Jerusalem-based Al-Quds University was in the hot seat again on Friday because of a clumsy attempt to regain international credibility lost by the school after students held a Nazi rally on campus, leading Brandeis University to suspend their decade-long alliance with the Arab university.
The move by Brandeis led the much larger Syracuse University to also cancel it’s foreign exchange program with Al-Quds, while York University, in Toronto, said it was “investigating” the matter and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences said it would evaluate an exchange program with al Quds that had been dormant since 2008. Only Bard College, in New York, said it would maintain its partnership with the beleaguered Arab school.
The maelstrom on Friday came after Al-Quds announced it would begin teaching a course “to discuss ways of combating hate-speech and racism,” in an attempt to make good after the Nazi-style student rally where Al-Quds students wore black military gear, carried fake automatic weapons, gave the Nazi salute, and surrounded the main square of their campus with banners depicting images of suicide bombers and terrorists.
The school said it even planned to invite “prominent experts to deliver lectures in this course,” and would “extend an invitation to its critics, including the President of Brandeis, Dr. Frederick Lawrence, to participate.”
Commentators said their glaring omission was to make this venture only a special summer class, rather than a real part of the curriculum, and offer the course in English, not Arabic.
Pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon wrote, “Why is the course only going to be offered in English? Offering the course for Westerners who already agree that hate speech is bad doesn’t help things one bit, except for PR.”
“The bigger issue is that Al Quds is creating this course not to improve its own community but to make itself look better for the West. The fact is that it still allows Islamic Jihad and Hamas student groups to be accepted and supported like a book club or a Christian club might be.”
Other bloggers demanded that Al Quds should be held responsible for the rest of its programming on campus that could also be interpreted as supporting hate speech, particularly at one of its cultural institutes, the Abu Jihad Museum, begun in 1999 and inaugurated in 2007, to honor suicide bombers loyal to the PLO’s violent nationalist cause.
“The Museum was designated to honor the prince of the martyrs of Palestine, Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), who was martyred in Tunisia on April 16, 1988,” blogger Bob Knot pointed out, on the Elder of Zion site.
In November, the Boston-area school qualified the Nazi rally as an example of “intolerance” that Al-Quds needed to recognize before Brandeis would consider re-engaging their partnership.
“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,” the school said. “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.”
On Friday, Elder of Ziyon also made hay out of a study commissioned by Brandeis that recommended that the school re-engage Al-Quds.
The blogger questioned the wisdom of choosing the same three of the recipients of the Bronfman Brandeis-Israel Research Collaboration grant to work at Al-Quds as the same to write the report and recommend the partnership be resumed.
“Nah, no conflict of interest there at all!” the blogger wrote.