all about politics. Each student union is directly linked to a greater political party in Palestine, for example the Islamic Bloc student union is basically Hamas, while “shabeeba” are Fatah.”
In fact, with elections – both national and local – in wider Palestinian society being something of a rarity, the annual student elections at Birzeit are often considered to be a way of testing the pulse of Palestinian political sentiment. In 2010, Hamas boycotted the student elections there, very much in the manner which it refuses to engage in the democratic process in wider society.
“This year, the Islamist bloc (an alliance between Hamas and Islamic Jihad) boycotted the March 31 elections to protest more than 70 of their members being imprisoned by the PA, a claim confirmed by independent observers. Voter turnout dropped to 57 percent, compared to 84 percent last year, when Islamists participated. In addition, some 12 percent of student voters cast void or blank ballots. The Fatah youth bloc won 31 seats in the 2010 student council elections, a leftist coalition took another 16 seats, and the Palestinian National Initiative won 3 seats, whereas in 2009 Fatah youth won 24 seats, the Islamist bloc 22 seats, the Popular Front 4 seats, and the People’s Party 1 seat. It is significant that, even though Fatah won more seats in 2010, the actual number of votes for Fatah dropped by 13 percent, even with the boycott by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are of course both proscribed terror organizations, but the fact that they run in student elections and openly operate in Birzeit University does not appear to be of concern to the Charity Commission for England and Wales, which granted charitable status to the ‘Friends of Birzeit’ association based in London. Neither does it appear to worry the chancellors of British universities such as Edinburgh and Stirling whose student associations twinned with that of Birzeit.
Read the rest of the essay, here.