Teaching Human Rights in Occupied Palestine

I was honored to receive an invitation to speak to researchers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas/Brazil, 14 June 2022.

في هذه المداخلة (بالإنجليزية) إلى مجموعة من الباحثين من البرازيل، تحدثت عن تحديات تدريس حقوق الإنسان في فلسطين المحتلة، المستعمرة، والخاضعة لنظام تمييز عنصري. بدأت الحديث حول شيرين أبو عاقلة وتحفظاتي الكثيرة على الافتراضات التي رافقت قتلها سواء بافتراض العقلانية في الاحتلال وجيشه بالإضافة لحيادية الصحافة أمام “تجار الشك” الذين يحولون كل قضية واضحة إلى موضوع خلافي على أمل أن ننسى مع مرور الوقت المشكلة الأساس. في الرد على الأسئلة تحدثت عن تحديات مؤسسات حقوق الإنسان في فلسطين، كيفية استخدام السلطة الحاكمة لخطاب حقوق الإنسان لتشريع كيانها دولياً أو الحصول على دعم، بالإضافة لدور إسرائيل في تطوير نظام رقابة متكامل استخدمت فيه الأرض الفلسطينية المحتلة كحقل تجارب، ليس فقط دون محاسبة، بل لدرجة استفادتها من ذلك من خلال تصدير هذه “الخبرة” في رقابة السكان والتعامل مع “تحديات الإرهاب الداخلي”. كما أشرت في المداخلة حول دور الجامعة وأهمية بقائها مساحة للتفكير الحر. للمهتمين يمكن الاستماع للمداخلة والردود على الأسئلة على الروابط أدناه.

Here is my presentation

and below the Question and answer

Introductory notes are also added to this page at the end.

  • Shirine Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli sniper, while doing her job; as a journalist, she was covering one of those many Israeli military invasions to the West Bank city of Jenin, a month ago. While you may have read or heard about this incident, I mention this today to present two ideas:
    • I noticed many were seeking an explanation to what happened; why would the Israeli military kill Shireen? What is the message they want to deliver? What would killing her realize for Israel? I have had it with such questions, and the unchecked assumptions that the occupation and apartheid regime in place is necessarily rational, and actions undertaken by its soldiers necessarily fit in its larger scheme. That kind of ordered and rational regime – which is usually attributed to what is western, liberal, and democratic. I was also completely disoriented to hear people questioning, “why Shireen was there at first place?” “What was new this time for her to go there, to be there?” “Was she wearing the flak vest and helmet?” “Was she in the right place with other journalists?” All questions that not only blame the victim, but repeat somehow, unconsciously, the assumptions about us (in contrast to them), Palestinians, eastern people, uncivilized and chaotic ones, who while being killed by a sniper are suspected always of being blameworthy, just for being: being there, being who they are – regardless of their actions or deeds.
    • The second point I would like to raise is what some have dubbed as “the merchants of doubt” which works perfectly in such cases of targeted killing of protected persons under IHL. By raising doubts to the point that the victims need to have clear evidence of their being victims, before blaming the perpetrators. The way to do it is simple; show the inconsistency of any account; that something is fishy; that there are many possibilities and explanations; and that it doesn’t make sense that the most civilized army in the region would do such a savage thing. Then the international media – out of them trying to be neutral – would need to present all points of view; that we need to give equal space for all opinions; etc. and meanwhile, we count on the matter to die gradually. A wise friend told me whenever something becomes hot in the social media for example: give it three days. Something else will come up, and we will forget about this one very soon.

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