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Science in Palestine (Part 3): Themes from the Conference

Science in Palestine (Part 3): Themes from the Conference

In part 3 of our Science in Palestine series, we highlight themes from The Second International Conference for Science in Palestine, which took place in November 2018 at Columbia University.

Transcript (please excuse any errors)

 [Music Intro ♫]  


LaToya Strong [LS]: Hey, listeners. Welcome to Abolition Science Radio. We're your hosts. I'm

LaToya Strong ...  


Atasi Das [AD]: And Atasi Das. We are here to talk all things science and math, and their relationship to...  


LS: Colonialism.  


AD: Oppression.  


LS: Resistance.   


AD: Education.   


LS: Liberation.  


AD: And so much more.   


[ ♫ Music fade out.]   



LS: Hey listeners, we are back with the next part of our series on Science and Palestine.


AD: Yes. Welcome back!


LS: #Maze


AD: Ha ha ha ha.


LS: sorry, ha.


AD: How you doing?


LS: I’m good. Ha ha ha ha. So we're recording pieces of this episode and the episode on antisemitism like one after the other-


AD: In the new studio.


LS: In the new studio and any studio. So like the whole like, how are you doing? You've already heard how we're doing or I mean, we've already said it so maybe you heard it depending on which one of these comes first. But yeah, we are in a new studio.


AD: It's called Damatrix studios.


LS: It's pretty dope.


AD: In the Bronx. Yeah.


LS: We've recorded here once before, but we were sort of waiting for our plan with the other place to expire. It wasn't really us, that place.


AD: Yeah.


LS: No, it was a mad- like mad stuffy and uptight in there. Yeah.


AD: But we're happy to be here.


LS: We’re so happy to be here- Yeah!


AD: And happy to be back with you. So, let's get into it. What's our go-to?


LS: You know what I realized Atasi?


AD: Uh oh.


LS: Listen, [AD: Ha ha ha] wait. I don't remember which episode from Season Two, I was like Atasi. I've got two go-to’s for you - and I only gave you one and you know what you did.


AD: What's that?


LS: You responded.


AD: [Both Laughing] That's gotta be a first.


LS: So, I'm only going to give you one.


AD: Ok.


LS: I'm going to give you one and that's it.


AD: I'm ready. All right.


LS: Today is June 20th. Okay. Tomorrow is June 21st. Okay. Summertime- summer summer summer time, #WillSmith. [AD: Ha ha ha] Um, all right. For the beach, what is your go-to genre of music? Do you have a go-to song that's like, when you’re at the beach, you always play it?


AD: Ok.


LS: I wanna know your go to song for the beach.


AD: For the beach. I really like reggaeton. I don't know, it's like beachy.


LS: Ha ha ha ha.


AD: I don't have a- well because it's like, you know, you want to move, you want to dance and you know, when you hear it, it just makes you want to do that. But you know, pick a particular song. I don't have one in mind. Uh, yeah, I would say that genre. You always ask me - it's interesting, you ask me about songs and it's like, I was just saying this earlier, it's so hard for me to recall the name of many things, ha, or the name of anything. And I bet after this clip, I will be like, Oh yeah, I could've said this song. So I have, yeah, it's there. This is all that's in my mind at the moment. Do you have a beach song?


LS: Do I have a beach song? I don't know, girl.

[Both laughing.]




LS: Do I really… [ha ha ha] I came up with that on the spot. I really liked the sound of the beach. Like the water, and like the waves lapping.


AD: Oh, you're saying no song? You say no song. You're like natural song?


LS: I think that's cheating. Now I'm calling you a cheater.


AD: Ha ha ha ha. No, I don't think that's cheating. That's fine.


LS: But I do. I always take a speaker. I always played sort of like upbeat music. Maybe some like old school, like Black cookout music, some Frankie Beverly. And Maze.


AD: Can you sing some for us?


LS: Am I going to sing it?


AD: Mhmm.


LS: No, I'm not going to sing it. I do want to say it is too soon, y'all to put Frankie Beverly on the back, and Maze, on the back burner and only be playing Beyonce. Start with the original and then transition. [AD: Ha ha ha] Just so we're all clear. So we're going to respect our elders. We not doing that.


AD: Wow.


LS: We're not doing it.



AD: Thanks.


LS: You're welcome. PSA! It's an important PSA. Next thing you know, it's going to be like 10 years and all the kids are going to be like –


AD: Some all, someone else without even paying homage.


LS: This song that Beyonce wrote, no. Ha ha ha, that's not what happened. Ok.


AD: So this episode, what are we going to be focusing on or talking about in the series?


LS: We are going to focus on the actual Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine. So we are going to be pulling out soundbites. So, for those that couldn't make it or for those that did make it and you just want a refresher on what happened, um, to sort of highlight some of the conversations that went on there.


AD: Yes. Like a CliffsNotes version of the Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine.


LS: So, it was over three days. So it was November 9th, 10th and 11th of 2018. [Both chuckle.] And so we all give you, there was like several different sessions and conversations.


LS: So we'll list those for you. So you know what, yeah.


