Why Brandeis university cut off links to Al Quds university

December 31, 2013
Sarah Benton

Here are some pieces on the Brandeis decision to cast off Al Quds, and some illustrations of salutes: it all depends on the intention of the saluter.

This posting has these items:
1) Tikun Olam: Al Quds University: Anatomy of a Smear, Richard Silverstein sets out the story;
2) Atlas Shrugs: What are the chance for peace so long as the Palestinian president encourages this. Tom Gross comes up with the most hostile possible intrpretation;
3) Facebook: What Brandeis university and others do not understand, Rima Najjar defends the right of Palestinians to resist with violence;
4) Brandeis university: Brandeis University suspends its partnership with Al-Quds University effective immediately;
5) Times of Israel: Al-Quds university head condemns Nazi-style demonstration on campus;

American school-children commonly used the ‘Bellamy salute’ while taking the pledge of allegiance. This photo from a Connecticut school in 1942, Photo by Fenno Jacobs.

Let’s hope Harvard and Columbia universities have cut off all contacts with their former students.

Al Quds University: Anatomy of a Smear

By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
December 25, 2013

I wrote several posts a few weeks ago about Brandeis University’s abrupt severing of all ties with the Palestinian Al Quds University and its remarkable president, Sari Nusseibeh. In those posts I rebutted false claims suggested by Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence that there had been a “Nazi-like” rally on the Palestinian campus which extolled terrorists and suicide bombers. What was astonishing to me was that Lawrence, the leader of a major liberal arts university would accept as prima facie evidence, information proffered by the right-wing pro-Israel bloggers Pam Geller, Tom Gross and Israel Matzav, who led the ‘jihad’ against Al Quds. Since then even the NY Times has falsely called the same campus rally “Nazi-like,” though it had absolutely no association with Nazism. By the way, I wrote an e-mail to the reporter and the Times’ public editor complaining of the false charge. I received no reply.

Netanyahu at the UN. L, by AP; R, by Reuters.

I’ve been able to trace the Israeli origin of the charges against Al Quds to a November 11th article in Maariv. The article deals in general with the theme of so-called Palestinian incitement against Israel. In its litany of “sins,” it lists the Al Quds rally and a separate incident in which residents of the South Hebron Hills village of Beit Ummar purportedly hung a Nazi flag.

If you read the translation, you’ll see how a sloppy reading by someone looking to sensationalize the facts would allow all the blame to fall on Al Quds:

Documented: Nazi Salutes and Flags in the Palestinian Authority

At Al Quds University, students were photographed with arms raised, while a Nazi flag was flown over a Palestinian village.

Photographs taken at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem feature masked men affiliated with Islamic Jihad as they march with arms raised in salute. In other pictures, students may be seen also raising their own arms in a Nazi salute.

The article links to a November 6th blog post by UK Jewish, anti-Palestinian blogger, Tom Gross, who calls the salutes “fascist-style.” He added:”Students were encouraged to give what other students at Al-Quds described as Hitler-style salutes…”

Swearing in Chinese government officials, Taipei Times.

All this raises the question: who took these photos? Gross refuses to acknowledge who took them or how he received them. Curiously, the photos displayed at his site are hot-linked from Pam Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugged. The date of her post is also November 6th. So they both, almost simultaneously, published their information on the Al Quds rally. Geller does link back to Gross but the latter makes no mention of his collusion with Geller in this smear campaign.

I’d hazard a guess that Gross, who prides himself as being an “independent” Middle East analyst, preferred not being associated with Geller’s bellicose reputation. Coincidentally, Gross also omits from his website biography that he’s a member of the international advisory board of the far-right NGO Monitor and a founding member of the pro-Israel, neoncon Henry Jackson Society based in the UK. Not as “independent” as he makes out to be.

Robert Spencer and Pam Geller have in the past paid anti-Muslim activists to spy on pro-Palestine rallies by videotaping them. My guess is that she and Gross secured the photos either directly or indirectly from the Shabak or its Palestinian informants. They, in turn, likely passed them on to the government hasbara apparatus. From there it was but a hop, skip and jump to Geller, Gross and Fred Lawrence.

Rangers fans (a Protestant Scottish club) giving the ‘Red Hand of Ulster’ salute. UEFA investigated and accepted their attribution, although others dismiss this argument .

The notion that “other students” described the salutes pictured here as “Hitler-style” is preposterous. No Palestinian would do so. But Tom Gross, Bibi Netanyahu, and the Shabak certainly would. So we’ve caught Gross in a major fib.

