Hatem Bazian: In your essay you mention about 1948 and a whole host of theft and pillaging of Palestinian text books, and books, and small libraries and so on. Which I know that in some of the Israeli universities there’s whole collections of books that have been taken from Palestinian libraries. And then even ’67, as well as during the intifada, I know that the whole collection of the historian, Mohammad Nimr, in Nablous, all of his collection was taken by the Israelis and is now held by various archives. So speak a little about this structural theft, which is also a form of what you’d call epistemological directed genocide at the Palestinians, because you’re taking away their epistemological sources; textbooks and materials that are right now researched and collected and cataloged by the Israeli archives as well as some of the universities.
Omar Barghouti: Absolutely, when Zionists, again, ethnically cleansed most Palestinians, even before the establishment of the state- and later the Israeli army- part of the ethnic cleansing process, part of the destruction of Palestinian society- to build a jewish-supremacist state in the land of Palestine- part of that was the destruction of Palestinian knowledge, the destruction of Palestinian education, the destruction of Palestinian identity. to make a self-fulfilling prophecy of the deeply racist Zionist saying of “a land without a people for a people without a land”, basically erasing the indigenous Palestinians from existence. It’s like the white settlers who went to what’s now the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, and claimed the land was empty, and to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy, they committed genocide, killing millions and millions of native Americans, the indigenous people of this land- Turtle Island. In the Palestinian case, the murder was not as widespread obviously, because it was a completely different era, where it wasn’t acceptable to kill a million persons, but certainly the ethnic cleansing reached the majority- more than half- of the indigenous Palestinians. As part of this destruction of Palestinian identity, and to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, the destruction of books and the theft of books. There were academics, accompanying the Israeli occupation army,as they went- when they were colonizing- neighborhood by neighborhood, took private home collections- not just community collections, not just institution collections and archives, but- home collections. The richer Palestinian families, who had huge archives of books, all of them were stolen. And those that were deemed unfit were destroyed. Thousands of thousands of Palestinian books were destroyed around the 1947-1949 era. And thousands of thousands were stolen and are still kept, as you mentioned, in Israel’s archives; in the National Library, in the Hebrew University, and other universities. This did not stop there. The attempt to erase Palestinian identity, the attempt to erase Palestinian education did not stop there.
Move forward to the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987. It was predominantly a nonviolent form of resistance against a foreign occupation. Completely justified and completely supported by all progressives worldwide. Immediately upon the launch of the intifada in 1987- almost immediately, within days- Israel shut down Palestinian universities, one after the other. Some of them, like Birzeit university, was closed for four consecutive years. Imagine some force deciding to close UC Berkeley for four consecutive years because some students at UC Berkeley were striking for tuition rights, for whatever rights, dorm rights, or any other rights, whether against sexual harassment, or for black justice- black liberation- whatever other rights. So some forces decide to shut down UC Berkeley because it’s a “hotbed of radicalism”, as Palestinian universities were called by the Israeli apartheid regime. But they did not stop with the universities. Soon after, Israel’s military authorities shut down all Palestinian schools, and then even Palestinian kindergartens. A kid held in the street by the Israeli army, caught in the street by the Israeli army, carrying a textbook, was considered committing a violation of a military order, and the book was confiscated accordingly. Palestinian education during that period went underground. Just imagine the concept, that Palestinian educators had to invent underground education for grade school- from kindergarten to 12th grade, and universities- everything went underground because it was criminalized. Israel effectively criminalized Palestinian education at that time. Some Palestinian academics called this ‘scholasticide’.
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