This Palestinian School Hosts Hamas Military Parades. It Also Hosts Webinars With Professors From Top US Universities.

Birzeit University’s Right to Education Campaign seeks to build ‘tactics of focused resistance’

Palestinian Hamas militants (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
February 26, 2024

In the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel, professors and students from prominent U.S. universities have participated in virtual discussions on the Jewish state's retaliatory war organized by a Palestinian university that hosts campus military parades honoring Hamas.

Birzeit University, which is located in the West Bank and bills itself as "a thorn in the side of the occupation," operates the Right to Education Campaign, a self-described "grassroots Palestinian movement" aimed at documenting "academic institutions under Israeli military operation." The campaign has held a number of virtual events featuring U.S. professors and students.

Last month, for example, it held a webinar titled, "Gaza Genocide: An Israeli Crime Against Humanity" that featured Princeton University international law professor Richard Falk, San Francisco State University ethnic studies professor Rabab Abdulhadi, and University of California, Los Angeles, history professor Robin D.G. Kelley. Those academics, along with representatives from Birzeit and other activists, discussed "the rising repression under Israeli rule" as well as "the US role in enabling the Israeli genocide as well as our capacity to respond and make change." At one point in the webinar, Palestinian attorney Ahmed Abofoul justified Oct. 7 as "the result of 75 years of colonialism and apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people."

The event came roughly two years after Birzeit students held a pair of military parades celebrating the 34th and 54th founding anniversaries of Hamas and fellow terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, respectively. Mask-clad activists wore the two terror group's uniforms and carried flags and portraits of the group's founders. Hamas student leaders at Birzeit pledged to "remain loyal to the path of resistance," according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, and other participants saluted Hamas for carrying out suicide bombings in Israeli cities.

The professors' willingness to associate with Birzeit reflects the wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism seen on American college campuses since Oct. 7.

At Princeton, an Israeli-designated terror group that is banned by PayPal and other payment platforms, Samidoun, cosponsored a December rally urging "divestment from Israel." Days before the event took place, more than a dozen Princeton faculty members signed a letter accusing the Jewish state of a "genocidal assault on Gaza, of apartheid in the occupied West Bank, and of structural racism and discrimination inside the state of Israel."

Falk, Abdulhadi, and Kelley did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the three professors, Birzeit through its Right to Education Campaign has organized "virtual teach-ins" with a student group from the University of Southern California, Trojans for Palestine. On Jan. 24, it held an online event titled, "Confronting Genocide in Palestine," which included Rice University history professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti as a speaker. During that event, Samia Al-Botmeh, a Birzeit professor and Right to Education Campaign steering committee member, said "Israel's colonialism" was the "root cause" of Oct. 7.

Last year, meanwhile, the campaign brought students to Birzeit's campus from Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and New York University. Right to Education Campaign organizer Sundos Hammad spoke to the students about "Israeli violations."

Birzeit's Right to Education Campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The school launched the campaign, which seeks to "expose the systematic obstruction of Palestinian higher education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," in 1988, according to its website. The campaign also developed "tactics of focused resistance" against Israeli military checkpoints in the early 2000s, its site says, and in late November, it called on American universities to "support in dismantling" Israel's "settler colonial and apartheid system."

"The world must recognize Zionism for what it is: a genocidal settler project built on false mythology and sustained through perpetual violence against Indigenous Palestinians," Birzeit's Right to Education Campaign said in a statement.

Beyond the Right to Education Campaign, Birzeit and its student body has long displayed an affinity for Hamas.

In a May 2022 student government vote, more than half of Birzeit's students backed the campus group associated with Hamas, known as "the Islamic Bloc." The group campaigned under the slogan, "Give voice to the resistance" and distributed stickers emblazoned with rifles.

More than a year later, following Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, Birzeit proclaimed "glory for martyrs" in an Oct. 10 social media post. One week later, the school falsely accused Israel of bombing the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, which was actually struck by a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.

"Birzeit University calls on the international community to put an end to the genocide and war crimes of the Israeli occupation against Palestinians," the school wrote in response to the incident. "The latest and worst of which is the massacre in Ahli Arab Hospital (Baptist) in Gaza, resulting in more than 500 martyrs."