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Brandeis profs take side of ‘courageous’ Al Quds president, against their own president

Israel/Palestine
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Sari Nusseibeh

Sari Nusseibeh

Three Brandeis professors have challenged the university’s president over his decision to suspend a partnership with Al Quds University following a disturbing demonstration at the Jerusalem school in early November led by a student group associated with Islamic Jihad.

In a report released two days ago, the professors– who saw a student hit by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier during an incursion on the campus November 17– say that the rally earlier that month was hateful but that Al Quds was dealing appropriately with it, and Brandeis should restore the 10-year-old partnership and “redouble” its interactions with the school precisely because Al Quds is so engaged in offering a moderate path in Palestine.

The report is extremely critical of Fred Lawrence, the Brandeis president, who had asked the three to look into the Al Quds situation because they happened to be visiting the school at the time of the controversy. They slam Lawrence for throwing Sari Nusseibeh, the Al Quds University president and someone many in Palestine consider Israel-friendly, off a Brandeis board in the wake of the November 5 demonstration:

We believe that this action does a serious disservice to a man with a longtime record as a courageous man of letters and a man of peace. It also violates the principle of maintaining dialogue even with those with whom we disagree.

The professors– Daniel Terris, Susan Lanser and Daniel Kryder– say that Fred Lawrence reacted in haste last month and thoughtlessly, failing to appreciate the political pressure that Al Quds is under in trying to educate people under military occupation and in seeking to allow the campus to reflect the viewpoints of its students.

The professors were evidently shocked by an Israeli military incursion onto the campus last month while they were there, firing teargas and rubber bullets.

Our view allowed us to see one student as he was hit by a rubber bullet and at least a dozen being treated by paramedics. We ourselves experienced the debilitating effects of riot control gas.

The professors report that Israeli soldiers frequently come on to the campus. They offer their president a lesson in occupation:

“In the months before the November 5 rally, there were frequent confrontations involving young Palestinian men (some of whom are students) and Israeli soldiers patrolling the area. On approximately four occasions this fall, Israeli soldiers responded to such events by firing tear gas into the campus, at least once sending many dozens of canisters into the university’s central quad.”

Defying Lawrence, who tossed Al Quds president Sari Nusseibeh from a Brandeis advisory board on November 21, the professors repeatedly laud Nusseibeh’s actions. They say that the university responded “promptly and appropriately” to the demonstration, which featured fascistic arm gestures and the trampling of the Israeli flag, by launching an investigation into it. They say the school was not in a position to crack down on the demonstration at the time because of the volatile political condition of a university trying to carry on under military occupation.

“[A] highly charged political atmosphere with a potential for violence led university security officials to determine that any intervention or confrontation carried serious risks.”

The subsequent statement from Nusseibeh that Fred Lawrence demanded that he issue and that so many felt wanting, in its lukewarm condemnation of the rally, cannot be understood outside the context of military occupation and the polarization of the campus over several military raids on Al Quds. The professors say,  “In our view, the letter reflects a genuine effort of a University president to reach his students in prose chosen to engage them in productive conversations about the values of peace and mutual respect.” Even the description of the Holocaust as a “massacre,” which some in this country heard as a diminution, was an effort to explain Jewish history to Palestinians in a language they can relate to.

The professors conclude, “Our clear impression from the five days we spent at Al Quds University was of a leadership that was angry and appalled by the character of the November 5 rally and determined to counteract and prevent such gestures expressing hatred and activities promoting violence. What we heard and witnessed there was consistent with the spirit of cross cultural respect that has been a hallmark of the partnership from the beginning.”

By excommunicating Al Quds, Brandeis is playing into the hands of militants.

“Al Quds University is playing a courageous role in working for peace by engaging those minority factions in its midst that hold extremist views.”

The independent Brandeis student paper is the only outlet to have picked up this news.

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16 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    December 12, 2013, 12:54 pm

    People should not use the Roman Salute because of its fascist connotation.