AD: And then we'll play some clips from pieces of them and kind of some of the takeaways- or some kind of like major things that we thought were really important from the conference. So like I said, kind of like a CliffsNotes version. But those sessions, there were really interesting sessions. [LS: Mhmm.] I have some of the titles in front of me. There was an update from Palestine. So, there was quite a few of the speakers. Actually most of the speakers that were a part of the panels were Skyping in cause travel, and crossing borders and checkpoints is a real actual barrier. [LS: Mhmm.] So, there was an update from a couple of different groups. Um, there was also a panel on Healthcare in Palestine [LS: Mhmm.] and I can't remember if this is like, there was one session about the experience of scientists in Palestine and another session that was really interesting of, is science apolitical?


AD: So that was a couple of them. I don't know. Did I miss any?


LS: There's one on the international efforts supporting Science in Palestine. And then one on like, science under military occupation. I think that's all of them.


AD: Pretty indicative. Ok.


LS: Yeah.


AD: Yeah. So that's just kind of like to give you an overview of what happened and like we were sharing earlier, so we'll just kind of play you clips and um, share some of our takeaways as we play those clips.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


LS: So we have five themes that stuck out for us and being there at the conference and then going back through all of our notes and recordings, and it was a process. So we started with a lot, a lot longer list, and then just sort of combined them [AD: Mhmm.] and collapsed them to make the process easier for us.


AD: Yeah. So, some of the themes that we're going to be going through that came up throughout all the, the sessions were [1] isolation and restricted mobility. That was one. And then [2] science under occupation, really highlighting the question of access that was to, uh, [3] science in Palestine is political. So that being teased out was the third one. [4] Women in science was the fourth theme. And then, the last one was [5] global connections and resistance. So, those were the five things that came up that we saw.


LS: Yeah. So let's delve into this first theme.


[Whooshing sound effect.]




AD: So our first theme is about isolation and restricted mobility. And Toya, I saw this as reoccurring. Do you agree that was…?

LS: Yeah, this is maybe the most reoccurring theme. And so it came up in every session and in different ways. [AD: Yeah.] And so we really wanted to touch on this. How occupation, um, via through military checkpoints and invisible checkpoints, how it impacted mobility.


AD: Yeah, let's take a listen.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 1 [CS1]: Oh, this is the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As you can see, there's no link between them and even the West Bank is fragmented. And everything has to do- everything that happens on the map, has to do, or is affected and affecting our education system. And we are gonna talk about that in our presentation. So, the fragmentation that you can see is because of the restriction of movement that is being imposed to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. As you all know, Gaza has been under siege since 2007. It’s like an open air prison for people in Gaza, where Israel controls everything, including what gets in and out of Gaza. And that affects the education system, but we’re not gonna talk about Gaza because I know that there’s a person I met on the panel and he will talk about Gaza.


For the West Bank, there are more than 500 checkpoints and military roadblocks. And there are more than 150 settlements in the West Bank alone. And there’s the Apartheid Wall of course, where when the Apartheid Wall is finished, more than 78 Palestinian villages and communities will be isolated from their Palestinian environment.


What has this to do with education? That made our education system localized. Meaning that in Birzeit University alone, we have more than 60% of our students coming from Ramallah and the villages near Ramallah. Where 30% or more than 30% comes from Jerusalem and other cities in the West Bank. And we have only 1% coming from Palestinians who live inside the ’48 Occupied Land. …Between practices and..


Conference Speaker 2 [CS2]: …Occupied Gaza.


CS1: Yeah, only 3-5 students a semester from Gaza Strip.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


CS2: And all of them [Professors and University Staff], the university depends on to teach in class in programs in foreign languages, and in literature, European and American history, economics – these kinds of disciplines we all need to develop and be fully prepared for students to be empowered with the knowledge that they need in order to fight this kind of occupation. And all of them, universities and other education systems, all around the world, they are taking internationalization as a key, as a driving force to level up and maintain in this globalized world.

But with these kind of policies, this can undermine the investment made by the international community in Palestine and Palestinian education that has stoked the dream of global knowledge and best practices, systems, and technologies of our institutions. We really need international professors, different cultures, different skills, in our campus in our academic life.



CS1: Moreover, we have collective punishments, we face collective punishments from the Israeli occupation. Part of them, they are being, attacking students. For example, for clarity, we have more than 300 Palestinians arrested students in the Israeli prisons. More than 60 of them, they are from Birzeit University. Since 2004, the Israeli occupation has arrested more than 10 elected representatives of the Student Council of Birzeit University, 7 of whom they were representatives at the time of the arrest. The attack of the students comes at the, or the charges [based on their activism inside campus – being part of the student council.]


[Whooshing sound effect.]



Conference Speaker 3 [CS3]: This is one of the things that we are suffering from, like, kind of isolation, scientifically and not scientifically as well. So, from my experience, I did my undergrad in Birzeit and about the situation in Palestine, by the way, one thing I can mention is that, first isolation as I said, second, (LS: Mhmm) my home city, my family was in Hebron city, are in Hebron city still and I used to go to Birzeit University, which is like 60km – like 40 miles away and it used to take me like at least two hours, sometimes 3-4 hours, sometimes it’s closed. I cannot go. Because of the checkpoints, there’s like checkpoints and all of these things and in my way from like Hebron to Birzeit, I have to go through like, Israel checkpoints, Israeli settlements, around me and stuff so, it’s like, we are like trapped, and we are completely controlled. Our movement by the Israeli government and this is really challenging and makes our life more difficult in science and in all aspects of life.




[Whooshing sound effect.]


