Thanks to Omar Barghouti for forwarding this.
In a poll conducted by the Birzeit University Union of Faculty and Employees in May of 2005, approximately two thirds of the University’s academics, researchers and administrative staff objected to joint Palestinian-Israeli academic cooperation projects. The poll shows that a large majority believes that such projects benefit the Israeli side far more than the Palestinian side. Most staff members polled also believe that such projects harm Palestinian interests.
A representative sample of 188 staff members (excluding a non response-rate of 4.8%) participated in this study. Participants were chosen systematically (every third name) from a complete list of personnel organized in alphabetical order. Volunteer University students completed the fieldwork — after receiving adequate training — during the first part of May 2005. The results of this survey are generalizable to all those working at the University.
Summary of Results
Percentage distribution of responses to poll questions
Joint projects serve the Palestinian people
24 Do Not Know
Joint projects serve the Israeli side and not the Palestinian one
22 Do Not Know
Joint projects harm the Palestinian cause under the prevailing circumstances
20 Do Not Know
Joint projects require national legitimization
13 Do Not Know
Joint projects contradict the principles of boycott adopted by Palestinians, Arabs and international academics
10 Do Not Know
I object in principle to such cooperation as it harms Palestinian national interests
9 Do Not Know
Nearly four decades of Israeli military occupation have resulted in the systematic destruction of Palestinian higher education, including the capacity for scientific research. In view of this, the often well-funded joint projects may be seen by some Palestinian academics as the imperfect alternative in a resource-starved environment. Indeed, most of this poll’s respondents thought that those who engage in such joint projects do so with financial incentives as their main motive.
This poll’s findings underline the need to directly invest in Palestinian academic and scientific capacity building, rather than in joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that serve Israeli interests far more than Palestinian interests. A direct investment would not only respect the autonomy of Palestinian academic institutions, but would also support these institutions in developing, producing scientific research and serving their communities to the best of their abilities. Conditioning support to Palestinians on partnership with Israelis only perpetuates the colonial relationship of oppressor and oppressed. Ultimately, international groups and institutions wishing to support the Palestinian academy cannot but call for the end of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land, the root cause of de-development, misery and social suffering in Palestine.
Muhammad Abuzeid President, Birzeit University Union of Faculty and Employees