On April 24, Palestinian student protestors at Bir Zeit University (pictured) expelled representatives of two major Palestinian software development companies who were invited to campus as part of the university's Annual Hiring Day. The protestors accused them of engaging in "normalization" with Israel. In other words, the students attacked, humiliated and expelled Palestinian companies that came to offer them jobs at a time when the Palestinian economy is facing a crisis and thousands of young Palestinians remain unemployed. (Image source: Oromiya321/Wikimedia Commons)
On April 24, two Palestinian software development companies came to Bir Zeit University, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, to offer jobs to Palestinian students. The companies were invited to campus as part of the university's Annual Hiring Day -- an event aimed at helping students find jobs with major Palestinian firms.
The event, however, turned ugly when students protested against the presence of the representatives of the two companies on campus. The protesters expelled the company representatives from the university premises after accusing them of engaging in "normalization" with Israel. In other words, the students attacked, humiliated and expelled Palestinian companies that came to offer them jobs at a time when the Palestinian economy is facing a crisis and thousands of young Palestinians remain unemployed.
The first company is ASAL Technologies, a Ramallah-based software and IT services outsourcing firm founded in 2000. ASAL Technologies is the largest Palestinian information and communications technology company that supplies international companies with talented Palestinian professionals. The second company, also based in Ramallah, is EXALT, a software development center specialized in web services, backend/API development and mobile apps.
The students who expelled the companies' representatives from campus said they were acting on instructions from the anti-Israel movement for boycotting Israel. According to the students, the two Palestinian companies are guilty of cooperating with Israelis, especially Mellanox Technologies, an Israeli multinational supplier of computer networking products.
One of the student groups responsible for the expulsion of the companies' representatives is called Progressive Democratic Student Pole, which is affiliated with the radical PLO group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
In a statement explaining its opposition to the attempt of the two companies to hire students, the group accused the university administration of violating the instructions of the anti-Israel boycott campaign.
"Our comrades protested the participation of some technology companies involved in normalization, and which contribute to the 'economic peace' project during the Annual Hiring Day hosted by Bir Zeit University," the statement said. It claimed that the Palestinian companies were doing business with "Zionist companies involved in crimes."
"Our colleagues asked the delegates of these companies to leave the university campus, as part of a commitment from our comrades to resist normalization [with Israel] and our absolute rejection of the university's involvement in any normalization activity that would harm the reputation of the university and the struggles of its students. We reject normalization and adopt the approach of resistance until the liberation of the entire Palestinian territory."
This statement shows that for the Palestinian students, "resistance and the liberation of the entire Palestinian territory" is more important than providing badly needed jobs for unemployed university graduates. "Resistance" is a term used by Palestinians to describe the "armed struggle" against Israel, which includes carrying out various forms of armed attacks against Israelis. When the students talk about the "liberation of the entire Palestinian territory," they are actually saying that they want to destroy Israel because they do not believe in its right to exist. This, by the way, is the same rhetoric used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two groups that also deny Israel's right to exit.
Ahmed Atawneh, a representative of another student group called Student Unity Bloc, defended the decision to expel the company representative from campus. "The students of Bir Zeit University, which is also called University of the Martyrs, reject the presence of companies engaged in normalization with the occupation on our campus," he said. University security personnel and officials escorted the representatives of the companies out of campus."
The only student group that has come out against the expulsion of the companies from the university campus is the Shabiba Student Movement, which is affiliated with President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction. The group's students, however, failed to take any measures to stop their colleagues from offending and intimidating the company representatives who came to offer them jobs.
A statement published by the Fatah-affiliated student group called on the university administration to punish the students who "offended" and "assaulted" the company representatives. "The rules of student work require us to respect our guests and express opinions without insulting anyone," the statement said. "We call on the administration of the University of Martyrs to clarify its position and punish all those who caused harm to our university and assaulted our guests."
A video of the protest at Bir Zeit University posted on social media shows dozens of angry students surrounding the company representatives, and chanting: "Normalization [with Israel] is Treason."
The incident at Bir Zeit University drew mixed reactions from Palestinians. While some seemed to oppose the expulsion of the company representatives, others expressed full support for the move.
This is just another example of how the movement for boycotting Israel is causing damage to Palestinians. Perhaps the real motive of the people promoting these boycotts of Israel is not to help the Palestinians at all, but, like terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to destroy Israel.
The biggest losers are the hundreds of students who could have been hired by two leading software companies in the context of efforts to find a solution to soaring unemployment in the West Bank. This incident shows that hatred for Israel remains the top priority for the anti-Israel boycott campaign. The organizers of such campaigns prefer to see university graduates join the fight against Israel than find jobs with software and technology companies. The Palestinians have once again scored an own goal.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.