CS3: And to go to Jerusalem, I need permission from Israel. So I need a Visa to get to the interview that will allow – give me the Visa. And, it was the Gaza War, so it was difficult to apply for the permission- not, like- they were not allowing anyone to go to Israel, to the Israeli part. So it was a little bit difficult and took me time to get that permit and go to Jerusalem, then I applied to the Visa, the whole process took time, also traveling outside Palestine from Gaza or West Bank, you cannot fly from Palestine itself. We have to go through Israeli checkpoints and from West Bank, we go to Jordan, I fly from ? Gazan, they go through to Egypt and they fly from Cairo or an Egyptian airport. So it’s like very limiting and very difficult to connect to the world, so this is one of the main problems that we are suffering from.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


AD: So from those pieces that you just heard, I'm sure it probably came to you cause we were like just choosing specific sound bytes to share with you. And so what was interesting about some of what was shared was, the ways that with the restriction of movement, so like whether it's going to school and like how many students are being arrested, or like how these organizations are responding to that, um, [LS: Mhmm.] that, that folks are organizing and still doing things to meet everyone's needs. So like, it's not like the checkpoints stops students from wanting to go to schools or even attempting to go to the schools, even though it's very real possibility that you're gonna be detained or there's going to be something that comes up. [LS: Mhmm.] So that was really striking to me. Yeah.


LS: Yeah. But I think there's this occupation I, we could talk about the, like the actual taking of the land. But then, you know, the way settler colonialism works is that you need to, the people can't be there anymore if you want to set up your settler state, but the people are still there.


LS: And so we have this physical control of bodies [AD: Mhmm.] to sort of put them where we want them to be at any given specific moments.


AD: Exactly.


LS: Yeah.


AD: Yeah. I mean, it brings up a conversation we had with Zeiad when he was doing a Brief History of Palestine where he talked about the way that the military structures and controls those basic needs of people.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: Like, so it's on a very, on every single level. So it's like from the use of like walking in the streets, water, like, larger scale things of even accessing clean potable water, um, schools. And you know, that is pervasive, I feel like, throughout the West Bank and Gaza. It's interesting that you, as you point to a settler colonialism, I don't know if that term came up in this conversation or in the conference so much.


LS: No it didn't.


AD: But that…


LS: At least not the set things that we attended.


AD: Yeah. And I don't know if it did. Yeah. Explicitly. And you kind of briefly just said it right now, but for our listeners, just to kind of, you know, this might be a new term, how might we understand what that-  what is that? What is that word talking about? What is it explaining? Settler Colonialism.


LS: Oh, Settler Colonialism?


AD: Yeah.


LS: Settler colonialism is one of the – ooh, man, they had so many forms of colonialism. They were busy! Ha ha ha.


LS: It's when you do not belong to a place. So, the United States as a settler state; Canada is a settler state; Palestine is a settler state-


AD: You mean Israel?


LS: Er, yes. But Palestine is Palestine, but the Is- like, they’re in Palestine.


AD: Yeah.


LS: I think in Palestine, or, Israel. Yes. Israel's a settler state.


AD: Yeah.


LS: And so you come in. And so in order for you to establish your society, you need to remove the people that are there. And in neither of these countries has it been a successful removal of all the people. And so, everything that you do has to continue to like, justify your existence. Does that make sense?


AD: Yeah. Yeah. To make it like, your land.


LS: To make it your land claim. Yeah. And so your laws, your rules, the things that you do.


AD: It's like why you see all these flags everywhere. I go to these small towns sometimes in the states and there are like so many US flags…and like, we know. I mean it’s like, it seems like a bit much. Like so much.


LS: Yeah.



AD: I'm like, we're in the United States.


LS: Yeah. And just to this back home. Just thinking about the ways that each of us may or may not be contributing to indigenous erasure in the lands that we're on, cause that contributes to the settler state.

AD: So it's in the histories and the telling of the place. It's in those stories. Um, it’s in like large ways. So you can be seen as like physical removing or like just like in these clips they talked about the military’s physical use. [LS: Mhmm.] But it's also in like the very history of what's learned about a place itself and what's named. So, yeah. Thanks for reintroducing us that to that term cause I think it's important to this conversation.




[Whooshing sound effect.]




LS: Theme two is science under occupation. A lot of the sessions focused on access to various needs in science education or difficulties gaining or getting resources and materials because of the occupation. So here's some ways that spoke about the everyday and long term struggles of science education.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 4 (CS4): So, the problem is that the military occupation has caused a variety of different barriers to health and healthcare in Palestine. And these, of course, many speakers have spoken to over the course of this conference. So it was, it was an honor to hear them speak as well. There are shortages of medical supplies, there are barriers to mobility that prevent access to treatment. Um, there's limited economic opportunity and then also limited educational opportunity. And those two factors, of course, are associated with poor health outcomes in general.

[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 3 (CS3, from above): But we find it difficult to continue our post-undergraduate, like graduate studies. First, in Palestine, we don’t have so many opportunities and the programs because we don’t have funds and human resources and all of these things. You cannot also like have labs and stuff (LS: Mhmm) to do, for financial reasons, also sometimes Israeli government, like everything enters Gaza, West Bank is like, should be allowed by Israelis. We cannot do things without their permission. So like, sometimes they just prevent us from bringing some materials, some chemicals, saying that this is for the security of Israel, etc.

So, this is one of the things that - this limits our experience as Palestinian students.


