Thursday 10 April 2014

Empathy in action

"I will not be a bystander"
Prof Mohammed Dajani Daoudi responds to critics who denounced his decision to take a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz-Birkenau

I will not be a bystander
Al-Quds University issued a statement to distance itself from the tour.
In a statement, Al-Quds University announced that it had nothing to do with the Auschwitz-Birkenau visit. The university said that this was a private visit by Professor Dajani and the students. "They do not represent the university," the statement said. "Professor Dajani is on leave and was not entrusted by the university [to arrange the visit]." Bir Zeit University issued a statement saying no students from the university participated in the trip.
A scathing attack on me and students filled the social media.
"I don't understand how the [Palestinian] students accept normalization [with Israel]," wrote a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah on his Facebook page. "This professor is the king of kings of normalization."
The leading Palestinian daily, Al-Quds, which reported about the visit, triggered a heated debate among readers about the visit.
The paper later had to delete some reader responses that accused me of treason and collaboration. When the inciting comments reached a peak the newspaper withdrew the article with all its comments. I received emails warning me not to go to Ramallah or the university. I was accused of of trying to change the Palestinians' mentality "by brainwashing generations and teaching them big lies and fabrications such as the Holocaust and the suffering of Jews so that they would accept the theft of their land."
Palestinian columnist Abdullah Dweikat expressed regret over the visit and called on Palestinian academics to stop the "pilgrimage" to Nazi death camps. "I felt pain over the visit by Palestinian university students to Auschwitz-Birkenau," he wrote. "Yes we are human beings who reject genocide. But our humanity rejects any attempt to bypass the suffering of our people, who are being slaughtered every day at the hands of the occupiers. Wouldn't it have been better had our professors and students visited Yarmouk refugee camp [in Syria] or refugee camps in Lebanon to see the real suffering?" Others said this is not freedom of expression but treason.
My response to all this tirade is that my duty as a teacher is to teach, to have my students explore the unexplored, to open new horizons for my students, to guide my students out of the cave of perceptions and misperceptions to see the facts and the reality on the ground, to break the walls of silence, to demolish the fences of taboos, to swim against the tide in search of truth, in sum, to advance the knowledge and learning of my students in adhering to the verse in the Holy Quran, "{And say My God increase my knowledge.}.. If there are those who do not see or do not like that, it is their problem not mine. I will go to Ramallah, I will go to the university, I will put my photos of the visit on facebook, and I do not regret for one second what I did. As a matter of fact, I will do it again if given the opportunity. I will not hide, I will not deny. I will not be silent. I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of the suffering I show empathy for are my perpetrators and my occupiers. And this is my final statement on this issue..
(From the Hearts of Flesh - Not Stone Facebook page)