    But how do we know that the Roman Salute was meant in a fascistic way by the uniformed paramilitary group in the photo, when East Asians like Japanese and Taiwanese use it, both the Islamic and anti-Muslim forces in Lebanon use it, both military sides in Syria use it, and the Palestinian Authority’s forces use it (at least not so long ago under Arafat)? Perhaps it was intended as part of the military tradition?
    http://shelf3d.com/Videos/coGekQxTvyY (Syria’s forces using it)

    In fact, based on photos of the Palestinian Authority using it under Arafat and its continued use by Hezbollah, etc. Doesn’t it make more sense that it is part of their military tradition instead of being intended as Nazism by groups that are not actually Nazis?

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      December 12, 2013, 12:55 pm

      The professors address this point, and accept the possibility that the students didn’t know, but express concern over this, and say folks in Palestine should know the implications. But you should search report for Nazi

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 1:26 pm

        To my earlier post I would add that the Roman salute came out of the French tradition, and that goose-stepping also came from English marches. Here you can find some half-hearted uses of both by the French on Bastille Day:
        http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Bastille-Day-Military-Parade-300×298.jpg

        The report makes a good point that helps to clear this up:

        “The student group that sponsored the rally unequivocally denied that
        this salute was related to Nazism. They claimed in a response to President Nusseibeh’s letter that “raising our hands was an expression
        of a pledge in sync with the anthem, ‘For my University.’”

        It notes that scholars on both school campuses acknowledge the Roman salute is used by a range of political groups in the Middle East.

        But the report counterargues that those who use it will know that it “will” be seen as anti-Semitic.

        That is too strong a wording from the report to say that it “will” be seen as fascist. People in America will usually think it is Nazi, but usually Middle Easterners will know that it isn’t. It is also too broad to say that around the world it is known as associated with Nazism. East Asians who fought the Axis powers use it themselves, so they do not associate it with Nazism, just as Russians and Chinese do not associate goose-stepping with Nazism.
        http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/goose-step-2.jpg

        In reality, some Palestinians should know that in the Americas and Europe, the sign is associated with Nazism. They should know that some of those who see this will not care about discussions about military traditions and just want to label them Nazis. But should we really expect that some group that wears masks and calls itself “Islamic Jihad” is going to stop using it out of deference or worry about labeling?

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 1:37 pm

        It’s my opinion that militaries around the world, from Syria to the PA to Lebanon to Japan and Taiwan, and millions of others in military groups should not use the Roman salute. Granted, should we expect they adopt the hand-on-heart style that America adopted around WWII?

        But I have to disagree with labeling the group’s action as “Nazi” or anti-semitic. The salute can have two meanings: military tradition or Nazism. And looking at it, it is not completely clear which was meant in that context. However, the group clarified what their intention was by saying that they gave it no association with Nazism.

        At that point one can either try to understand what another culture does or mislabel it based on their general pre-judgment that Palestinians are anti-Semitic.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        December 12, 2013, 4:35 pm
      • American
        American
        December 12, 2013, 7:43 pm

        At that point one can either try to understand what another culture does or mislabel it based on their general pre-judgment that Palestinians are anti-Semitic.”…Jones

        Exactly. Israelis will have to get use to the fact that other people have salutes, gestures, traditions, etc. of their own that have nothing to do with them or nazis.

  2. JeffB
    JeffB
    December 12, 2013, 2:47 pm

    FWIW as a Zionists I’d give Sari Nusseibeh the benefit of the doubt given his excellent track record. If he says that the right choice was not to break up the demonstration because of the potential for violence I’m going to trust him. I don’t like censorship regardless.

    So FWIW I think measured appropriate criticism of Brandeis makes sense.

  3. Citizen
    Citizen
    December 12, 2013, 6:11 pm

    Wikipedia notes a pretty big list of non-European military units who goose step on parade, e.g., China and N Korea, and that the roman salute is customary at Hezbollah and Hamas rallies.