The other thing is traveling and connecting to the world. You know in science now, you have to connect, mainly in post-graduate, after you graduate from undergrad. You need connection, you need to know like the research, you know, sphere and people to know what’s going on outside to know what to focus on. So this was difficult.


[Whooshing sound effect.]



CS3: We Palestinians, like, we are highly encouraged to do science and all kind of discipline – disciplines. People are very curious and invested in doing science and research but unfortunately we don’t have the opportunities, the human resources, the funds to do so. We have all of these like, um, obstacles that are imposed on us through, from the Occupation. So hopefully things will get easier and hopefully like, international community will do something and support us.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


AD: So from those clips, what stuck out to me was this access that is like not just about an institution. So, you know, if it was about education and, like the universities or anything like that, that that access - like the ways that people are prevented access to institutions was not just like in the ways that I kind of typically think about it. Is like, okay, testing. Testing is a gateway [LS: Mhmm] gatekeeper to accessing things, or like math tests. But the access here is about physical confinement. It's like, it takes up space. And so, the other clip that really focused on healthcare also was like being impacted by like not being able to get, so like it's like the physical getting materials that are needed for patients. [LS: Mhmm.] You know, it's like so visceral and that was pretty striking and it's like pervasive. It infiltrates every aspect of life. So yeah, that's what stuck out for me. What about for you?




LS: Yes. So, I think with this, for me, it's like not - one, it places a particular type of focus on what is trying to be done. And so, a lot of it was like proving to the rest of the world that Palestinians can also do these types of sciences.


AD: You're talking about in the sessions? Or you're talking about in general?


LS: So, just the conf- or in the session. So just the things that came across. And so the dehumanization that happens instead of being able to produce and do the things you want to do, you're sort of stuck. Yeah.


AD: Yeah. So it's interesting cause you just brought up this idea of like, what the conversation around access brings up.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: And whether we're talking about access to develop in the ways that are already defined?

LS: Mhmm.


AD: Or - I think that what you just said was so poignant - or in the ways that we want to create it.


LS: Right.


AD: Like it could be anything else. We can make it up to what we want. I'm sorry, I just –


LS: No, no, no.


AD: I thought it was great.


LS: Conversation. And so, I think what I also get out of this, is that exchange of knowledge is limited because the movement of Palestinians students and of professors is confines and to get, to go visit somewhere else. It's the barriers, the window, the timeframe to do things is limited and controlled by [AD: the Israeli army] the Israeli army. People wanting to come in from other places, like, their barriers, because you're trying to get to Palestine is also hard. So just that exchange that happens between communities or people. Um, and then knowledge production is stifled, which goes back to what you were just saying. And so you're producing knowledge, but I think, are you able to truly move your community, and like, exactly where you want to go? No, because you're stuck trying to get materials. Or now you can't go to class.




AD: Yeah. I mean, one thing that was, that was like really just blew my mind as they were talking about how many students were in prison - imprisoned. [LS: Yeah.] And so there was like this number they put out there as like, we have more than 300 Palestinian students, students in Israeli prisons and 60 of them were from this one particular university. And so, I mean it's like, just imagine this. Imagine, if you're not in school - imagine that you think back to your last schooling experience. And like, 60 people of your class, or of your whatever, are in prison, in - by moving, or you know, for whatever different reasons. We might be able to actually say, yeah, I can imagine that because of different forces that may be happening, but in - regardless if we can imagine that actually happening and where in our realities are not, it's crazy.


LS: Yeah.


AD: That has a real significant consequences.


LS: Yeah. And I mean, and like people are surviving. And people are creating beautiful, beautiful things. But if you think, I mean just, you know, these global connections we think about indigenous people across the world, people in the African diaspora, just the things that get created. It's amazing and beautiful. But it's like all the things that could have also been done, [AD: Yeah.] We don't know. We haven't seen yet.


AD: I'm glad you highlighted resistance in, in those contexts. Yeah. Cause.


LS: And then the last point about this, is I feel like it creates another form of displacement for Palestinians because you in your own homeland, can't get what you need. Like you don't have access to the education that you want. And so it does force people to leave and go to school elsewhere. And some people do that, out of choice or want, but then I feel like this is done out of need.


AD: Right.


LS: Or you can't get a job there, so you have to go and work at a university in another country. So, it's another form of displacement.


AD: And this is like a global phenomena, a global story of forced movement.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: In my mind I'm like, there's multiple connections that are going off. I'm like, Yep, this happening here, here, here, here, here.


LS: Yep.


AD: Like we're seeing this, um, in so many places and Palestine is a very, you know, like amplifies kind of how we understand it in that specific place. So yeah. Cool.


[Whooshing sound effect.]





AD: So our third theme was about science in Palestine as being political. And this theme was, like we found it to be kind of present and also not present at the same time - or at least there was like some kind of tension around how we engage in the topic of science as being a political, as the discipline or as the ideas that are developed within scientific practices as being political in and of itself.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: So most science, you know, like in talking about access and like wanting to develop physics schools or wanting to, you know, like have doctors train, there's obviously a direct visceral need for those things and for those ideas and those knowledges. But also there's this sense that science was neutral, right?


LS: Mhmm.


AD: Like that what comes out of those scientific knowledges or in some, it wasn't really like interrogated if it was neutral or not. And so, like there were places in the conference where some panelists were more critical of science. That'll come up when we play the clips and some participants that we asked them and it really, you know, like people are thinking about this like science as a political entity itself [LS: Mhmm] and that terms of funding what it's developed. So listen in and this is some of those conversations, some in the sessions and some outside of them.

