DISCONTINUE Munk One’s “Research Trips” to Israel Apartheid State

DISCONTINUE Munk One’s “Research Trips” to Israel Apartheid State

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BanMunkOneIsrael UofT started this petition to university of toronto and

Every year, the Munk One program exclusively supports sending a few (mostly) first-year students on “research excursions” to Israel, under the premise of “exploring” “Co-existence in the Middle East” between Palestinians and Israelis, Israeli technical innovation (through a program called “InnovNation”), or other topics. Based upon the gathered evidence below, this program neglects Palestinian rights as it passively reduces the Palestinian ethnic cleansing and genocide to a “conflict of both sides, or reduces it to a “coexistence” without acknowledging illegal occupation & the extreme human rights violations committed by Israel from its decades-long Apartheid state. (This document explains the Palestinian occupation with references Free Palestine - Google Docs.) 

Thus, we believe Israel Coexistence abroad trips should be discontinued altogether by Munk One. In order to persuade the Munk One Program to discontinue these trips, we require public support and urgently need as many students & the general public to sign this petition. In particular, we have identified the following evidenced concerns with the existing programme:

  • Students “research” the Israel-Palestine “conflict” at an Israeli university. Specifically, they study at Hebrew University with Israeli professors & students who provide biased Israeli perspectives. They also live near or at the dormitories of the University, thus the perspective is and will always be extremely asymmetrical in the strong benefit of Israel.
    • Although the program includes some Palestinians, according to student blog posts & internal student discussions [identities have been kept anonymous], the students largely are surrounded by Israeli society, forces, academics, and governance structures. For instance, this visit typically includes visiting the West Bank; in one year, students reported they primarily spoke to Israeli soldiers at the West Bank (who are notorious for their extreme daily human rights violations), neutral parties in those areas, or being guided through the Palestinian cities (such as Ramallah) by their Israeli peers at the university. Thus, the overwhelming interactions held during the trip are with Israelis; from the place of residence to the citizens they invite to “speak with” during their trips to the West Bank and Palestinian cities. In one of the blogs, a student describes how they asked their Israeli friends to take them on tours to falafel shops in Ramallah, which hardly provides the students with access to the voices of Palestinian locals. 
  • The Munk One website erases “Palestinian” identity in its advertisement of the trip AND during the trip itself, which is further witnessed by the blog posts created by the student attendees (who blog their experiences before publishing it on the Munk School website). 
    • For instance, on the official website, the image used to highlight a “trip to Israel” is of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is in East Jerusalem - an area that is NOT internationally recognized by the United Nations as belonging to Israel. Al-Aqsa is recognized as Palestinian territory that Israel ILLEGALLY occupies because it is situated in East Jerusalem.
    • Within the blog posts of student attendees, two former students took pictures at Al-Aqsa Mosque with the captions, “At the Temple Mount”. The use of “Temple Mount” without addressing or including the “Al-Aqsa Compound” or the Arab equivalent term, “Haram El-Sharif”, erases Palestinian identity, influence, and autonomy to East Jerusalem, reinforcing Israeli status in Jerusalem that is not internationally recognized.
    • Many of the cultural items such as historically Palestinian and Arab cuisine, names, terms, and phrases referenced in the blog posts by students are given Israeli ownership, hence erasing Palestinian culture.
    • Seeing this deliberate erasure of marginalized Palestinians from a school interested in studying “Global Affairs” is incredibly disheartening.
  • Promotes Israeli Tourism in illegally occupied areas according to the UN in so-called “Israeli” sites--such as the Muslim quarters in East Jerusalem. In their advertisement, throughout the trip, and even on their website, Munk One never refers to the Palestinian Territories, nor does it ever use the terms "illegal occupation" or "apartheid state"(which have both been used by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other non-governmental bodies to describe Israel). We do not think Munk One should endorse this tourism, nor students fetishizing this tourism through “cultural” pictures & blogs and call it a “well-rounded” or “Palestinian perspective”.
  • Not safe for Middle Eastern, Muslim, or South-Asian Students.
    Past students from various countries have voiced their discomfort, opposition to the trip, and how it’s promoted to them. For example: certain students cannot legally enter Israel (i.e. if they are international with Pakistani/Bangladeshi passports) but MunkOne has always ignored this concern. Additionally, visible Muslim and Arab students experience massive safety concerns when visiting Israel. Furthermore, MunkOne has gaslit students who have protested this trip by bringing in past attendees during the Munk One orientation day, to explain how “Israel and its history is complicated and Palestine is not correct". We believe using the words "complicated history" is a cop-out statement to avoiding addressing the root of the problem - which is Israeli oppression. According to internal reports, they have also always dismissed emails or in-person questioning about the trip. 
    • Munk One has an application, helps subsidize & endorses this trip to ONLY the cohort. Upon acceptance into Munk One, students receive a package from Munk One before the school year starts (a majority college freshman cohort) with an advertised & heavily encouraged summer abroad Israel trip. Students are expected to write-up journal articles to publish online on the Munk One website. This is indoctrination by unqualified student perspectives. Trip alumni also discuss their experiences in future student orientations. Reports from Muslim & Arab students indicate orientation as discomforting, gaslighting, & bombarding them with how “amazing” this trip is. When these students voice discomfort or opposition to the language used around the Israeli occupation of Palestine, they are silenced. Munk One is also NOT a Middle Eastern curriculum program nor is it centered around NMC issues--it is about development and Canadian centered issues. Munk One expects students to understand Palestine and Israel from one trip, which is rooted in an unequal power dynamic, heavily endorses Israel and fails to mention conditions of apartheid.
  • Visiting an Apartheid State but they call it "Co-Existence". Palestinians cannot visit their own land--they cannot move freely in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Gaza is under a blockade deemed as the world's largest open air prison. Palestinians face checkpoints where extreme human rights violations are committed on the daily. Meanwhile, Munk sends UofT students to work with Israeli citizens to explore “bothside-ist” perspectives as they freely travel through cities the native Palestinians are unable to enter. MunkOne students are given the privilege to visit the region while Palestinians are actively displaced and forcibly prevented from entering. 
    • Within the Palestinian state, Palestinian people who are refugees are barred from returning/denied the “right of return” residency even if there’s family living within the illegally occupied states. Palestinians living in Area C need permission to drive to/enter Jerusalem, and Palestinian residents born in East Jerusalem have residency but their legal status is incredibly conditional and revocable. Short distance travels can take hours for Palestinians due to checkpoints. The act of barring citizens from entering their own homeland as well as deliberately restricting their freedom of movement supports “an apartheid state” and is a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (“freedom of movement”). 

Why is this trip unique from other university trips?

MunkOne never acknowledges the reality of Palestinians versus other university trips that acknowledge that the goals of social research trips are, for instance, to research “poverty” or “migrant workers” in “XYZ” state or zone. Meanwhile, this MunkOne trip erases Palestinian realities in favor of the oppressors.  While claiming this trip is intended to provide students with valuable education of the Middle East, the unfortunate reality is that the trip provides students with significantly biased ‘education’, deprives the experiences of Palestineans, and whitewashes over the unequal power dynamics, discrimination, and state violence.

Why Sign the Petition:

Munk One’s principles are about global development and aid. This should be in line with Palestinian & Indigenous rights. Their students' safety, identities, & concerns should not be gaslit or ignored. The trip is also not necessary to Munk One’s curriculum. Discontinuing it does zero harm versus the harm of indoctrinating naive students into an Israel “trip.”

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