  4. Ecru
    Ecru
    December 13, 2013, 9:12 am

    Some students at a Palestinian education establishment make salutes like a Nazi and there’s a massive scandal. Israeli Jews actually ACT like Nazis and the Jewish community applauds it.

  5. JeffB
    JeffB
    December 13, 2013, 10:25 am

    @Ecru

    Israeli Jews actually ACT like Nazis and the Jewish community applauds it.

    If Israel starts invading Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to bring Palestinians back to Israel so as to put them in death camps then analogies to Nazis are appropriate. Until then Israel has done nothing that is unusual or specific to Nazis.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      December 14, 2013, 1:40 am

      @ JeffB

      I thought you loved reading history? Ahh wait a sec, we’ve already established you’re very selective of which history you read. Nazis were more than the Death Camps you know, and you HAVE invaded Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. You also invaded Palestinian territory and never left or stopped killing the people there. Did you miss it?

      Added to which – blut und boden, lebensraum, uber/untermensch, ahnenerbe, collective punishment etc. All characteristics of Nazi belief, all characteristics of Zionist belief.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 14, 2013, 2:40 pm

        @Ecru

        JeffB: If Israel starts invading Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to bring Palestinians back to Israel so as to put them in death camps

        Ecru: and you HAVE invaded Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

        Last I checked I’m not Israeli. Anyway there is a conditional in there as to why they are invading.

        As for the list of common characteristics Zionists and Nazis have tons. They both like to pee. But what I had said is missing is things unique to the Zionists.

        blut und boden, lebensraum, uber/untermensch, ahnenerbe, collective punishment etc. All characteristics of Nazi belief, all characteristics of Zionist belief.

        blut und boden: is a rural theology that Zionists haven’t expressed in decades. Today Zionism is rather urban and technological. In the 1930s and 40s lots of people advocated those views. Westbrook Pegler a strong anti-Zionist. So I could tag your side just as easily.

        lebensraum: I’ve never heard any Israeli argue that superior races displace inferior races. Not once, not ever. Israel has welcomed Jews of all races and has aggressively worked to help their Sephardic population ascend social classes.

        uber/untermensch: I don’t think that’s uniquely Nazi but yes I’ll grant they share that ideology.

        ahnenerbe: I have a tough time translating this out of a German context. What would this even mean applied to Jews. If you just mean an exaggerated belief in the importance of Judaism historically I’d disagree strongly. One of the core ideas of Zionism is to move Jews from being crucial actors in the west’s theological play to just being another nation. The exact opposite of what the ahnenerbe theology is meant to accomplish. Conversely this AIPAC theology that views AIPAC as secretly controlling the world, is arguably very close to ahnenerbe.

        collective punishment: Everyone trying to deal with non-compliant natives on issues of importance uses collective punishment. Certainly the degree of collective punishment that the Israelis use is well below those used by the Nazis and more in line with non-Nazi powers tending on the low side if anything.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      December 14, 2013, 3:48 am

      JeffB,

      Regarding things like salutes and goosestepping, where do you think Jabotinsky’s Betar movement got his uniforms from?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Young_Jewish_members_from_German_Chapter_of_Betar_in_Berlin,_1936.jpg

      http://therealzcf.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/93021.jpg?w=400&h=281
      (Warsaw, 1938)

      Betar is still around, by the way.

  6. OlegR
    OlegR
    December 13, 2013, 11:31 am

    /They say the school was not in a position to crack down on the demonstration at the time because of the volatile political condition of a university trying to carry on under military occupation./

    Translation:
    If we say a word against anything anti Israel even the Nazi like behavior we might get ourselves killed.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      December 14, 2013, 3:59 am

      Oleg,

      “crack down on” =/= “say a word against anything”.

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 14, 2013, 10:17 am

        What ever else do you think a university administration can do other then speak against that would equal a “crack down” .
        Which they didn’t not in real time.They only responded to western criticism.

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