[Whooshing sound effect.]



Conference Speaker 5 (CS5): Much of what our conversation is when we engage with people from the United States, in talking? on Palestine, is to look at the Palestinian narrative as one of colonization and also one of decolonization. And then that process of developing decolonization whether of Palestine or of communities here in the United States, we know that that means giving - creating the conditions so a colonized people can rebuild their societies and rebuild their cultures. And the scientific community is so important to that. But I also want to say that, I'm not a scientist, I’m a human rights lawyer and a trade unionist. I work in the field of food policy. And so I on a daily basis engage with many medical scientists who are looking at issues like climate change and environmental sustainability and the future of our food supply system, and scientists who pride themselves on being part of the community that they say advance - wants to advance progress and advance progress of humanity and the future of humanity.


CS5: And what I say to that, is that for any profession, whether it be scientists or lawyers to say that they're rooted in principles of progress of humanity, then they have to really think about how their participation in that field serves to dismantle forms of oppression and white supremacy, including Zionism. And so that's what I'm hoping that meetings like this will also be able to allow us to do, not just to support education and scientists within Palestinian society, but also thinking about how scientists can play a role in this important movement to support decolonization, not just of Palestinians, but of all oppressed people. So, thank you very much.




[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 6 (CS6): So I think this conference was really important for me and for this creating, like starting the conversation of like, what are the implications of the work that we do. I see this a lot in my program where a lot of the funding is coming from the Department of Defense and from pro-Israel sources, if not from Israel itself - and working on collaborations. And there's never any questioning, of like, what are the implications of the work that we're producing and how is it going to be used? If anything, people look forward to getting a DoD grant because they see it as a source of money, and they never take it one step further. Whether they are POC or not, a lot of them don't take it the next step and say: this is problematic, there's an issue here. So, to be in a space where thinking with like-minded scientists about how we can start this conversation and kind of broaden it out to the larger scientific community, and then centering Palestine especially, because Palestine is like this focal point of like oppression and especially from science – where scientists have been used historically as a way to continue oppression.

CS6: Whether it's just by like creating, just creating weapons or like coming up with discoveries that end up being tested on oppressed communities. So for us to be opening the space to be talking about that and questioning it very fundamentally is very critical, because I do believe that science can be used in the opposite manner where it's actually used as, Suleiman Baraka mentioned, but science for good, where it doesn't have to be for those purposes and it's just like something that's not even thought about, whether it's within activist communities or just the general public. So to open that space up is really important.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 7 (CS7): I really appreciated the perspective of talking about why science, and how science is weaponized against our peoples. But then also when we are able to get into science, how we're constantly sucked in to the structures of science and the cycle of using science to again, oppress us. So, even if we do come up with something innovative, um, the weaponization of our knowledge, um, to come back full circle and further oppress us. So, we're never actually able to break this cycle, and thinking about education from this perspective and trying to analyze it and seeing how we can break the cycle and how as scientists we can be more conscious about this cycle. Um, in order to actually help our people and like was stated, do science for good, instead of the way science works now. Which is just doing science for science - just from this like, very theoretical, knowledge is amazing perspective. Like we can't have our heads in the clouds. We have to come down from this ivory tower and actually talk about how science is directly affecting us in our peoples and how we can leverage that to actually cause change and help our communities.

[Next speaker.]


Conference Speaker 8 (CS8): Yeah. I will just add a few things because I agree with everything they said before. I found particularly interesting the session that we had this morning,  it was more, the title of the session was: Is science apolitical? And um, they opened with uh, you know, discussions about how science has effects in, generally, in political things or in society. And obviously, related with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Um, I think this is a very important topic, not only for the Palestinian cause, but more generally for the effect science has, uh, in society. And I think a lot of young scientists, even in your?, this fact, this issue, they just do - For instance, let's talk about computer science or neural network or machine learning that our technologies nowadays spreading very much that can be used for the good and the bad. That can be used on, you know, battlefield, that can be used as a weapon to recognize the soldiers and kill people.

CS8: So for scientists, I think is important when they start working on certain technologies to know, which are the effect of the research that they are producing and if they want to pursue those studies, so they can still do it, but they can do it with their – with their conscience, you know, open on these effects and on the, yeah, on the problems that these kinds of technologies could eventually create. And there is the need nowadays to discuss more of this issue in general. The effect of science in society, in the scientific community because there is very few places and rooms for such discussion.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


AD: So what came up from me from, and Toya, you know, jump in whenever you feel like there’s, what you made out of this. But, what came up for me is, that one of the speakers who was kind of introducing - they were a co-sponsor for this gathering, you know, led off kind of this just kind of the entire conference kind of bringing, calling into question: how we can think about a movement for science in support of decolonization. But for you know, like, and I also said - it was like not just for Palestinians, but for all oppressed people. And I thought that was a really interesting opening, because most folks in the room either who introduced themselves or were there, would be in research and development, or professors, or doing theoretical physics, just like the two folks that we interviewed, Marcello and Mario, you know, so they're coming from that place.


AD: And so, and they talked about kind of like these, these two different trajectories in that interview of like, you know, I have my political life and I have this like schooling of science stuff and this person, this speaker really kind of highlighted like, okay, now let's talk about how we can develop this to decolonize - for the movement to support decolonization. Um, so that was interesting. I thought that was a strong. Yeah, that was interesting to me.


