Mid East expert returns to College
Gamal Abouali '90, an expert on Middle East relations and one of the College's more prominent recent alumni, will deliver a talk titled "Palestine Under the Oslo Accords: Human Rights Issues" tonight in the Rockefeller Center at a gathering of the University Seminar on War and Peace Issues.
Abouali currently works for Human Rights Watch, a private organization based in Washington, D.C. He is a researcher in the Middle-East Division and the talk, he said, will focus on treatment of Palestinians by Israel and what human rights abuses mean for the future of a Palestinian state.
Born in Montreal as the son of Palestinian immigrants, Abouali was raised in Toronto. His father and mother, who are from Nabulus and Gaza, respectively, moved to Canada shortly after the 1967 Six Day War, which left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza, and crippled economic opportunities for Palestinians, Abouali said.
Abouali moved with his family to Kuwait when he was 8 years old and attended an American-style high school for international students. He said he graduated early and came to Dartmouth at age 16.
When he arrived at Dartmouth, Abouali recalled, "the campus seemed very parochial." As an Arab and as an international student, Abouali said many in Hanover met him with hostility.
Abouali was the only Arab student in his class, and he said he encountered many people who had never met a Palestinian before.
"I came right before the beginning of the Intifada and there was a lot of anti-Arab sentiment in America," Abouali said.
When he applied for a certain Dartmouth scholarship, he said "one of the committee members asked me essentially if I was going to use the money for terrorism."
As a result of the prejudices Abouali felt, he formed close friendships and strong political alignments with other international students.
Interlibrary Loan Assistant Marianne Hraibi, who said she knew Abouali well when he was a student, described him as a "formidable" advocate for social justice.
Hraibi said Abouali's work at Human Rights Watch is indicative of his compassionate character and unbending sense of justice.
Abouali said he spent much of his time at Dartmouth battling for the rights of international students, women, gays and lesbians.
During his first year, Abouali was involved in the effort to convince the Board of Trustees to divest $63 million the College had invested in South Africa, where apartheid laws brutally discriminated against blacks, he said.
Abouali said he and a few other students held a three-day fast, culminating in a sit-in by approximately 200 students in Parkhurst Administration building. Eventually the College removed its investments.
"We were highly organized and very vocal," Abouali said of the international students' political action.
"What we did was give back as good as we got," he said. "The fighting could be exhausting but at the same time liberating and empowering."
In addition to his activism, Abouali was also known for his keen mind.
"I would rank him among one of the top one percent of Dartmouth students," Sociology Professor Misagh Parsa said.
After graduation, Abouali earned a master's degree in operations research in 1991.
He went on to Yale Law School where he was the Articles Editor of the Law Journal. The summer after his first year at Yale, Abouali said he worked for a human rights organization in the West Bank, analyzing water supply agreements under humanitarian law.
Also while at Yale, Abouali said he and 15 other students helped the Palestine Liberation Organization draft a bill of rights.
The University Seminar on War and Peace Issues meets several times a term, said Mathematics Professor John Lamperti said. Tonight he expects 20 to 25 faculty members.