In honor of Israeli Apartheid Week, The American University in Cairo (AUC) hosted a series of lectures to tackle issues about occupation, violence and resistance. Among these events was the Resisting Violence and Violence as a Form of Resistance lecture by Anthropology Professor Munira Khayyat.
Hosted in a screening room in the Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) building, the lecture started Khayyat’s personal and moving story about her experience with occupation.
“An occupation that framed among my first memories, the occupation that gave birth to the powerful resistance, the occupation that was successfully resisted and that ended and I witnessed its end. The occupation I am talking about is the occupation of Lebanon,” said Khayyat.
Khayyat’s approach at first received sympathy then stirred a good amount of criticism. Although she said that Palestine does indeed suffer from extreme violence and torment due to Zionism, she thinks other occupations are just as relevant.
The attendees and Khayyat got into a heated debate because most of them believed that Palestine’s struggle with Zionism is the exception to all occupations due to the ethical dilemma and illegitimacy surrounding the idea of the “Israeli state.”
Arguments surrounding the idea of an ultimate solution also broke out after Khayyat expressed what she believes is a somewhat pessimistic view on the Palestinian’s returning to their land. Audiences were speaking up against that notion and criticizing it with facts. One attendee for instance, countered Khayyat by saying that countries that were once under occupation like Bosnia, eventually returned home. Which to her meant that Palestinians can, in fact, return to their homes one day.
After the lecture, Khayyat revealed that she did not expect the backlash she experienced. “I had no expectations. First of all it’s not my area of expertise and second of all it’s the first time I discuss this issue. So I had no ideas or expectations on what or who to expect. But I think the discussion that we had was really meaningful,” said Khayyat.
Mostafa Abu Middain, a Palestinian undergraduate student at AUC who attended the lecture, also believed that the arguments did not affect the efficiency of the lecture but rather did the opposite and made the lecture more educational.
The event was organized by a group of students who do not call themselves a club or organization, but rather a collective who work together to raise awareness about the Palestinian struggle. The idea came to them after realizing that the annual stand with Palestine that takes place at AUC was not enough. They believed that awareness campaigns would have a stronger impact on supporting the Palestinian cause.