LS: Mhmm. So, Scientists for Palestine is mainly made up of physicists. And so that, you know, them trying to politicize their field. And I feel like when you like politicize, like if you're a scientist and you haven't taken a stance, it doesn't mean you're apolitical, like you have chosen a stance, you just haven't been vocal about it. But you're –


AD: or even conscious of it –


LS: Or even conscious of it.


AD: Yeah


LS: Yeah. But you're still political. It's just that you are the status quo politics that it is. [AD: Mhmm.] Um, there is that facet of it, where you do have people who are trying to pull like, you know, are bringing this into their field and getting ostracized for it, both professors and students. So, there's that aspect of it. But then there's the aspect of like, how is your actual work contributing to, or actively moving people towards liberation?


AD: Totally. One other thing that came out of those clips was the funding. Like, who funds what is developed? And in whose interest? [LS: Mhmm.] So, really calling into question this - I feel like it's something that you have to face, right? Like, if you are wanting to develop something, energy sources that are - benefit, most of humanity aren't, are not controlled by a central, like company that's gonna just, you know, like say, okay, I own all the water now.


LS: Ooh!


AD: Or whatever. You know, it is. Exactly. And it's just - so, so who's funding the development of what type of sciences? And I think that's important for all of us, to kind of like consider in all of our activities. Like, who's kind of like - I wouldn't say completely controlling, but like definitely heavily, heavily influencing where our lines, we either see them, or we don't, or we cross them, you know, in resistance or we don't.


LS: Yeah. And I mean, money ain't free. So, if somebody is giving you money, there's always, always things attached. But you need money. You need money to do your research, you need money to do your work. But can we be more, like, intentional about who we accept money from? It's like, yeah, we want to get these marginalized people. We want them to be able to do this thing they want to do, but in order to do that, we have to take money from ‘x’ people who do this and this other country, but not here. [AD: Mhmm.]


LS: But some of us aren't in a position - like, listen, let me tell you, I'm in no position to turn down money. Ha ha ha ha. And so, what does that mean? There's some things I'm never-


AD: Is that completely true, that you feel like, I mean, I'm just putting you on the spot right now, but I feel like even in those situations, there are times I feel like, that you're making a decision -


LS: Yeah yeah yeah. So that's what I was going to say. There are things, I was like - it would be great yeah to get that money, but I'm not going to apply for it because I already know. Like I'm not going to do it. And so sometimes he was like call - like, oh you shouldn't do X, Y and Z. I don't think we're organized enough to also ask people to turn things down. So there is, you can be intentional about it and we should be more intentional about it. But, can we organize enough to fund the really like the scientific research that we need to move people towards liberation. So what does that even look like?


AD: What does that even look like? And I think that you just also really highlighted like the need to organize to be able to do that.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: Like we have to - we're living in the world that we're trying to dismantle and create a new one. So, but we're in it right now. So yeah, real things

[Whooshing sound effect.]



LS: Ok so, our fourth theme is: women in science or women in education more generally. And so there were a few speakers who talked about the particular challenges that women in Palestine face. And so we wanted, here’s some clips from them and then sort of do what we've been doing and talk about it.

[Whooshing sound effect.]



Conference Speaker 9 (CS9): On the faculty line, the percentage of women is actually not that good. So, for example, in the physics department in Birzeit University, I am the only woman faculty member in the Physics Department. And I have another 11 male colleagues. Also speaking of US and Europe, I'm also the only faculty member who got a PhD in Europe. All my male colleagues, they get their PhD from American universities.


 [Whooshing sound effect.]

CS9: The challenges we face with Israeli occupation, it varies and it has the different forms. But I will talk about checkpoints because these are almost a constant challenge that stays regardless the political situation. And here, I didn't know how much you are familiar with the geography of that territory is here, but it's like small towns and cities geographically disconnected from each other. And the students, you know, they have to move, if they have to commute in daily basis to attend better classes and universities. And at checkpoint, there are at least over a hundred fixed checkpoints and there are for sure other temporary checkpoints that you cannot really predict when they will operate.


CS9: It's, uh, I would like to highlight that the women students, the female students, their experience with these checkpoints while they’re commuting on daily basis, it has the, you know, very much of negative effects on them as they experience, you know, humiliation, harassment, abuse. And by harassment - it can be any form of verbal harassment, you know, but they searched 17 bags at some point. Unfortunately, it can be forms of sexual harassment by Israeli soldiers. And this is, you know, in a society, like Palestinian society, is not acceptable and it might end up like girls are banned from commuting to universities because of this issue. And this is quite dangerous while educating girls. It’s mainly for their safety. You know, we live in a society which is very protective of women.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 10 (CS10): So for me this is very interesting because it's really contributed to the debate internationally about pure science and also declarations made […about women]. As we know, always we are in the media as Arab women are, you know, oppressed and waiting to be saved, and very problematic discourse. So this is for me is, is really important. And the other thing why this is also important because you talk a little bit, also looking into the challenges and the challenges that we're seeing. Yes.


CS10: That there is representation of female in […] and it’s great, and they have very hardcore training in science, but when they go to the workforce, they're actively discriminated against and they're not hired. And also, they're not set on scholarship even though they get a percent of […], in terms of their academic standing, which is very alarming as well. There is another trend that's coming out in computer science, which after they graduate, they don't find jobs.