Apparently, there is a some small moral conscience inside Gross, as he wrote this mealy-mouthed statement which purports to get him off the hook for the pro-Israel Nazi-smear of Al Quds he inspired:

I would also like to make it clear that while it is good these sites are covering this issue, I disassociate myself with the use of language in some of the reports linking to this page that use the term “Nazi salute” or “Nazi style” or “Hitler-style” or “genocide”.

I believe that such terms should only be used in the context of World War Two, and I avoided using them myself on this webpage, as I have elsewhere.

A more apt term would be “Fascist-style”.

Really, Tom, what’s the diff?? Is that the best you can do after siccing the dogs of Hitler on the poor Palestinian campus??

Hezbollah salute

In my earlier posts, I noted that Islamic Jihad itself denied the salutes had anything to do with Nazism, but rather represented raising one’s arm toward Jerusalem, a city Muslims (and Jews) consider sacred. According to the Brandeis campus paper, a faculty report on the incident said:

…The student group holding the demonstration denied any connection between Nazism and its gesture…Instead, the gesture was meant to be related to a pledge supporting Al-Quds. The report also mentions that…scholars on both campuses indicate that the salute is used by other Middle Eastern political groups…

In fact, no modern Palestinian groups have ever supported Nazism or displayed Nazi regalia as part of their rituals. In Israel, on the contrary, some Jews have raised Nazi flags in political protest against the State. But I think this fact no more associates the State of Israel with Nazism than a campus salute associates Al Quds University with it.

Maariv also quotes PM Netanyahu’s remarks about the Al Quds incident:

It’s especially troubling that even in these days [of peace negotiations] that we witness such salutes and swastikas in the Palestinian Authority. This is a direct result of the incitement there against the State of Israel.

If you’re alert, you’re wondering where the “swastika” reference comes in. It seems that there was a separate incident outside the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar in which the IDF was summoned to take down a Nazi flag that was hung. The Maariv article displays a Facebook posting which it claims was made on the village’s Facebook page. It quotes the supposed posting as saying: “Today, the heroes of Beit Ummar hung Hitler’s flag over a power line: may their efforts be blessed.”

Former Pope Joseph Ratzinger and his brother receiving a blessing, a photograph widely circulated as evidence of his fascist sympathies.

The Facebook post displayed in the article does not say this. That post merely describes the incident. So we have an example of a reporter publishing a supposed post without offering any proof that it exits or who was its author. The reporter made no effort to speak with the IDF unit which removed the flag. He never found anyone from the village to interview about the incident, let alone someone who acknowledged the village was responsible.

He never wonders whether someone else might gain from such a provocation: settlers or even the security services themselves. Nazi symbols simply do not resonate for Palestinians. They don’t carry much weight or import. So why would any Palestinian bother doing such a thing? It’s much more likely that a settler provocateur would engage in such an act in order to elicit outrage among Israeli Jews and the outside world.

And that’s precisely what happened. Fred Lawrence fell right into the trap. But he didn’t fall unintentionally. His was a willing one. Brandeis would have us believe that it is a liberal arts institution “cherishing its independence from any doctrine or government.” That’s what it’s mission statement says. But you can kiss that notion goodbye. A former chair of the school’s board of trustees once told a faculty member that the essence of the school is that “we support Israel.” When the professor asked how that squared with its mission statement, the trustee dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “The reason I said we support Israel is because we do.” You won’t find that in the mission statement because it might be a bit, er, uncomfortable to explain. But it’s Brandeis’ #1 unwritten law.

Image of the priestly blessing from Enschede synagogue, Netherlands.

In that context, Lawrence’s cutting of ties with Al Quds makes perfect sense. Brandeis’ mission is not to create international academic relationships with Palestinian universities. It’s real mission is to educate American Jewish youth and raise funds from the wealthiest 1% of American Jewry. Those donors are overwhelmingly, not just liberal Zionists, but hardline pro-Israel. The school’s trustees are closely allied with the Islamophobic David Project, Aipac, and numerous other Israel Lobby groups. Fred Lawrence probably didn’t even need to be told to ditch Al Quds. He knew what his trustees would want him to do and he did it.

To give but one example of Brandeis’ real nature, Michael Steinhardt gave $12-million to endow an Institute in his name that is part of the Cohen Center. It’s no accident that demographers working under the Center’s auspices have produced ten years of glowing surveys of Birthright-Israel participants “proving” that the billion-dollar investment of Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt, and other wealthy pro-Israel donors have inculcated pro-Israel values and given them something to live for as Jews. Such surveys take the guise of serious academic research, but they are nothing more than agitprop for pro-Israelism and self-interested boosterism that inflates donors egos with their own sense of success. In that sense, Brandeis happily allows itself to be co-opted both by pro-Israel mega-donors and by its own pro-Israel sympathies. The result is hasbara that passes for rigorous inquiry.

