Palestinian University’s Dubious Stance on Democracy and Human Rights
In an article published Sunday, Amira Hass, the pro-Palestinian journalist for Haaretz, revealed that last week she was asked to leave a conference organized by the German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and The Center for Development (CDS) at Birzeit University, located near Ramallah, where Hass herself lives.
After Hass registered for the conference, “Alternatives to Neo-Liberal Development in Occupied Palestinian Territories – Critical Perspectives,” a Birzeit student manning the registration desk realized that Hass was an Israeli Jew and immediately alerted university authorities. Due to a 20-year university law, which mandates that Israeli Jews are not allowed on university grounds, Hass was asked to leave. “It is important for the students to have a safe space where (Jewish) Israelis are not entitled to enter…” Hass quotes a lecturer’s explanation for the law in her article.
Hass went on to justify the university’s actions, writing “I understand the emotional need of Palestinians to create a safe space that is off limits to citizens of the state that denies them their rights and has been robbing them of their land.” She also states in her article that she does not take the incident “personally.”
But others see it differently, including the self-described Palestinian American journalist, Ray Hanania, editor of The Arab Daily News. “The incident is pretty sad, and I would not be so understanding as Amira Hass…” writes Hanania. He points out that Palestinians minds are being controlled by Islamic fanaticism “that is growing in strength and power, fueled on by the rising extremism in the Arab and Muslim worlds.”
“Birzeit University’s prohibition on Israelis entering the campus is stupid. The University should repeal the idiotic ban, whether it really is a university law or just a ‘practice’ enforced by fanatics on the campus,” Hanania continues.
“The truth is that the rise of Palestinian and Arab extremism has become more of an obstacle to Palestinian independence … The majority of Palestinians and Arabs are moderate but they fear and are reluctant to stand up to the growing extremism,” explains Hanania who was raised in the United States by Palestinian Christian parents and was formerly a Chicago City Hall political reporter.
“These extremists attack American organizations and libel activists who support two-states and compromise. These extremists dominate Arab conferences and silence and bully and boycott any Palestinian who dares to speak out against their insanity. These extremists enable the violence and the terrorism that is spreading through the Middle East at a frightening pace,” concluded Hanania.
Birzeit University has been at the center of several controversies including accusations of allowing a small extremist group of Salafist students to silence freedom of expression in the university. In 2012, Salafist students succeeded in coercing the university to take measures against a prominent academic, Professor Mousa al-Budeiri from the Philosophy and Cultural Studies department, for hanging cartoons commenting on social issues, which the students found insulting to Islam. They deemed al-Budeiri an apostate, demanding his expulsion, reported the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper. In another incident, Birzeit University students forcibly prevented a British envoy from entering the university, attacking his car and preventing him from speaking on campus in March 2013.
Ironically, the German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation that had organized the conference at Birzeit University from which Haaretz’s Amira Hass was expelled, is named after Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist theorist and philosopher who was Jewish. The foundation is considered one of the largest institutions of political education in Germany and has an office in Tel Aviv. According to the foundation’s website, it seeks to strengthen the democratic elements in Israeli civil society by emphasizing non-violence and peaceful cooperation through alternative education.