CS10: They're going into entrepreneurship, but they're actually coming out, starting companies that are successful with a local because, well, we have to, for example, a company Little Bits, which is, […] from Lebanon.


[Whooshing sound effect.]




Conference Speaker 10 (CS10): Try in especially computer science to do collaboration across degrees. We highly train, a lot of highly trained, especially women, but again, um, lack of opportunities. And that's why our organizations give preferences to women by doing conferences, by doing hackathon. Actually, I also founded the, a hackathon, the first hackathon in […] and I actually changed the order of hackathons to a hackathon process of the, which was the first one at a university actually. Actually the world has that hackathon per second, but that was something that that was not, uh, focusing on, um, on the Arab world. That's solely just for the Arab world. So I invite all of you to, if you're interested, if you have ideas about any, uh, any field, apply.


CS10: It's happening next year, April 25th. It happens every year, we have people all over the world and the public university and from all continents. So, we try to have a collaboration where people come and then I already know that the students come from the Arab world and also from Palestine. And bring mentors to bring up professors that are working on this stuff, the solutions and um, we produce technologies for […] which is a great way for people. And especially actually the people come […]. Each would have a lot of um, come up with a lot of problems. And they also have an app for solving that keeps shortfalls in the problems, um related to technology in a challenging, uh, environment. Uh, so at least really these are the pipelines that, I mean even though I'm doing these on the side, they really take over my life because I feel like they had, I need to pass, I need to bring somebody to a conference or, and then we can see [inaudible] later and see that their lives be transformed. So we do have that.


[Whooshing sound effect.]




AD: So, for me, what came up was that there are quite a few women that are like actively engaged and interested ,for various reasons, to like be in the computer sciences or physics. And so like that, to me, it was like the first thing I was like, oh, it's not an issue of like trying to have enough women in it or something like that. But that you see in, in the US context. But it's a matter of kind of like, and also that, that playing upon this larger narrative of like, well, Arab women are X, Y and Z - they're oppressed. They don't, you know, don't have a say. They have to be, you know, all these negative stereotypes and perceptions. That's not necessarily - not to say that those conditions aren't there - but it's to also, it's not to say that this, that's the total experience or that's what's happening [LS: Right.] completely indicative of these initiatives.


LS: Or it's specific to Arab women, like this isn't happening elsewhere. Like here.


AD:  Yeah. Right, right.


[Both laughing.]


AD: Right. So that was one point. And the other significant one, I feel like you really wanted to highlight this theme of women in science in this, because of the role women play, um, in kind of like - in these situations of, you know, occupation and oppression, that women are holding the family up, holding the, you know, or studying, or trying to like find ways in which they're active participants. It's not kind of like, oh, on the sidelines of the lib- in this movement towards a different world.




LS: Yeah. But women do play very, both cis and trans, play very crucial roles in like moving communities towards liberation. Um, yeah. And these Palestinian women are doing like against, so you know Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality have like an added layer of stuff that they have to deal with just because they are women.


AD: Yeah. Um, just even note, like if you remember Tahed Amimi, that young Palestinian woman, she’s 18 years old, who you know, just like was defending her brother from be- I think it was her brother, from being taken and she was imprisoned for slapping an Israeli soldier. And so just like these, the ways in which front and center and a part of the struggle against oppression and yeah. So it's just, I thought, I appreciated highlighting that.


[Whooshing sound effect.]






AD: So, the last one has to do with global connections and resistance. And in this theme we wanted to really highlight the ways that resistance is taking place. And Toya, you brought this up before too, you know, we're talking about occupation, these, these very visceral things that are going on in community, but people are doing, are organizing in very different ways. So, we're going to listen to a couple of clips about what resistance looks like, as well as, connections people are making between different forms of resistance globally.

[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 11 (CS11): You know, we have lived most of our lives without the state, and still until now, we are officially stateless. So, your family, basically it is your state and you know we are grateful for our families. Our close families and our extended families for all of the support we get from them. I move to slide number five please.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


CS11: OK, so the Right to Education Campaign was started in Birzeit University. So, Birzeit University was established as a girls school in 1924. And in 1973-1974, it was turned to a University. So, since it was […] 1988, the University was attacked by the Israeli Occupation, and was closed for 15 […] by the Israeli military orders. But the longest period of time was in 1988, where our university was closed for 51 consecutive months.




CS11: At these days, when the university doors were closed, um, students and academics fought to start a new way to continue their education despite all the closures. And so, what they did is, they started a circle, um, a study groups in the houses of the students and academics in different places in the Ramallah and the West Bank and you know. And that’s how the education system was obtained for students who were at that time.


[Whooshing sound effect.]


Conference Speaker 12 (CS12): Another one that was rolled out during the Great Return March where these, this new drone technology where the drones are actually shooting canisters of tear gas. And so again, this whole remote warfare situation that is now kind of come out with the innovation of drone technology. So, that was the first time that was rolled out on the Great Return March where these drones are actually flying above surveilling and that are able to shoot tear gas down directly at peaceful protestors. And one of the, if anyone has seen the photos from the Great Return March recently, one way that the Palestinians have prepared to deal with all of these drone technologies is they've collected over the past, I think a year at least, um, tires so that they could burn tires to create cover. But like, this is like kind of this drastic comparison of the technologies, um, the technology disparity between what the Palestinians in Gaza have and what Israel is currently doing using Gaza as their, this laboratory to test weaponry.


