Sunday Sept. 11, 2011 3:21 PM (EST+7)
Birzeit university protests 'price tag' attack
By EVAN BARTON
Read more: price tag, Birzeit, Birzeit university, Migron, settlers, settlement outposts, settler violence, education, higher education, Islam, mosque, religion, colonies, colonization, graffiti
BIRZEIT, September 11 (JMCC) - Vandals smeared Birzeit University and a nearby mosque with racist graffiti early Friday, leading the university’s student council to hold a demonstration condemning the acts.
“We wanted to stand together, hand in hand, to reject this move, and say that we are all together protecting Birzeit University,” said student council president Majdi Hafi.
The attackers defaced the university’s entrance in Hebrew, writing threats of murder and that Jews would fight and win. The vandals also scrawled the words “price tag”, indicating the attack was in revenge for the recent dismantling of the Migron settlement outpost.
Birzeit security guards spotted a car near the university entrance around three a.m. Friday morning, university officials said. They suspect that the car carried the vandals that defaced both the entrance to the university and a mosque in the nearby village of Birzeit with similar slurs. At the mosque, however, residents found an additional slur insulting the prophet Mohammed.
Student volunteers set up tents outside of the university’s main gate in order to aid security watching the grounds at night.
A Birzeit official said this was a new chapter in a string of attacks instigated by Israeli settlers.
“The University of Birzeit condemns this criminal act done by the settlers,” said dean of student affairs Mohammed al-Ahmed in a statement, demanding that the attacks end.
The most radical of Israeli settlers have dubbed recent acts of violence “price tag” attacks, referring to the high price that will be exacted by those undermining the settlement movement.
These acts of violence have been directed at Palestinian civilians and, very recently, the Israeli military. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has reported on raids on villages, defacement of buildings, uprooting of olive trees and acts of arson.
On September 4, Israeli forces demolished part of Migron settlement outpost in the northern West Bank. In separate subsequent “price tag” attacks, settlers burnt a mosque in the Nablus-area village of Qusra and defaced a military base.
University officials said that the Palestinian Authority is investigating the Birzeit attacks.
Hafi, a 22-year-old senior at the university, worried that the vandals wanted to instigate violence in the region and damage the credibility of Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations in September.
“They are provoking us. They are trying to find a spark,” he said. “They want to destroy everything we are working for because they know what we are doing is dangerous for them. They are in the corner.”
He said that students would respond by continuing normal studies, rather than holding demonstrations at the checkpoints or otherwise confronting Israel.