The fiercely waged, century-long conflict on the ground of historic Palestine between the Jews, who from the mid-nineteenth century have mainly immigrated from Europe, and the Arab Palestinians, who live there—and have been living there for centuries/thousands of years—primarily started in the educational field. With the establishment of the Technion Institute in 1912, the Political Zionist movement started to develop a higher education system (HES) that could deliver the human capital needed for the building of a prosperous state, one built on the occupation and expropriation of Palestinian land and material property, on the expulsion of the people who lived there, on a system of apartheid, and, at long last, on the denial and destruction of the Palestinian identity. It was only sixty years later that a Palestinian response in the field of higher education was in a position to start with the establishment of Hebron University in 1971, followed by over fifty other Palestinian higher education institutes (HEIs). Despite current numerical parity in the population of around 6.5 million each (The New Arab 2018) and the number of HEIs (over fifty each) on the ground of historic Palestine, a devastating multi-sectorial power discrepancy exists in favor of the visions of Political Zionism. The power discrepancy and the irreconcilable narratives developed on both sides render peaceful compromises impossible. Through bibliographic research, this paper provides an outsider’s general snapshot of the current state of higher education in Palestine in order to explore its relation to conflict narratives, to power gap, and to major political events. It presents ideas for an intra-Palestinian, just as a regional and a global, discourse on how the still weak Palestinian HES in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could be improved to further strengthen Palestinian economic and scientific progress. It reflects on how to expand into a pan-Palestinian HES that, in addition, targets Palestinian refugees and diaspora Palestinians from all over the world, as well as Palestinians living in Israel. Beyond this demographic expansion, this essay suggests an academic engagement with the strengthening of historic Palestinian identity and the restitution of its cultural Druze and Jewish components, which were lost during the last century of conflict. This strengthened renewed multi-religious (now multilingual) Palestinian identity can also offer a long-term perspective for a peaceful solution, a perspective which cannot be offered by the exclusive Political Zionism.
From Higher Education in Historic Palestine towards a Pan-Palestinian Higher Education
Khalid Shibib is a German-Palestinian neurosurgeon who was born in Jaffa and studied and specialized in Iraq and Germany and worked with the Palestine Red Crescent Society in several Arab countries. He has worked as a coordinator/advisor in the field of humanitarian health assistance for the last few decades, and as such worked in many crisis-affected countries, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. He is the author of several publications in neuroscience and co-author in other publications in neuroscience and public health. In addition he wrote a novel and small Arab poetry book. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Khalid Shibib; From Higher Education in Historic Palestine towards a Pan-Palestinian Higher Education. Contemporary Arab Affairs 1 September 2021; 14 (3): 21–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/caa.2021.14.3.21
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