Returning to one of the statements that opened this post: Al Quds University has been smeared by a carefully manufactured campaign in the pro-Israel media. Serious academics and media outlets have either knowingly or unknowingly bought into the smear. They should be ashamed.

There will be a Brandeis faculty meeting next month at which Al Quds will be discussed. Some faculty are seeking to renew ties with the Palestinian school. One hopes sanity, reason, and real liberal values will prevail.

I should add that after the recent resolution endorsing BDS by the American Studies Association, Brandeis’ own American Studies program almost immediately voted to cut off its ties with the ASA. That was followed by three other schools. All of them were pressured to do so by letters sent to them by Israel Lobby groups like the Anti-Defamation League. Next month, the Modern Language Association takes up debate on the issue.

The photo of an event on November 5th, 2013, that caused Brandeis university to suspend relations with Al Quds university or as Atlas Shrugs says:

What are the chance for peace so long as the Palestinian president encourages this and western governments [to] continue to fund him without criticism?

 By Tom Gross, Atlas Shrugs (Pamela Geller)
November 06, 2013

During his press conference in Jerusalem today on the “peace process,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israel again, but did not place any emphasis at all on the fact that the Palestinian Authority tolerates (and in many cases actively encourages) incitement to kill Jews. One hopes that U.S. diplomats who subscribe to this list will draw his attention to the shocking photos below.They were taken yesterday afternoon by a subscriber to this list that I know well and whom was at Al-Quds University yesterday. They were taken on the university campus and it has been confirmed to me that the persons in them are current university students.

Al-Quds is a Palestinian university in east Jerusalem. It is often hailed as a “liberal” or “moderate” university by western diplomats and journalists.It was established with the help of Israel in 1984, along with other universities Israel helped set up for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with the aim of increasing the educational level of Palestinians.

Academics and students (including, quite possibly, some in these photos) have received and continue to receive grants from European governments, charities and foundations. Al-Quds University is also currently in partnership with liberal (and largely Jewish) institutions in the U.S., including Brandeis University and Bard College.

I would urge you to take a quick look at these photos. These kinds of scenes can be seen regularly at Palestinian universities and elsewhere in the West Bank but Western news organizations strenuously avoid reporting on them.

As long as the Palestinian Authority encourages such demonstrations and the university authorities tolerate them, it is doubtful there can ever be peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Peace which presumably we all want.

What Brandeis university and others do not understand: Palestinian armed resistance to zionist colonization is a path to liberation

By Rima Najjar, Facebook
November 05, 2013

Those of you following the story re: Brandeis University suspending its partnership with Al-Quds University might like to take another look at the campus rally that instigated the ruckus. The rally was meant to honor the martyrs of Islamic Jihad and specifically the father of martyr Mohammad Rabah ‘Asi. Regarding the salute at the Islamic Bloc rally that was likened to a nazi salute, it is done by extending the arm and pointing the index finger to indicate the basic “there is no Allah but Allah” Muslim religious” creed. Was there military zeal and a subtext of violence in the imagery used and the slogans chanted against the Jewish Zionist state as symbolized by the star of David that students were stepping on? Yes, of course, there was. It’s the right of the oppressed to use violence against the oppressor and no amount of “terrorist” labeling or Islamophobic ranting is going to change that.

As it happened, we had (by coincidence) three professors from Brandeis visiting us while all this was happening – in fact, they met with members of the English department to discuss course design and development, and they do not share the view of their administration that suspending the partnership between the two universities was the right action to take.

Brandeis University suspends its partnership with Al-Quds University effective immediately

Brandeis Now (official statement)
November 18, 2013

Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence announced today that Brandeis has suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University effective immediately. Brandeis will re-evaluate the relationship as future events may warrant.

The decision stems from recent events at Al-Quds University, including a campus demonstration on Nov. 5 and a statement about the demonstration, which the president of Al-Quds University issued last night.

The Nov. 5 demonstration on the Al-Quds campus involved demonstrators wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons, and who marched while waving flags and raising the traditional Nazi salute. The demonstration took place in the main square of the Al-Quds campus, which was surrounded by banners depicting images of “martyred” suicide bombers.

Immediately after he received reports of the demonstration, President Lawrence contacted Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh and requested that he issue an unequivocal condemnation of the demonstrations. President Lawrence also requested that the condemnation be published in both Arabic and English.

President of Al-Quds University Prof. Sari Nusseibeh in his office at the university in Beit Hanina, in East Jerusalem, one of three Al-Quds campuses. Photo by Nati Shochat/Flash90.

