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February 23, 2016 6:29 pm

Hebrew U Invites Top PA Adviser to Debate MK; Students Question Wisdom of Hosting ‘Envoy of Murderous, Antisemitic Terror Organization’

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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PA President Mahmoud Abbas adviser Mahmoud al-Habash. Photo: Al Jazeera/Screenshot.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas adviser Mahmoud al-Habash. Photo: Al Jazeera/Screenshot.

A number of Hebrew University of Jerusalem students responded critically to the Facebook post of a prominent Knesset member inviting them to attend a debate next week featuring a Palestinian Authority bigwig, the Israeli news site nrg reported on Tuesday.

MK Ofer Shelah, from the centrist party Yesh Atid, announced he would be debating Mahmoud al-Habash, a top adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, at the Jerusalem university’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace “on the most burning issues surrounding the current security situation: the terror wave, the lone-wolf intifada, child martyrs, the Gaza tunnels, ISIS’ increasing stronghold in the Middle East, the rise of radical Islam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process.”

According to nrg, students responded on the Truman Institute’s Facebook page by asking why a “supporter of terrorism” is being invited to lecture at the university. “Have you lost your minds?” one wrote. Another was more tempered, but equally against the move. “I respect Ofer Shelah, but I don’t think he should provide a platform for a Fatah terrorist, and I’m sorry that he and the organizers of the debate are lending legitimacy to a voice from the terrorist Palestinian leadership, which doesn’t even represent the Palestinian people. He should not take part in the lie of the Palestinian people in general, or cooperate with an envoy of a murderous, antisemitic terrorist organization in particular.”

This kind of harsh reaction was elicited, according to the report, by a series of extremist comments from al-Habash, questioning Israeli rights to Jerusalem and expressing support for terrorists. Among his past purported remarks were: “All the Palestinian prisoners who defended the land, honor and homeland are freedom [fighters]; they are prisoners of war…”

Another public statement he was reported to have made was interpreted as the glorification of terrorists. “After the prophesy and righteousness, there is no higher rank with Allah than martyrdom,” he said.

In addition, nrg said, following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in late spring of 2014 – the incident that is said to have sparked Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza – al-Habash accused Israel of using the boys’ murder to “escalate its aggression against the Palestinian people.”

The Israeli Zionist organization Im Tirtzu , which has been at the center of a controversy in Israel over two videos it produced — accusing left-wing NGOs and members of Israel’s cultural elite of being ‘foreign agents’ – urged Shelah not to participate in the debate.

In the wake of the controversy over al-Habash’s invitation, the Hebrew University stated that it is “a leading academic institution that espouses freedom of expression and pluralism, as long as no violation of the law is involved. The Truman Institute acts to promote peace and enable respectful dialogue as the basis for furthering discussion to bring about a solution to the conflict.”

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  • Janet

    When and where is the debate? Is it closed to non-students? Thanks.

  • The Institute apparently spells its name this way, but it should be noted that Harry Truman’s middle name was “S” and, properly speaking, the abbreviation “S.” should not be used.

    The use of the self-aggrandizing adjective “leading” by the university is unfortunate. Institutions of higher learning should rely on their reputations and demonstrated accomplishments and not use PR language such as this.

    Al-Habash is not giving a speech; he is debating. Increasing the lines of communication is always desirable. Shelah may well bring up some of the comments attributed to al-Habash, and it would be interesting to see how the latter responds. Perhaps he was not always quoted correctly. Let’s see what happens. Remember, an important principle is that we can learn things from everyone, even from the worst of people.