Palestinian Scientists Speak

Thank you very much for reaching out. The situation is horrid. Birzeit went online right away but it is limping along and the students are refusing to attend online classes. I wish they would attend online classes. It is not safe for them to travel to campus due to the safety on the roads leading to campus. We are unsure if the universities will be able to pay salaries in coming months.

My research on biodiversity is greatly restricted, yet I continue to make collections and conduct research on native plant propagation and restoration.

At this current stage my field research and collection work is too vulnerable to interference to be made public, but I do appreciate your assistance.

Perhaps we could discuss ways in providing research support to faculty at Palestinian universities who are attempting to carry out research, with small grants, research assistance, server/cloud donations, software, equipment, etc.

Thank you,

—O (Birzeit University)

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to say what is happening to us right now. In fact [the atrocity] started years ago when we were occupied and forcibly removed from our homes and land in Palestine. From that time till now we are suffering all horrible ethnic cleansing and mistreatment.

I don’t know if the world forgets that we are under occupation and blindly took all the Israeli media that “we are terrorists and want to kill them,” or that they know that we are so oppressed. Either way, I don’t know why they never move to help us.

We just want to live in peace and have our freedom like any other people in the world.

Here, we don’t have rights to move freely. Any moment they will stop you and tell you to “go back.” Where? I don’t know. “Just go back.” That’s all. Here, the soldiers have full rights to kill any Palestinian and at the end they will tell you that we threaten them. Settlers with the help of the army are terrorising Palestinian civilians and killed many poor civilian Palestinians. Israelis have full access to roads built in Palestine area A,B, or C. But we don’t.

We are living in concentrated camps waiting to be killed.  Here you have gates at every village. They will close it whenever they want. In some villages they close the gate after 6 pm and open it for a specific period of time. Like a jail. It is a military occupation running for 75 years.

Every day when I go to work I kiss my kids because I don’t know if I would come back. Just why?

The problem is that the majority of Israeli were taught that we are animals and should be killed. They don’t want to give us our basic needs of life. They want to suffocate us and force us to leave. They do it slowly and systematically so the world can’t see. They build settlements in all hilltops and for us we are not allowed to build at all in area C. Where to go? It is my home here; I was born  here; I will die here.

For doing research, we don’t have access to many chemicals and equipments. Yes, many chemicals are being refused, me personally, 2,4-D, a plant hormone is refused.

Gaza is a concentration camp, controlled by sea , land and air. There are 2.2 million peoples in 360 square km.

No clean water, no jobs , no hopes. What to do? Fight back. That’s what they did. They know that this will cost them a lot. But in any case, they are being killed solely in this open prison. What the Israelis are doing is killing children and women, terrorising Gazans so they will leave. Here, their plan is being carried out: kick them out to Sinai. This is not self defense.

No sir. They want Gaza because it has a huge gas revenue and the proposed route (alternative route) to transfer good from East to West that is to pass through Gaza. Americans know this; European know this; that’s why they are silent about the horrific killing of kids and women.

We are living under a brutal regime.


—N (Tulkarm, West Bank)

Thank you for your kind solidarity and for being fully aware about what is happening here in Palestine.

I am a professor located in Nablus, West Bank. Despite being quite away of war in Gaza, we are in direct touch an effect of this war. Currently we are facing a full closure in the West Bank which made us living in total isolated cities. Moreover we are experiencing daily military invasions from the Israeli army which made us unable to pursue the academic semester and convert to virtual teaching. In addition to these challenging circumstances we are experiencing the following issues:

1. There is a massive anger towards the Western governments as we now believe that human rights are just private tools for the benefit of white people. The students as well as professors are not being able to exercise their daily routine because of the horrifying news coming from Gaza as well as the current conflict in the West Bank. We simply believe that we are the next target. We believe that is war is not against armed resistance, but also against any civilized existence of Palestinians including hospitals, economy, universities and history.

2. We start believing that the racism in the West turns from individual behavior to a national policy, especially when we see the official promotion of the fake posts and stories about what is happening in Gaza.

3. We feel, especially in the UK, that there is a “Black masking” of racism by putting all Black officials in the front.

4. We simply believe that the West’s colonization of the East is still existing, but instead of being directed by Western governments, they outsourced to Arab governments who are doing that.

5. In simple words,  all Palestinians now are supporting war-based solutions as we now believe that the Israeli and the Western governments will only appreciate peace when they only feel war.

Please stay in solidarity and let the people know that all what we need is be treated as humans.

Kind regards,

—T (Nablus, West Bank)

Memo to SftP NYC

I want to alert you to a “science happening” in the Upper West Side of Manhattan that I think deserves our attention.  Unfortunately, it is no longer a happening we can do much about; it is a fait accompli.  I am referring to the recent opening of the Gilder Science Center as a new wing of the American Museum of Natural History.  The Museum announced the opening with understated triumphalism.

A New York Times encomium to the Gilder Center written by Michael Kimmelman was less restrained.

Warning: Kimmelman’s article and its photographs may instill in you an urgent desire to visit the Gilder Center.  It is indeed impressive.  But as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.”  There is more to it than meets the eye, in ways that will probably not surprise any SftP members.

Kimmelman tips his hat to the “imperialistic and voracious” history of the Museum, and mentions, in passing, “years of sometimes acrimonious community engagement.”  That was an acknowledgement of the strong local pushback against the Gilder Center project in the neighborhoods surrounding the Museum.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York chapter of SftP wasn’t meeting at the height of the anti-Gilder protests.  It is too late to challenge it now, but at least we might want to provide historical perspective in order to help the public understand why it wasn’t such a great idea.

The moving spirits driving the project were not scientists or science educators, but billionaire investors.  It was a science-themed high-finance operation that grew into an unstoppable juggernaut crushing all critics, questioners, and protesters in its path.  Unsurprisingly, it enjoyed the unwavering bipartisan support of the political establishment at all levels.  The politicians milked the public’s fascination with the “gee whiz” aspects of science to sell the big-money construction scheme.

No one was protesting the creation of a beneficial new science education facility.  But while acknowledging that the shiny new science center could indeed serve to advance science education, they asked why it could not be constructed in one of New York City’s many underserved communities that suffer from a paucity of educational resources?  The Upper West Side of Manhattan, with the American Museum of Natural History as it was, already enjoyed an embarrassment of riches with regard to science education facilities.

Cary Goodman was a prominent opponent of the project for several years. Here are excerpts from a letter Dr. Goodman wrote to the New York Times in response to Michael Kimmelman’s previously mentioned puff piece praising the Gilder Center:

The new wing is neither “poetic” nor “theatrical.” The new wing is an extension of the museum’s colonial heritage and world view.  The new wing has been constructed at the cost of ancient trees, an enormous increase in air pollution, and with disregard for wildlife and residents.

Shamefully, the City Council increased its financing for the expansion by more than 600% in five years to $92,000,000.  Amazingly, no elected official opposed the private museum’s encroachment on public parkland.

Five thousand neighbors and park goers, including prominent West Siders like Bill Moyers, Holland Taylor, Philip Roth, and Billie Jean King, petitioned against the expansion.  At public hearings, the museum turned off opponents’ microphones, ignored requests for information, and crippled democracy.

Mr. Kimmelman excuses his bias in favor of the museum by writing that he might be “coming from a blinkered space.”  Might this explain why the Times, alone among all New York media, never met with, listened to, or wrote about the other side of this “joyful” story?

We might want to solicit a more in-depth analysis of the issue from Dr. Goodman.  I have heard him speak eloquently and at length about it, so I know he has a lot more to say about it.

–Cliff Conner