Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Recent Censorship of Palestinians: Three Cases (Grass, Zaqtan, Al-Quds University)

I've been unable--physically and emotionally--to keep up with news from the Middle East the past few months, particularly involving the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but three events have cropped up in the span of a week that has made it difficult to ignore, and impossible for me not to post.

The first is the well-known case of Gunter Grass's poem critical of Israeli moves toward Iran, leading to his being banned from Israel.  This has gotten enough media attention (you can find articles everywhere on this one).

However, two less-known cases are more important, as they involve direct harassment of Palestinians involved in the arts and education.

Recently, the poet Ghassan Zaqtan's travel was held up by Israel; he was due to conduct a series of readings with his translator, the poet Fady Joudah.  More information can be found here.  This is the sort of regular harassment and humiliation that Palestinians endure at the hands of Israel (I recall just now that a friend of mine, a Palestinian-American author of some renown, was recently barred from entry because twenty years ago she used her Palestinian ID to enter the country, and apparently Palestinians are barred from entering).

Finally, a third case, involving free speech, from Al-Quds University (thanks to Marilyn Hacker for passing this along).  They have ensured that Skyping Palestinians and Israelis will be part of my course in the fall.

Dr. Jamal Nusseibeh
Vice President for Jerusalem Affairs
Al-Quds University
April 2, 2012
For the second time in two months, the Israeli authorities have invaded, searched and prevented the functioning of Al-Quds University’s Institute of Modern Media. This time, they prevented skype contact for an event taking place simultaneously in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Today, at 12:55 pm local time, plain clothes police arrived at the offices of the Institute of Modern Media, at Al-Quds University, in the old city of Jerusalem. University faculty and students and invited guests had gathered at the location to launch Hona Al-Quds (“Jerusalem is Here” an online multi-media community network focusing on Jerusalem. After mingling with the guests for about fifteen minutes, without any warning, the police locked the office doors, shutting some guest inside and some outside, ransacked the offices, and collected the identification documents of all those inside the building. The building was by that time surrounded by soldiers. They presented those outside with an order in Hebrew, signed by the Israeli Minister for Internal Security, forbidding the launch event on the grounds that it was a “PA” event, i.e. organized by the Palestinian Authority. This was despite the fact that Honaalquds is clearly a part of Al-Quds University, since 1996, recognized as an independent NGO by the Israeli authorities. The Israelis arrested two Al-Quds University employees: Adel Ruished, Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, and Mohannad Izheman, University security guard. Since then, Mr Izheman has been released with a summons to return tomorrow and Mr Ruished is being held at the central Israeli police station.
The University condemns this action as a violation of principles and agreements which protect free speech, academic freedom, and the freedom of the press. This is the second such invasion in recent weeks. On February 29, in the middle of the night, an Israeli military unit invaded the main office of the Institute of Modern Media in Ramallah, searched the offices, and removed the transmitter which the university used to broadcast educational TV programs, including Sesame Street and other programmes for very young children, and a wide variety of programmes for the benefit of the community. The University is an independent institution, neither administered nor governed by the Palestinian Authority. The Institute’s primary mission is to educate and train undergraduate students in media studies and to share university and local news with area residents, and to serve and educate the broader community.

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