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Round Table Reviews Role of Palestinian Student Movements, Focusing on Birzeit University

Monday
March 11, 2013
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Birzeit University’s student movements and their role in Palestinian history was examined critically in the fifth in a lecture series sponsored by the Faculty of Arts held on February 26, 2013.

The round table was moderated by Dean of Student Affairs Mohammad Al-Ahmad and featured former activists and heads of student movements at BZU including Legislative Council member and People's Party representative Bassam Salhi, secretary general of the Legislative Council and former head of Birzeit’s Student Council Ibrahim Khreisheh, secretary of the Student Progressive Front Omar Nazzal, and head of the Islamic bloc Samer Nimr.

Salhi said he thought the experience of BZU student movements a very rich one and an integral part of the national fabric.

Khreisheh, on the other hand, referenced the changes in focus of the movements over time. "Every situation has its own concerns and political realities,” he said, noting that “the current political circumstances do not allow students to play a resistance role as before.” Khreisheh also spoke of a decline in student political culture and its emphasis on national concerns, blaming students and educational institutions for this.

Nazzal argued that any discussion of the Palestinian student movement must include the period that preceded the coming of the Palestinian Authority, which was marked by the struggle between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli occupation, with students participating.

He said that today’s student movement was not fulfilling its promise and that many issues have affected its performance, including political intolerance between political factions and marginal women’s participation. The result has been a loss of a genuine student movement heritage for subsequent generations, he added.

Nimr commended the role of the Islamist movement in Palestinian universities for adopting key ideas and respecting intellectual, political and religious pluralism. He also criticized violence adopted by student movements at Palestinian universities in protesting university policies, reflected in tire-burning and resulting in the closure of the university. 

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