“The Palestinian academic does not have the option to distance himself and be satisfied by the ‘educator’ role, who publishes specialized research papers and obtains promotions on them, just like professors in stable societies,” he said. The Palestinian academic “has a moral responsibility towards his homeland and not to retreat and specialize only in specific academic knowledge that has nothing to do with the struggle.”
With Palestine’s higher education institutions, academics, and students being targeted, supporting the education sector is a priority for the Palestine Academic Group. Given its limited financial resources, it works to build bridges of cooperation between academic institutions abroad and Palestinian ones, creating joint programs and projects, in addition to supervising postgraduate students at Palestinian universities.
Pal-Ac does not receive funding from any government, non-governmental organization, or individual donors. The group’s activities are self-financed by its members only.
Dialogue As a Tool for Change
Sari Hanafi, a professor of sociology at the American University of Beirut and a member of the group, believes that the importance of the group comes from the diversity of its members’ ideologies and backgrounds, and their ability to conduct dialogue on Palestine and refugee issues in a “liberal” manner away from “monocultural” groups and research centers dominated by one ideology, that are usually part of the state’s propaganda machine.
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Hanafi, who is the first Arab president of the International Sociological Association, said that Pal-Ac includes voices close to the Palestinian Authority, others that align with Hamas’s point of view, and other “completely independent voices.” However, this disagreement is richly reflected in the conduct of debating issues.
The academic group also includes three female Palestinian academics working in universities inside and outside Palestine, including Abeer al-Najjar, who was born in Jordan to a Palestinian family displaced from the village of Emmaus in 1967, by armed Zionist groups.
Despite her inability to visit Palestine over the past decades, her country’s cause has always been present, thanks to the stories of her mother, who helped her to weave her relationship with Palestine and Palestinian rights, till she chose to conduct her Ph.D. research on the subject of British media coverage of the conflict over Jerusalem. She is now a researcher in political communication and media studies.