Palestinian Arab Students: Because Of The “Israeli Occupation”
Another Wizard of Oz in academia. Here is an article that seems to damn the “Israeli Occupation” but it does not, really. The authors should have had the sense not to publish this paper because it proves something very different from what they set out to show.
If anyone actually reads the substance of the article and not just the abstract and conclusions — and that includes the reviewers who recommended it for publication — then they would have seen that it hints at how students could be empowered and it has nothing to do with Israel, occupation or not. As for the Egyptians who wrote it, admitting that would be uncomfortable for the authors because it may reflect badly on their own country.
Khedrane, S. & Abdel-Mottaleb Ghanem, A. (2017) The political trends of the youth of university in Palestine and Algeria: A comparative field study. Asian Social Science, 13, 160-166.
Here is their abstract:
The current study aims to measure the level of political trends of University’s youth in Palestine and Algeria. A questionnaire has been used for collecting data about the opinions of a sample of students at Al – Najah National University of Palestine and Kasdi Merbah University of Algeria enrolled in the academic year 2015- 2016. The study has adopted the Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) for the purposes of measurement. It has concluded that the nature of the political trends of the university youth at the Palestinian University tends to the negative level more than the positive one due to the conditions of occupation and political instability in the Palestine arena. On the other hand, the nature of the political trends of the university youth in the Algerian university tends to the positive level more than the negative one. This is due to the state of political stability characterized by the political system in Algeria, as well as the political reforms that have positively affected the nature of the political trends of the university youth since President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika took power in Algeria, down to creating a higher council for youth in the new constitutional amendment of 2016.
As an editor, it is excruciating for me to read this without correcting their English. But, more to the point, we actually have in the abstract the kernel of truth the authors are hoping you do not pick up on. Let us look at what their article says.
Student Participation in Political Processes
First their assumption: participation in the political processes of one’s nation is a positive feature of life in that country. Assessing the attitudes of university students regarding political participation is an important aspect of understanding political socialization. Political participation is assessed by examining (1) level of understanding of the political processes, (2) engagement in political processes, (3) awareness of positive and negative aspects of these, and (4) degree of satisfaction with local and national government actions.
The authors compared results from a previous study of political trends among students at Al-Najah National University in Nablus/Shechem with newly acquired responses to the same questionnaire given to students at Kasdi Merbah University in Algeria.
Results of the Study
The authors identify one of the reasons students in Nablus do not have confidence in PA political processes, namely, the seizure of control in Gaza by Hamas (page 162):
The low level of confidence in system and its institutions among the sample of Al- Najah National University in Palestine attributes to the political division since 2007. This division has begun to constitute a general opposed trend due to its negative impact left on Palestinian’s life. Locally, Palestinians have been severely affected by this division because it served as an obstacle to civil and political freedom in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It has contributed to the emergency of extremist currents and has encouraged the spread of political violence. Such division also has increased the status of discrimination based on the political affiliation that led to inequality between Palestinian citizens. Furthermore, it has obstructed the role of many institutions such as the parliament, which is no longer able to play its legislative and supervisory roles (Abu Hamid, 2015). [emphasis added]
But just on the very next page, we find out how this is really because of the “Israeli Occupation” (page 163):
The low level of confidence in the political process reflects the awareness of the students. Israel has exploited the state of political division in the Palestinian arena by imposing punitive practices against Palestinian in Gaza Strip, which served as an obstacle to unity, peace, tolerance and political freedom. [emphasis added]
I love how they manage to thrown in timeworn cliches. Hamas bullies may have thrown Fatah opponents from the roofs of tall buildings, but because Israel is an obstacle to peace, etc. etc.,the “Israeli Occupation” is really to blame for Palestinian Arab students having little confidence in their own internal political processes. And then (still on page 163):
In their responses to the paragraphs of the questionnaire, the students also stated that the completion of the Palestinian reconciliation is the best option to pressure Israel and support the Palestinian negotiator within the framework of the peace process. Simultaneously, they expressed their satisfaction with the university’s policies that allow them to participate in non- academic activities within the university, promote the values of belonging, freedom and social justice, and provide them with opportunities to participate in political conferences and seminars related to the Arab-Israeli conflict (Abu Hamid, 2015). [emphasis added]
If political activism can be turned against Israel, that is fine. God forbid Palestinian Arab students should have something to say in how the PA is run! Do they see that they are saying the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is not desired for internal reasons, only for pressuring Israel into some kind of so-called peace process? And I wonder what students would do if they were really given a long leash to express their desire for freedom and social justice if these were not counterpointed against the imaginary “Israeli Occupation”.
