URCA students present research on occupied Palestinian state at regional conference

Political science students studying the occupied Palestinian state presented their preliminary research at the International Studies Association Midwest conference earlier this month.

The 10 students – Meghan Hughes, Thomas Pearson, Nasir Almasri, Charmaine Burrus, Daniel Crain, Eric Gross, Nesreen Jaber, Ana Murillo, Tyler Urish and Stephen Wilkerson – held a panel presentation called “Human Security in the Occupied Palestinian State” as part of their research with Political Science Department Chair Denise DeGarmo. All students are involved in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) program.

Hughes said participating on the panel was a good experience because they spoke to people who are aware of the issue itself and being able to get feedback to improve their work.

“It was like kind of an open discussion afterwards,” Hughes said of the presentation. “The people who were there did ask questions to certain people about their specific topics and it was more for improvement of our own studies to get feedback and ways to advance our own research so I think it was helpful in that aspect…”

Sophomore philosophy and political science major Thomas Pearson said presenting at the conference was fun and a “confidence booster.”

“It feels good to be able to talk in front of graduate students and professors and feel like you’re doing something that’s worth your time,” Pearson said. “It feels cool.”

It is important to study the occupied Palestinian states, according to Hughes, because the topic can be controversial in the United States.

“I think it’s good to get people to learn both sides of the story and not automatically assume things without doing prior research,” Hughes said. “Even myself before I joined this research team I was not completely educated on the topic, and here the news sources can sway you a lot so I think it’s just an eye opener to always check your sources and be seeing both sides of any conflict.”

Hughes, a junior political science major, discussed primary education in the occupied states, focusing on how Israeli actions “affect access to and the quality of primary education.” Under international law, Hughes said it is Israel’s responsibility to provide free, primary education to those they are occupying.

“They continually do actions such as bombings and forced displacement due to house demolitions and those all have an impact…,” Hughes said.

Hughes’ interest in the primary education system stemmed from her current work at an elementary school. She said she wanted to see the differences between the two education systems.

“There’s so many obstacles and barriers just to getting a primary education in the occupied Palestinian state and there’s none of that here,” Hughes said. “There [are] some obstacles, but not bombings, not getting killed in your own school, so it’s just  very eye opening.”

Pearson’s research focused on economics through a theoretical lens.

“The occupied Palestinian state has several private corporations that work within its territories that are run by Israeli business owners…,” Pearson said, “and what I’ve been finding is that a lot of times this is keeping the poor employment status of Palestinians, keeping it at very poor conditions, so basically it’s kind of important to look at how are these corporations effecting the political and economic mobility of [the occupied Palestinian state.]”

Pearson said the goal for all of the students involved in the research is to have their final papers finished by the end of the spring semester.

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