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Birzeit University bans student marches with militaristic content, over students’ protests over support for “national expressions”

"Today [Jan. 9, 2020] was the 25th day of the closure of Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank, due to a protest of hundreds of students at the campus…

Student Abd Al-Rahman Musbah, an activist of the Islamic cell at the university, says: 'The reason for the strike is first of all a protest over the university's policy towards the students in recent months, which is striving to reduce the role of the student movement.’ …

Musbah said that 'The matter of stopping student activities and what the university calls "militarization" was one of the reasons for the strike,’ and emphasized that ‘All of the student cells have agreed to reject the ban on the national expressions and all of the activities that are taking place at the university, which have not gone beyond national expressions praising the Palestinian self-sacrificing fighter (Fida'i) and do not contradict academic activities, as hundreds of Martyrs and prisoners were and still are students at the university.'

He said that it has been agreed between all of the student parties and the student council to continue the strike until the demands are met."

Students at Birzeit University protested in December 2019 and January 2020 over the cost of tuition and other financial matters, and over the university’s ban on military expression on campus, leading the university to suspend classes. According to Birzeit University Vice President Ghassan Al-Khatib, students violated the university’s policy by “marching in military uniforms or clothing (kufieh) [parentheses in source, i.e., Arab headdress] symbolizing the Palestinian struggle, and by displaying cartoon models depicting resistance weapons and tools.” [Al-Monitor, Dec. 30, 2019]

The university’s ban has existed for years; Birzeit University Dean of Advanced Degrees Mahdi Arar said: “Years ago, the student blocs signed a charter of honor [under which they] refrained from all types of militarism at the university." [Alaraby.co.uk, Dec. 11, 2019]

However, its recent strict implementation is apparently based on pressure from Israel and foreign donors, as noted by various university faculty members.  “University Employee Union Secretary Sameh Abu 'Awwad explained: ‘The university is subject to pressure from the occupation... and from donors who are yielding to its dictates’ …  He added that, in recent years, some countries had already stopped funding the university, and others were threatening to do so.” [Alaraby.co.uk, December 16, 2019]

The protest ended on Jan. 9, 2020, with an agreement between the university administration and student council. Its first nine clauses discussed tuition and other financial matters, and the tenth and last clause noted in a general manner that other issues will be discussed. Its first nine clauses discussed tuition and other financial matters, and the tenth and last clause noted in a general manner that other issues will be discussed.