Students accuse Birzeit University of 'promoting normalization' with Israel

IDF soldiers arrested five students affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian opposition factions, leading to Palestinian students accusing Birzeit University of promoting normalization with Israel.

 Palestinian students take part in an elections campaign for the Student Council at the Birzeit University campus in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 21, 2008.  (photo credit: FADI AROURI/REUTERS)
Palestinian students take part in an elections campaign for the Student Council at the Birzeit University campus in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 21, 2008.
(photo credit: FADI AROURI/REUTERS)

Palestinian students and political activists have demanded the replacement of the Bir Zeit University administration for its alleged failure to guarantee the safety of its students. Some accused the university administration and the Palestinian Authority of collaboration with Israel and promoting normalization between Palestinians and Israelis.The criticism came after soldiers on Monday detained five Bir Zeit University students affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian opposition factions: Ismail Barghouti, Walid Harazneh, Qassam Nakhleh, Abdel Hafez Sharabati, and Mohammed al-Khatib.

On Tuesday, dozens of students demonstrated near the northern entrance to El-Bireh, the twin city of Ramallah, and clashed with soldiers in protest over the detentions. Bir Zeit University is located a few kilometers north of Ramallah and El-Bireh.
Earlier, the students staged a protest on campus, during which they condemned the detention of their colleagues and criticized the administration, Israel, and the PA. Students affiliated with the ruling Fatah faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas were not among those detained by the IDF, protesters said. PA security forces have been waging a crackdown on students affiliated with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), they added.
Founded in 1972, Bir Zeit University describes itself as “the most prestigious Palestinian university, transforming Palestinian higher education through its impact on community awareness, culture, and resistance [against Israel].”Since then, the university has become a hotbed of political activity and Palestinian nationalism directed mostly against Israel.
The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc has a strong presence on campus, and its members have won a majority of student council seats in previous elections. This has created ongoing tensions between the Hamas-affiliated students and those belonging to Fatah on campus. Those tensions reached their peak last month when Hamas and PFLP supporters on campus held separate ceremonies to mark the anniversary of their groups’ founding.
Bir Zeit University near Ramallah (credit: FLICKR)Bir Zeit University near Ramallah (credit: FLICKR)
The university administration tried to limit the ceremonies by closing large halls as part of coronavirus restrictions. PA security forces raided and searched dormitories and arrested several students. Last month, violence erupted between Fatah and Hamas supporters on campus, prompting the administration to briefly suspend studies. Since Monday’s detentions by the IDF, students and political activists have launched an online campaign calling for the university administration to be replaced.
The organizers of the campaign, titled, “Down with the Bir Zeit Administration” and “Down with the Administration of Normalization,” accused the heads of the university of being in “collusion” with Israel and the PA to prevent student activities on campus. The campaign specifically targeted three senior administration officials.