The Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights (CSSR) has received a $50,000 gift to endow a fellowship for law students focused on researching and advocating for the civil and human rights of Palestinians and Palestinian Americans. The Bassem and Muna Hishmeh Endowed Student Fellowship will also train and develop law students interested in race and international affairs related to Palestine. The selected fellow will serve for nine months and receive a stipend beginning in fall 2023. CSSR will begin accepting applications in March.
Rutgers Law Professor Sahar Aziz, executive director of CSSR, said, “Addressing how anti-Palestinian discrimination and human rights violations fit into broader social justice issues is under-researched in academic and policy research. Rutgers University-Newark’s nationally known reputation as a university committed to social justice provides the academic freedom for law students to conduct research and public engagement on the civil and human rights of Palestinians and Palestinian Americans.”
The fellow will conduct legal and policy research, produce an issue brief with other fellows, draft op-eds, engage with community leaders, conduct related events, and organize public lectures. The fellowship was made possible by The Palestinian American Community Center (PACC) in Clifton, New Jersey. PACC is a nonpolitical, nonreligious community group that works to sustain and strengthen ties to Palestinian heritage while promoting the well-being of the entire community surrounding it. According to Prof. Aziz, the Center’s collaboration with PACC is part of its outreach with organizations serving New Jersey’s diverse Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.
Rania Mustafa, PACC’s executive director, said, “The high-quality work and strong reputation of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights persuaded us that it was the right home to establish a fellowship for human rights research and advocacy.” She continued, “Students, scholars, and the public want to hear the lived experiences of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel from their perspectives. And yet, scholars and students in the United States have been defamed, blacklisted, and attacked for researching or defending the human rights of Palestinians. The discrimination against Palestinian Americans and Americans advocating for Palestinian human rights is at an all-time high, making this social justice focused fellowship all the more crucial.”
Basem and Muna Hishmeh are both refugees from Palestine who established a self-titled foundation in 2007 to support educational and cultural programs in the United States and in the Palestinian region. Basem Hishmeh said, “We decided to support the Palestine Fellow to contribute to raising awareness about Palestinian human rights, the discrimination against Palestinian Americans, and our struggle for liberty and self-determination.” He continued, “As Palestinian refugees, we have experienced first-hand discrimination against Palestinians. We visit Palestine often and have witnessed the horrors of the Israeli occupation. Advocating for Palestinian human rights should not be suppressed and criminalized in the United States.”
The Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights in Newark is the first and only academic center at a United States law school focused on the civil and human rights of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Students interested in the fellowship can contact CSSR for more information.