Tulkarm: Education Under Occupation

By EA Lisa

“This is occupation” says Samah Jarrad, the International Relations Officer for Kadoorie University, as she guides EAs through the campus of the Tulkarm university. It is a refrain often used by Palestinians when trying to explain the unexplainable.

Samah International Relations Officer Tulkarm University Photo EA Lisa (1)

Samah Jarrad, Kadoorie University, Tulkarm. Photo EAPPI/EA Lisa

Kadoorie University, Tulkarm

At first glance Kadoorie resembles any other modern third level institute of learning.

The grounds are abuzz with students as they make their way to and from class or gather in the open spaces to chat.

But as we continue to walk around the campus, a different reality begins to emerge. Faculty walls – including the library – have been hit with bullets, and the charred fields, which are home to agricultural research, indicate that this is not a typical campus.

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The Kadoorie University, Tulkarm. Photo EAPPI/EA Alex

Military Training on the Grounds

In 1994, the Israeli government established a military training camp on the grounds. Since then the campus has become the scene of almost constant military incursions, arrests and clashes with students.

Kadoorie is quite compact, despite having 8,000 registered students. According to Samah it is the most renowned school of agriculture in the Arab world. In 2007 it was given full university status and now offers several faculties including Engineering, Arts, Science, Business and Economics.

The Oslo Accords of the 1990s divided the grounds of the campus into Areas A and C. Departments and lands that fall into Area A are under the nominal control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), while land that has been designated as Area C comes under full Israeli military control.

As a result, Samah explains, the university cannot expand. The Israeli Civil Administration has refused planning permission for “national security reasons”.

EA and Irish Consule at Tulkarem University photo EA Federico (1)

EA Lisa shows an Irish diplomat around the grounds of the University. Photo EAPPI.

 

Building permits in Area C

This was also the reason given when the university was prevented from erecting a wall to “preserve their sanctity”. Samah explains: “We were unable to obtain permits to build any construction in Area C, despite all the efforts exerted at state level, but we have buildings adjacent to Area C, such as the new business school, the stadium and the student services complex. We use Area C for the purpose of agricultural research though (greenhouses, farms….) and those are always at the risk of demolition”.

According to Israeli Civil Administration data, between 2010-2014 only 1.5 per cent of requests by Palestinians for building permits were approved. None were approved in 2015.

Mural at Aida Refugee Camp Bethlehem photo EA Lisa 15-3-2018 (1)

Right to education mural in nearby refugee camp, Tulkarm. Photo EAPPI. EA Lisa

In addition to these challenges, Samah tells us the Israeli authorities confiscated 200 acres of Kadoorie’s land to build the separation barrier that divides the state of Israel from the West Bank.

Student Space and Military Bunkers

As EAs walk to the far end of the campus, the military training ground is clearly visible.

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Israeli military bunkers on the agricultural grounds of the university. Photo EAPPI/EA Alex

What appear to be military bunkers, with look outs, are between the agricultural research lands and the athletic sports track. Target ranges and a number of concrete dwellings are also located there.

Samah shows us charred lands which, she says, have been destroyed by the Israeli military. She says they have also demolished greenhouses, destroyed the research farm, and sprayed wastewater into university buildings.

While EAs are present the agricultural lands are being worked by students in close proximity to the firing range.

We ask Samah how often the military training occurs and does the university have any indication of when it will happen.

She shrugs her shoulders and says ‘This is every other day… they come whenever they want’.

Attacks on Education

She explains the stress of these military incursions have created a state of panic and fear among students, staff and their families – not to mention the health effects.

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Bullet holes around an outdoor light, Kadoorie University, Tulkarm. Photo EAPPI/EA Alex

To date there have been: 138 injuries by live bullets, mostly in the knees and joints (one student had his leg amputated); 313 injuries by rubber coated steel bullets; 850 cases of injury by teargas; and 14 arrests inside the university campus.

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Rubber coated steel bullet found on the grounds of the university. Photo: EAPPI/EA Alex

Drills are a regular and necessary aspect of this university’s life, to warn of the presence of soldiers, and to learn how to prepare in the event of a teargas attack. But staff and students are determined not to allow these incursions to disrupt their education.

While in certain cases this is not possible, especially around the agricultural fields and sports arenas, students have now realised that these incursions, and their reactive demonstrations, are simply disrupting their education.

Resistance Education

In recent times, student numbers protesting at the military incursions have dwindled. Samah explains this is because students have decided to continue their protest through what the university describes as “Resistance and Qualitative Education”. In other words, the best form of resistance to the constant Israeli military presence on their campus is to finish the academic year in its due date.

Take Action

Learn more about Education Under Occupation from EAPPI’s own resource document HERE.

Share this blog post with your contacts and ask them to write to their local MPs, TDs, MLAs or MEPs.