So I’m grateful my traveling is intimately integrated into my teaching life, and no wonder since I teach courses in World Literature, which are explorations, through the lens of literary and cultural texts, of the ongoing aftermath of colonialism affecting all of us to this day.
One of the advantages of Zoom technology is the ease with which we can connect with large numbers of people in different parts of the globe during a class session.
Thus, yesterday, I was able to bring Palestine into my virtual classroom or you could say, take my students to the Gaza Strip whose reality they/us know so little of. Since we are reading and discussing the novel Men in the Sun by Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani this week in class, I thought to invite my friend and colleague Professor Isam Shihada of Al Aqsa University, Gaza, who teaches in the Dept of English and Gender Studies, to share his insights about the author and on life as a Palestinian based on his own daily experience. 147 of his students some now situated in Iraq and Kuwait, also joined our session.
The rest of the world’s Covid-instigated lockdown has been THEIR REALITY for over half a century! It was an observation that my students could now feel viscerally after their own enforced lockdowns of just a month’s duration and without having to also deal with the added daily humiliation of being an occupied people (though we are now in a way, under occupation by Covid 19!). During my conversation with Prof Shihada it became clear to the students that the inhuman continued occupation by Israel of the Gaza strip has turned it into the worlds largest open air prison, with NO infrastructure left after repeated attacks and bombardments over decades, to enable the 3 million or so inhabitants of Gaza fight back against the pandemic should it spread there; such an eventuality would effectively become the Final Solution for Gazans in a repetition of history that led Hitler and his Nazi party to wipe out 6 million Jews in the Holocaust during World War 2.
Is that a “solution” the world is willing to live with? In learning about the Occupied Territories, about the courage and commitment of Kanafani to use the pen as an instrument of resistance, of how he paid with his life for daring to inform the world of the unjust treatment of his people (he was assassinated in Beirut by the Israeli Mossad at the young age of 36, along with his teenage niece, Lamis, who was with him at the time)— my students’ eyes were opened to a reality they don’t normally see. In the process, as several of them asked— “ what can we do to help change things?”
Isn’t this what traveling feminista, eyes 👀 wide open, ears 👂 alerted to hearing the voices of the underrepresented “others” of our world, hope travel will lead to?
You can watch a video interview of Kanafani at the url above where the bias of the interviewer Richard Carleton is so obvious but which Kanafani challenges so smartly!