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February 7, 2017 4:14 pm

Experts: Western Universities Should Cut, Reconsider Ties With Palestinian Partner School in Wake of Militant Rally Inciting Violence

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Militant student rally at Birzeit University. Photo: Screenshot MEMRI.

The militant student rally at Birzeit University. Photo: Screenshot MEMRI.

Experts called on Western institutions to cut or re-evaluate ties with a Palestinian university in the West Bank, after a militant student rally was held at the school late last year.

Cinnamon Stillwell, of Campus Watch — a project of the Middle East Forum think tank — told The Algemeiner that she does not think partnerships with Birzeit University should continue, following a December march by the school’s Shabiba student group celebrating the Fatah movement’s 52nd anniversary, at which armed men dressed in fatigues shouted slogans like, “This is a call to arms!” and “Blow up the head of the settler!” — as seen in a video posted and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“Both for the safety of Western students, who could be vulnerable to radicalization and even terrorism, and because Palestinian institutions need to be held accountable for their promotion of terrorism,” these relations should be broken off, Stillwell said.

According to Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, collaborations between American and European institutions with their Palestinian counterparts must be determined on an individual basis, but not enough is being done to investigate whether faculty members or students have extremist backgrounds.

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“Birzeit students can apply for a Fulbright Scholarship, for example, but the application does not ask if one has or has ever had ties to terrorist organizations,” he said. “That’s an oversight.”

Cary Nelson — Jubilee Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a prominent anti-BDS activist — told The Algemeiner, “The logic is that inter-institutional programming gives students and faculty an opportunity to learn from one another and that those interactions may ameliorate hostility and increase understanding over time.”

But, Nelson said, while “university administrations generally operate out of good will, faculty and students often establish such relationships in support of the Palestinian resistance.”

Romirowsky said that Western schools interested in “diversifying the discourse of ideas on campus, have to make sure the people and institutions they partner with aren’t pushing radical beliefs.”

Birzeit’s partners have stood behind their decision to collaborate with the West Bank school. A representative of the UK’s University of Warwick — where the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender has a partnership with Birzeit’s Institute of Women’s Studies — told The Algemeiner, “The university would always support the academic freedom of researchers to form such academic working relationships.”

Birzeit — where terror group Hamas recently won the student elections for the second time — also has an ongoing relationship with the sociology department at the London Schools of Economics.

Birzeit would not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.

As The Algemeiner previously reported, academic freedom at Palestinian universities is often restricted by a culture of intimidation and violence, often perpetuated by student groups radicalized by terror cells.

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