Last night (Nov. 17), President Nusseibeh sent an email to President Lawrence with an English translation of a statement posted in Arabic on the Al-Quds web site.

Unfortunately, the Al-Quds statement is unacceptable and inflammatory. While Brandeis has an unwavering commitment to open dialogue on difficult issues, we are also obliged to recognize intolerance when we see it, and we cannot – and will not – turn a blind eye to intolerance. As a result, Brandeis is suspending its partnership with Al-Quds University effective immediately. We will reevaluate our relationship with Al-Quds based on future events.

The partnership with Al Quds University was initiated with the best of intentions for opening a dialogue and building a foundation for peace. Over the years, our partnership has been extremely productive in many respects, including student and faculty exchanges that have advanced the cause of peace and understanding.

Brandeis welcomes students of all faiths and nationalities and is home to students from more than 130 countries, including every country in the Middle East. We are proud of our deep roots in Middle Eastern studies as well as our internationally recognized programs in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies.

While recent events make it necessary for us to suspend our current relationship with Al-Quds, we will continue to advance the cause of peace and understanding on our campus and around the world.

Al-Quds university head condemns Nazi-style demonstration on campus

Sari Nusseibeh says he hopes Brandeis will reconsider its decision to suspend long-time partnership

By David Horovitz and JTA / Times of Israel
November 20, 2013

Sari Nusseibeh, the president of the Palestinian Al-Quds University, on Wednesday condemned a November 5 Nazi-style demonstration by students affiliated with Islamic Jihad on the university’s main campus.

The demonstration, during which, Nusseibeh said he understood, participants made Nazi-style salutes and trampled on Israeli flags, was “inconsistent with the human values we try to teach” at the university and “misrepresented who we are and what we stand for.”

In protest over the demonstration and over an earlier statement by Nusseibeh which did not explicitly condemn it, Brandeis University on Monday suspended its partnership with Al-Quds, which had been in place since 1998. Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence said the university would re-evaluate the relationship in the future.

Speaking to The Times of Israel in his office on the university’s Beit Hanina campus on Wednesday, Nusseibeh said he hoped Brandeis would reconsider its position. “Needless to say, the event on the campus by this small group — trampling on Israeli flags and behaving as though sympathizing with Nazi or fascist ideology — in no way represents our university values, and we are constantly trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening.”

Asked directly whether he condemned the demonstration, Nusseibeh said “Yes.”

He said such events were rare on campus precisely “because we have created a different environment” and noted that Islamic Jihad was a very small faction among university students. Nusseibeh said the university has 12,000 students at its campuses in Abu Dis, El-Bireh and Beit Hanina.

Nusseibeh, who has been president of the university for almost 20 years, said he hoped Brandeis would reassess its stance, and that he worried its position “only strengthens those on the other side who call for boycotts of Israeli universities. It will be picked up by the people who say there is no future in these cooperations [with Israeli institutions]. We have been trying to say it is possible. Yes, there are obstacles but we try to overcome them. We can only overcome them by working together.”

Hopes for peace, Nusseibeh added, “rest on people from both sides who try to hold the reins and steer the whole situation toward ultimate reconciliation, and not allow extremist actions on both sides to blow up the whole thing.”

During the demonstration two weeks ago, protesters marched in black military gear with fake automatic weapons while waving flags and offering the traditional Nazi salute. Banners with images of Palestinian suicide bombers decorated the campus’ main square, according to a statement from Brandeis. Several students also portrayed dead Israeli soldiers.

Following the demonstration Lawrence called on Nusseibeh to issue in Arabic and English a condemnation of the demonstration.

In a statement issued to Al-Quds students Sunday, Nusseibeh said that “Jewish extremists” were using the demonstration to “capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies.” Without these ideologies, he said “there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”

“As occurred recently, these opportunists are quick to describe the Palestinians as a people undeserving of freedom and independence, and as a people who must be kept under coercive control and occupation. They cite these events as evidence justifying their efforts to muster broad Jewish and western opinion to support their position. This public opinion, in turn, sustains the occupation, the extension of settlements and the confiscation of land, and prevents Palestinians from achieving our freedom,” Nusseibeh wrote.

The Brandeis University statement called Nusseibeh’s message “unacceptable and inflammatory.” It added: “While Brandeis has an unwavering commitment to open dialogue on difficult issues, we are also obliged to recognize intolerance when we see it, and we cannot – and will not – turn a blind eye to intolerance.”

It said that the partnership was formed more than a decade ago with an eye toward “opening a dialogue and building a foundation for peace,” and called the relationship “productive in many respects.”

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