I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the final installment in the four-part series.
With the other pieces, I’ve let the student speak first, only adding my comments at the end. But this excerpt points toward a surprising ideological issue that arose between my student and myself, so I feel the need to preface it.
During discussion in class one day, the subject of Israel’s renaming of destroyed Palestinian villages arose. This student felt frustrated with my insistence on using only Arabic place names and she took a position that proved unpopular with her peers: that both the Jews and Palestinians have historical and emotional connections to the land and that, accordingly, both the Hebrew and Arabic names should be used and respected.
Not only was I surprised by her stance, it also challenged me. My student seemed more comfortable and more at peace with Israel than I am. Our in-class discussion, as well as the essay she wrote shortly thereafter, opened many questions, and they’re questions I don’t have answers to.
Has my student, who grew up in East Jerusalem, been brainwashed by attending (Israeli-controlled) public schools? The difficult economic situation and the housing crisis there–both results of the occupation–forced my student and her family to leave East Jerusalem in 2009, two years before Israel took the step of outright censorship of Palestinian textbooks. However, as an employee of the Israeli school system tells me, Palestinian teachers who are openly critical of Israel risk losing their jobs. Hatim Kanaaneh does a nice job of giving a firsthand account of this in his memoir A Doctor in the Galilee. He also describes how those who march in line with Israeli ideology might find themselves rewarded.
So is my student just repeating what she learned in a school system that strips her of her Palestinian identity? Or are her views the result of being a part of the normalizing, “co-existence” program she mentions below? Is she just being pragmatic or is she just navigating the reality she finds on the ground as best she can?
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