Adwan: UMN’s partnership with the Technion indicates a disregard for Palestinian students.

This is yet another reason for me and other Palestinian-American students to believe that the University simply does not have our best interests at heart.

by Noor Adwan

On Oct. 8, the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) unveiled a new opportunity for CSE students to spend a semester abroad in Israel and study at the Technion, a university that actively partners with arms corporations who play a crucial role in Israeli human rights violations.

The Technion Israel Institute of Technology has intimate ties to military corporations like Rafael and Elbit Systems, whose technologies are integral to the oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. Elbit Systems, for example, is one of the main contributors to the separation wall in the West Bank, which has been condemned by both the U.N. General Assembly and the International Court of Justice as being in violation of international law.

This exchange program also starkly reveals inequities in access to occupied land. While students who have no ties to Palestine are given easy access through this program, students in the diaspora face overwhelming challenges when trying to access the occupied Palestinian territories in order to see family or simply visit home.

I spoke to Nadia Aruri, an Urban Studies student who currently serves as the president of the University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. She recounted to me an experience she had on her 18th birthday when trying to cross into Palestine through Jordan.

Aruri said she was separated from the group she was traveling with at the Sheikh Hussein border and interrogated by soldiers with rifles strapped across their chests for hours. She said it was embarrassing, frightening and that the heat was unbearable. “They just want to make it as miserable as possible,” she said.

She described feeling afraid and disoriented, alternating between being in a tiny interrogation room and being made to take walks outside in the sweltering heat. She said that the soldiers didn’t answer her questions, and she wasn’t sure whether she would be allowed in to visit her family. Ultimately, after four hours of interrogation, she was allowed entry.

But she was lucky. Aruri said that people she knows have been sent back on flights the same day they attempted to cross the border, and she knew of others that had been barred from entering Palestine for a period of time or even detained after attempting to cross. She said these decisions were often arbitrary, depending on “the mood that the soldier is in.”

This experience reflects the detachment and chaos inherent in being a member of the Palestinian diaspora. While your peers are invited to visit occupied Palestine for an academic opportunity or a free birthright trip, you must contend with the reality that, for you, return would be at best inconvenient and at worst impossible. Some don’t have the opportunity to even attempt to go back home – many refugees, expelled from their homes and land beginning in the 1940s, have been exiled or refused entry.

I reached out to CSE abroad and asked them whether they stood by their decision in the wake of student disapproval. I reached Jake Ricker, a PR director for the University who told me that the University does not “intend to change its affiliation with” the E3 consortium – through which CSE is affiliated with the Technion – and plans to continue providing opportunities for students to explore exchange options.

This is not the first time the University has passed over the needs of students in the Palestinian diaspora. In 2018, a divestment referendum was passed, calling on the University to divest from Israeli corporations complicit in violations of human rights and indigenous sovereignty. These measures were never adopted, Aruri said.

“It’s really disappointing,” Aruri said, noting that other than campus referendums, which are non-binding, students have no way to make a significant change.