The whole story: Birzeit University faculty members available for media interviews

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HANEEN ADI, who teaches English literature and writing at Birzeit University, has been without a visa and thus effectively restricted to the West Bank city of Ramallah since November of 2017 – the middle of her first semester at Birzeit.


Ms. Adi holds an M.A. in English Literature and Critical Theory from Brooklyn College. Before coming to Birzeit, Ms. Adi taught in the City University of New York system, where her experience in teaching students with English as a second language employing new pedagogical methodologies in writing provided her with an area of expertise of critical importance to the largest Department in Birzeit’s Faculty of Arts. Ms. Adi’s academic training in transnational identities and post-colonial studies, supports the Department and its students in keeping in-step with the ways the discipline is changing in the rest of the world. Unwilling to risk the possibility that she will be barred from returning, Ms. Adi has been unable to leave the country for nearly two years now. She not only missed being with her family on the occasion of her sister’s wedding, another sister’s graduation and the death of a relative; when her father tried to visit her in the West Bank, Israeli authorities denied him entry.


Ms. Adi earned her M.A. in English Literature and Critical Theory from Brooklyn College, New York and her B.A. in English from Youngstown State University, Ohio.


DR. RANA BARAKAT, an assistant professor of history and contemporary Arab studies, spent 18 months unsuccessfully pursuing a visa extension while continuing to teach undergraduate and graduate students at Birzeit University.


Dr. Barakat joined Birzeit’s History and Archeology Department in 2007 and was a Fulbright scholar in 2008. As a historian of ideas and contexts with expertise in Euro-American literature and philosophy as well as Middle East history, she offers an exceptional comparative perspective to both undergraduate and graduate students at Birzeit. In addition to teaching courses in American and European history and cultural studies, she has been instrumental in the development of Birzeit’s Ph.D. program and various M.A. courses. Her inter-disciplinary approach, grounded in rigorous academic training, her innovative pedagogical style, and her devoted mentorship of students are widely recognized as critical contributions to Birzeit’s commitment to providing quality liberal arts education. 


Dr. Barakat was awarded the Arcapita Visiting Professor Fellowship at Columbia University for the Spring term of 2019. While a clear recognition of her outstanding scholarship, the opportunity also created a huge dilemma: “I was afraid that if I left before I secured a visa extension for my current stay, I wouldn’t be allowed to return to Birzeit,” explains Barakat. In January 2019, Dr. Barakat left the country to take up the fellowship; despite continuous efforts of her lawyers, she still had not secured a visa. “I left with my trepidation exceeded only by my persistent hope that I would be able to come back, supported by a file full of papers documenting the ongoing appeal for my visa.” Lawyers continue to work on securing agreement for her re-entry in time to assume to teach a full course load and advising several graduate students for the 2019-2020 academic year.


Dr. Barakat earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago; her M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago; and her B.A. in English Literature and History from Northwestern University.


DR. RANIA JAWAD, assistant professor of English literature, has been threatened with deportation since fall 2017. Dr. Jawad joined Birzeit’s Department of English Language and Literature in 2009 and served as the department’s chairperson from 2016-2018. She is the only department faculty member with a specialization in theater and performance studies. She also serves on the Board of the Institute of Women’s Studies. Dr. Jawad is married to a Palestinian with a West Bank ID, also a BZU faculty member, and together they have two small children. She was told by an Israeli official that her visa extension would be granted only if she provided documentation that she had resigned from her position at Birzeit University; the official informed her that if she was granted a visa extension on grounds of her marriage to a West Bank ID holder, this means that she is not permitted to work.


Dr. Jawad holds a Ph.D. in the Culture and Representation track of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department, New York University; an M.A. in German Literature from New York University; and a B.A. in English Literature from Boston College.


DR. OMAR TESDELL is assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Birzeit University. He is an active researcher in biodiversity conservation, landscape transformation, agro-ecology, and his research is supported by several grants. He is one of a few researchers in this field in Palestine. Omar’s research on biodiversity conservation has encouraged others to engage in this vital topic. He also advises several graduate students. The difficulties with regard to residency have affected his ability to support students, conduct research, and maintain an active research agenda by traveling for workshops and conferences.


Dr. Tesdell also serves on the Board of Trustees of Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker school committed to excellence and inclusiveness. The school has received American support for many years.


Dr. Tesdell holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Minnesota and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York in 2015.


A CURRENT CHAIR OF FACULTY OF ARTS at Birzeit was told by Israeli authorities in late 2017 to resign if she wanted her visa extended. An EU citizen married to a Palestinian ID holder and mother to small children, she has, with persistence and the help of a lawyer, refused to tender her resignation and continues to teach at Birzeit. Her commitment to Birzeit has come at a high cost and her efforts to secure visas for the past two academic years have been met with a litany of obfuscations and obstacles: she was given a visa extension for just one month and another time refused a visa extension altogether.


She has sought coordination to allow her to travel and re-enter the country on the advice of Israeli authorities but received no response. She’s been prohibited from traveling via Ben Gurion Airport; traveled over Allenby Bridge three times midway through the 2018-2019 academic term in order to renew her visa, with no certainty about whether or not she would be able to return; and was required to pay a NIS30,000 deposit and sign a paper saying she would not pursue a visa extension from inside the country in order to enter the country. In early June 2019, she was denied entry when she left the country to avoid overstaying her visa and was thus obliged to rely on colleagues to administer her final exams.


She earned her M.A. in linguistics from a European university.


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