palestine via poster
Photo by MU

Manchester Alum Speaks about Palestine, Israeli Settler-Colonialism

Ian Snelling

Lucas Al-Zoughbi, a Manchester graduate, returned to campus to give a VIA on Palestine last week.

A Christian Palestinian who grew up in Bethlehem, a village in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, Al-Zoughbi earned a bachelor’s degree in both peace studies and physiology in 2017. He is currently a University Distinguished Fellow at Michigan State University and a doctorate student in ecological-community psychology, and a member of the board of honor of peace, where he focuses on institutional anti-racism measures. Al-Zoughbi has engaged in and led a number of programs intended to promote justice in Palestine and Israel. He also represented Palestine at various international conferences and conducted youth focus leadership and conflict transformation training. His primary research interests revolve around indigenous Palestinian resistance to the Israeli settler colonial project. His current focus is on Palestinian political prisoners and the process of re-entering into Palestinian society after enduring political imprisonment by Israel.

During the VIA, Al-Zoughbi gave an overview of the Palestinian resistance against settler-colonialism. He describes settler-colonialism as “a system in which the goal is to erase indigenous inhabitants in order to replace with settlers.” He sees the government attempting to replace and erase all Palestinians. He gave a brief history of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine in order to put the ongoing struggle and current reality of Palestinians into context, and also talked about strategic nonviolent resistance, including his own experiences living under military rule and participating in numerous campaigns for justice.

To illustrate the current situation, Al-Zoughbi displayed a graph showing Palestine’s loss of population in Israel throughout the years. Palestinian’s loss of land is coordinated with their decrease in population. He explained why land is more than land, “The loss of land isn’t just land, it is also the ethnic cleansing of people that lived on those lands.” In 1918, about 95% of Israel was populated by Palestinians. In 1947, Palestine’s population decreased to roughly 80% of Israel. Al-Zoughbi explains the increase in Jewish population because of immigration and world war during the Holocaust. In 1948, the new  state of Israel enact laws to confiscate the vast majority of Palestinian lands, resulting in a decrease of Palestine’s population to about 40%. Due to the settler-colonialism in Israel, by 2015, 725,000 of the 900,000 Palestinians were expelled, fled, or killed.

The remaining Palestinians, he noted, have to deal with segregated roads. Palestinians are limited to certain roads they may or may not travel, giving the government the ability to shut down Palestinians movement. This results in longer travel. Pregnant women were unable to get to hospitals swiftly due to the restrictions, and therefore would have to give birth in the car. Further, he noted that injured Palestinians have resulted in permanent disabilities or death because the lack of accessibility to the hospitals.

Al-Zoughbi said that over 48,000 Palestine homes have been destroyed, resulting in almost 7,000 homeless Palestinians, who, he noted, rarely get building permits to build schools, houses, apartments, etc. This is one way Palestinian’s citizens are not afforded equal rights. He also noted that there are 4,600 Palestinian political prisoners. Since 1967, over 800,000 have been detained and only 10,000 are females.