Recently in October 2019, Jamia Millia Islamia announced that it would never again invite any delegation from the State of Israel as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine; a reaction which came in response to the popular protest by university’s student organisations. However, the University and its associates had long been supporter of Palestine over the Israeli colonization of its territories since the 1948.
In the year 1982, during the height of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the Israel-allied Christian militiamen killed hundreds of Palestinians in their refugee camps. It was Jamia’s then Vice-Chancellor Anwar Jamal Kidwai who initiated moves in Delhi’s academic circle demanding that the Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded to Menachem Begin, the then Israel’s Prime Minister, to be taken away from him.
During the same year, the then Palestinian Prime Minister Yasser Arafat visited JMI on 23rd May at the University’s invitation. Vice Chancellor Kidwai addressed the Palestinian leader’s struggle as “in footprints of the Prophet Muhammad’s Hijrat or holy migration” for he described that Arafat too was away from his homeland about to revive the traditions of early Islam’s revolutionary life.
However, the statements of Jamia’s VC were more than the religious call. Further in his address, he propounded that “Jamia feels a deep affinity with you [Palestine] because we were also born in struggle during the great national movement launched by Gandhi in this country against the British rule…” Being a supporter of internationalism, Kidwai referred to him as “the hope and pride of freedom-loving people after Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese leader in the Third World”.
It must be known that Arafat continued struggles and negotiations with Israel, aiming at peace and least flow of human blood. After he died in 2004, Jamia established ‘Yasser Arafat Hall’, a seminar hall dedicated to the late leader in the University’s Administrative Block. Above the doorway of this hall, an Urdu poem is inscribed on marble which reads “Though the dead do die they do not perish”, a valediction to him. A short walk to the left of the former hall is an auditorium named ‘Edward Said Hall’, after the Palestinian-American academic, an advocate for the political rights of Palestinians, and a pioneer of post-colonial studies. The name of both Palestinians flanks the Office of Vice-Chancellor of JMI. Jamia and its biradari still continues to walk with the struggling Palestine.
Aashish Kochhar is a student pursuing History from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nuzhat Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.