It is funny to me how, in the same paragraph as the quote above, the authors acknowledge that satisfaction with political processes among Albanian students is because of what their newly elected democratic president did (page 163):
. . . the study attributes the high positive level [of confidence in political institutions and political processes] to the political reforms adopted by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika such as the amendment of the election law, the transparency of the political process in general (Karbousa & Aknoush, 2005), and making the citizen a partner in the political process.
And (page 164):
. . . the level of political competence and effectiveness of university youth in Algeria was high. According to the study, this is due to the political reforms adopted by President Bouteflika, which raised the level of actual performance of political, economic and social institutions (Hamzawy, 2003). The beginnings of the reforms were represented in alleviating the political violence, restoring security, and bringing the administration and institutions closer to the citizens (Tashma, 2010). These previous matters led to meeting the requirements of the citizen, paying off foreign debts, working to absorb unemployment (Khadran, 2012), and seeking to achieve economic development. [emphasis added]
What Would Palestinian Students Prefer?
Palestinian Arabs can only dream of the very remote possibility that their leaders would do something to meet their needs, reduce unemployment and work to achieve economic development for the citizens’ sake. For some reason, however, Palestinian students’ political attitudes and confidence is measured as a degree of their felt impact on negotiations with Israel (page 164):
The study found that the weak percentage of the confidence of Al-Najah National University’s students in the efficiency of the Palestinian system and its effectiveness in achieving the peace process and ending the state of division is due to inequality in power balance between the Palestinian political system and Israel. According to Palestinians, there has been no change in the peace process since 1993. Israel has worked to confiscate more lands and intensified the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories in order to impose fait accompli policy, which prevents the establishment of Palestinian state. It wants the peace process to achieve its goals by expanding and further confiscating Palestinian territories, which is an obstacle to peace (Abu Hamid, 2015).
Were you able to absorb all of that garbage?
According to the authors, Al-Najah students do not see themselves engaging in political activities because they do not feel they can have much impact because of the split between Hamas and Fatah (page 164):
The researcher attributes the weakness of the level of orientation towards the self as a political actor for Al- Najah National University to their conviction that they cannot affect decision and policy making. This influence cannot be achieved in light of the continued state of political division in the Palestinian arena. Therefore, they call for negotiations and they believe that negotiations are the best way to achieve are the best way to achieve Palestinian demands and resorting to the United Nations again will siege Israel which leads it to meet the demands of the Palestinians (Abu Hamid, 2015). [emphasis added]
I find it absolutely amazing how they write that the students feel they cannot have any political influence as long as Hamas and Fatah remain at logger heads, but if the UN just found a way to successfully batter Israel into submission, then everything in the PA will be hunky dory. I think the authors of this paper (and the reviewers who recommended its publication) should take a first-year university course in philosophy to learn elementary logic.
If the authors (and others) really yearn for truly free political participation on the part of university students in the PA, they would take a page from the Algerian guide to enhancing student engagement in the political arena (page 164):
The study also attributes the high level of positive trends towards the political ability and effectiveness of the university youth’s respondents in Algeria towards themselves as political actors or if they are given the opportunity to achieve this and participate in political decision- making to a set of policies and laws adopted by President Bouteflika aimed at empowering young people and making them partners in all fields, especially the political field. [emphasis added]
I have the feeling that truly empowering young people and making them partners, as they say happened in Algeria, actually scares the pants off the authors as well as the leaderships in authoritarian regimes all around the world, in general and in our neighbourhood, in particular.
Better, then, to blame the Israeli “Occupation”. Oh, we are such a wonderfully useful scapegoat.
The Canadian Center of Science and Education (CCSE) is the company hosting this journal and several others. They are a for-profit organization offering to publish open-access articles for a fee ($400 — that is cheap). I looked at a few other articles they published and the English was similarly terrible. This means that they do not even proofread what they put up online. They do not care about anything other than getting $400 per article.
This particular journal, Asian Social Science, has been published since 2008. I checked some of their older volumes. Luckily the articles on Palestine are getting few citations, but an article on Vietnam had 24 citations and those citations had citations. That means that this journal has the potential of gaining traction. The Vietnam article was written in good English, which might explain how it was picked up by others. So we have to hope that the CCSE does not get their act together and correct the English in articles dealing with Israel/Palestine. But that might not matter to some, and I can easily see other so-called academics using these articles to bash Israel.
[…] This article is a breath of fresh air after other articles that blame Israeli “occupation” for causing heart attacks among citizens of the PA, for example, or for preventing students in PA universities from voicing their opinions on the Fatah-Hamas conflict. […]