Conference Speaker 13 (CS13): Another thing with Palestinian resistance, like Palestinian innovation and creativity and working against the occupation, going back to the Great Return March, is there is these photos that have come out where people are putting onions in their masks, right? To prevent the tear gas from affecting them. And it's really important to highlight that too because when the protests were going on in Ferguson and people were getting teargassed there, there was a very clear exchange between the Palestinian population and the Black Lives Matter protesters on how to be combatting these forces. So, clear connect between like the police state in the US and the occupation in Israel, and how they collaborate. But then to work against that, the Palestinian population working with Black folks in Ferguson, um, so that we can work together to fight these systems of oppression.

[Whooshing sound effect.]


LS: Yeah. So, I think there are, in terms of assistance for any community, there's like tacit, covert, and overt ways of resisting. So that's very like overt ways like in your face, like I am out in the street and I'm letting you know that this is not okay and I'm going to like fight you back every step of the way. And then the other one's just like, I feel like, you know, using Zeiad’s term, that military colonial occupation, and every step of the way, trying to make sure, but like physically, mentally, psychologically is really state trying to ensure that Palestinians know that like, we don't want you here and we're going to do everything that we can do to like establish this state. And so, just like living. Just like living and surviving on a daily basis.


AD: And just that simple symbol of keeping the key, [LS: Yeah.] for their homes. So that it's like, no, we're not even giving up this. Like the symbol means something so much more.




LS: Right. It was like, oh, you gonna shut down a university. That's cute. We still gonna meet.


AD: Right. We’re still gonna meet.


LS: We're still gonna meet, we’re still gonna teach our history, our babies gonna know.


AD: Right. I mean Zeiad’s interview really struck me cause he talked to us about how there was a lot of learning that happened in prisons as well. So, it's just like, it doesn't matter. We're going to figure out what we need to figure out. Yeah. And I think that's about, that's kind of also happens in different places globally. So like, the other connections people made of connecting what happened in Ferguson and in Palestine. So like, when there were folks being teargassed and other activists were like, hey, we're with you. You know, we know, we know what this is like and here's some tips.


LS: Right.


AD: You know, like that kind of communication via social media. Um, but that folks recognize. Folks who are - are under oppression recognize when it's happening elsewhere and are there gonna - their connections, folks are - that groups are making between those.




LS: Yeah. Which is a lesson for us all. I mean, because of globalization, imperialism, struggles are inherently connected. And so how are we centering our, ah, like centering our, like the struggle of like - I'm gonna center, I always and forever center Black Liberation. But I always have to be understanding like, what's happening elsewhere so that what I'm asking for freedom isn't infringing on what you need for your people. Like that has to be like key. Like that is key.


AD: Yeah.


LS: Either we all free, or ain't nobody free.


AD: So, human emancipation.


LS: Yeah.


AD: That's my keyword.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: What is, what does it mean for human emancipation? So yeah, those are some of our clips.


[Whooshing sound effect.]




LS: Also, just like oppressors really like mediocrity and you'd think developing a technology to further oppress people. So, we're developing this technology just so we can further surveil, watch over. [AD: Yeah.] So you can watch over communities, [AD: communities-] when you could be developing technology –


AD: Really to be working on issues that we're concerned with that we need. Right?


LS: Right. Climate change ain’t going nowhere.


AD: Yeah.


LS: But y'all worried about…


AD: Something. Ha ha.


LS: Right? And then so, that also forces the oppressed, like and the resistant, beautiful things get created. Yes. But there's a stalling of what could have been done. So, we're resisting, but we're resisting so much, we're not really developing –


AD: In our fullest.


LS: In our, yeah.


AD: Right, in our fullest, in the sense of like who - if these barriers are in some senses removed and a new world is developing, what are the possibilities?


LS: What are the possibilities? But –


AD: Right.




LS: There's this barrier, this oppression, this thing that we have to deal with. And it really, in my mind is going all the ways in which the world is mediocre because of this.


AD: Yeah. It's interesting because that phrase, a mediocre phrase is typically I hear it use on like an individual, but you're kind of like broadening it, of like, what are the possibilities of us as a society in this world could be better? It definitely could be better.


LS: Yeah yeah.


AD: And there's like, there's glimmers of this in how folks resist. Speaking of the last one that I was thinking of is that the connections that folks are making, [LS: Mhmm] so social media is there, but I think even prior, it's kind of how folks got to know about, oh, you're dealing with this, I'm dealing with this.


LS: Mhmm.


AD: And like how do we link our struggles? And it was cool to hear them highlight this specific instance. I mean there's, there's a long history of connecting struggles.




LS: All right. Thank you for joining us.


AD: And we'll be back with another episode.


LS: We will be.


AD: Great.


[♫ Music fade out.] 


AD: Check us out at Abolition Science [dot] org, where you can sign up for our newsletter.


LS: And follow us on Instagram @abolitionscience and also follow us on Twitter @abolition_sci . 


AD: See you soon!

Science in Palestine (Part 4): Antisemitism

Science in Palestine (Part 4): Antisemitism

Science in Palestine (Part 2): Scientists in Solidarity with Palestine

Science in Palestine (Part 2): Scientists in Solidarity with Palestine