Wisconsin-La Crosse students, professors get firsthand account of Israeli violations in visit to campus

Seven students and two professors from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse visited Birzeit University on Monday, June 26, 2019, as part of a tour organized by the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange. 

During the visit, the Wisconsin-La Crosse team attended a lecture by Fathi Nemer, a research and teaching assistant at the Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, who discussed the living conditions of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation and highlighted Israeli violations of basic human rights. 

“The entire West Bank is operated as an Israeli military dictatorship, regardless of the designation of areas A, B, and C,” Nemer stated in the lecture, explaining that the Israeli occupation dominates all aspects of life. Israel determines issues such as where Palestinians can live — it’s very difficult for Palestinians to live in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the West Bank; while Gazans cannot visit the West Bank despite relevant provisions in the Oslo Accords — how much water they receive, irrespective of where they live; and whether or not they have cell phone coverage.

Nemer also highlighted Israeli discriminatory laws and practices against Palestinians who live in Jerusalem and within the Green Line where biased enforcement of laws and denial of access to basic resources and human rights are normal, everyday occurrences for Palestinian residents. 

Explaining the situation in Gaza, Nemer said that the coastal enclave has remained under siege for the past 12 years, resulting in severe shortages of life-critical resources such as water and medicine. He highlighted that these conditions will create a “humanitarian catastrophe” if not immediately addressed. In addition to the blockade, the Israeli occupation uses snipers and aerial bombardment to secure its domination over Gaza, Nemer added. 

After the lecture, the Wisconsin-La Crosse delegation met with representatives of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University who highlighted Israeli violations against the Palestinian right to education.

Israeli measures range from closures of the university’s campus — 15 since 1967, the longest of which lasted 51 months — to persistent harassment and arrests of students and professors (more than 70 Birzeit University students are currently detained in Israeli prison) and the denial of visas and work permits of faculty, impacting the recruitment of international or Palestinian-origin faculty and the accreditation of the university on an international level.