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School of Law

Update on Legal Education at Birzeit University

In summer of this year, a delegation of academics from British universities, including the School of Law’s Dr Tanzil Chowdhury and Dr Tom MacManus, visited Birzeit University in the West Bank, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and met with academic staff and students to explore possibilities of co-operation and collaboration.

Birzeit University campus in the West Bank

Birzeit University Campus in the West Bank, Palestine. Photo via the Birzeit University website.

Over the past several months, both Dr Chowdhury and Dr MacManus have spent time developing academic links with the Institute of Law at Birzeit under the guidance of its Director, Ms Reem Al-Botmeh. In their recent meetings however, the starkness of recent events brought into acute focus the trials and tribulations of trying to deliver university education during a prolonged and entrenched occupation and, most recently, in the face of the deadly Israeli air strikes and ground attacks that followed the killings and abductions perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October.

The UN Secretary General says (on 6 December) that since 7 October, more than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals, including 33 children, have been reportedly killed and thousands injured. Over 15,000 Palestinians have been reportedly killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children, and thousands have been injured across Gaza and Israel.

In Gaza, many institutes of higher education have been destroyed by the Israel Defence Forces. Of Gaza’s six universities, five have reported buildings damaged or destroyed. The Islamic University of Gaza, the strip’s oldest institution, reported nine of its 14 buildings levelled by Israeli airstrikes, which included the killing of the university’s president, Professor Sufyan Tayeh.

While attention is understandably focussed on Gaza, the situation in the West Bank has also deteriorated. In their conversations with Ms Reem Al-Botmeh, Dr Chowdhury and Dr MacManus learned how university education is suffering as a result of an intensifying of the Israeli occupation. Ms Al-Botmeh indicated that her students were preoccupied with the horror of the violence, distressed by what they view as a lack of international justice, and afraid to come to the university campus for fear of arrest, or worse.

She told them that the intensification of violence – according to the UN, 200 Palestinians in the West Bank are estimated to have been killed through Israeli military or settler attacks in the past month - and the restriction of movement through the heightening of security at checkpoints meant that teaching delivery has been transferred online in the interest of student safety. She also reported a dramatic rise in the number of Palestinians arrested and detained by Israeli security forces - according to the UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, more than 3,000 Palestinians, including many academics and students, have been arrested in the West Bank since 7 October.

Dr MacManus, said:

“Colleagues from Birzeit University have displayed tremendous resilience and are determined to fulfil their obligations to their students and uphold the Right to Education. They and their students have reached out to Queen Mary for support. Academics at the School of Law continue to create and foster links and look forward to participating in a range of collaborative activities in the coming months.

“A collective of experts, led by the International State Crime Initiative, a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime, have echoed the concerns of Birzeit academics in their recent International Expert Statement

Learn about the law school in Birzeit and support the organisation that sends delegations to the university.

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