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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.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

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.

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  • Charles Rank
    Feb 18, 2022 at 11:35 am

    Tying the ‘needs of students in the Palestinian diaspora’ to denying all students the opportunity to study at a highly prestigious academic institution does not do well to get your point across.

    Instead of spending half the article focusing on how long it took your peer to cross the border, why not provide evidence with numbers and data to paint a clearer picture of the Technion’s ties to arms development companies that directly contribute to the occupation? This article does not leave me convinced.

  • Meat Eater
    Nov 15, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    let’s face it, Arabs were screwed over by the British and French, they were promised independence for their help in fighting in two WW’s, but alas, settling Jews in Palestine and setting up a Jewish state took front seat, now add in the fact many Jews had relocated to the US before and after WWII, money talks, so do voters, you just don’t have the numbers or the influence, I mean really, you probably voted for Democrats, but when have you ever heard a Democrat (or for that matter, any politician) pandering for your vote? When your vote matters, you’ll have a seat at the table.

  • Tim
    Nov 9, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Believe it or not, the wold doesn’t actually revolve around your pet issue of “Palestine”

  • A Gopher
    Nov 9, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Before we paint ourselves as victims it’s important to understand how we got here in the first place. Millions of jews were slaughtered during WWII. At the conclusion of the war both Europe and America did not want any jews to relocate to their respective territories. Thus, a new state was carved from the former UK territory of Palestine to accommodate the displaced people. Every single muslamic country bordering Israel declared war on her so whilst you would play victim remember your role as attacker and the fact that the US and Europe partitioned Palestine, not the jews. You must know thy own self before casting ignorant aspersions onto other, more heavily victimized people. Furthermore, the purpose of life of should not be a victimhood measuring contest, but rather one of earned merit and accomplishment. This partnership leads towards the latter whilst your plaintive whining leads towards the former.

  • Daliot
    Nov 9, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    The Technion is on par with our MIT, among the top three hardest schools to get into in the US. Every student with an interest in advanced sciences and technologies would be very fortunate to study at the Technion. The writer may be surprised to know how many Arabs teach and study at the Technion. It’s not always about victim politics.

  • UMN0001
    Nov 9, 2021 at 8:48 am

    How about the U focus on opportunities for students to succeed, such as this study abroad program. The U of M has no business being political and picking sides, especially when there is a large Israeli and Jewish community on campus.