In a move reinforcing the basis for its decision to sever ties with Al-Quds University, Brandeis University issued a statement on Thursday, Nov. 21, that Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, will be removed from his position on the Advisory Board of the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.
Ellen De Graffenreid, senior vice president for communications of the Waltham, Massachusetts Brandeis University, read a statement to The Jewish Press:
President Lawrence has decided that Brandeis University’s suspension of its partnership with Al-Quds University requires that Dr. Nusseibeh not be a member of the Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public life. As with the suspension of relations between the two universities, Brandeis will re-evaluate this issue as events may warrant.
Nov. 5 Nazi Demo at Al Quds
As has already been widely reported, on Nov. 5 there was a demonstration on the Al-Quds campus that included banners depicting images of “martyred” suicide bombers and Nazi-style salutes. Once Brandeis officials verified the facts, President Lawrence communicated directly with Nusseibeh and asked that he “issue an unequivocal condemnation of these demonstrations in both Arabic and English.”
Instead, as we reported, the official statement issued by Al-Quds and communicated in English to Lawrence by Nusseibeh, was, in Lawrence’s words, “unacceptable and inflammatory.”
In fact, Nusseibeh refused to either take responsibility for the offensive demonstration, or to distance himself or Al-Quds from it.
What he did instead was blame “extremist Jews” for seizing on the demonstration and starting a “vilification campaign” against Al-Quds. The statement was also critical of the Nazis solely because what they did ended up creating what the Palestinian Arabs refer to as “al Nakba,” that is, the catastrophe: the creation of the State of Israel.
But the official sister university relationship between the two universities was not the only official connection Nusseibeh has to Brandeis.
REMAINING CONNECTION BETWEEN BRANDEIS AND NUSSEIBEH
The Jewish Press contacted Brandeis University administration officials on Tuesday, Nov. 19, the day after the Jewish-sponsored school announced it had severed ties with Al-Quds.
The question to which we sought an answer was whether the person who issued the insulting official Al-Quds statement which led to the “divorce” between the two schools would remain officially affiliated with Brandeis University.
The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life is a Brandeis project which “seeks to develop responses to international conflict and injustice by offering innovative approaches to coexistence, strengthening the work of international courts, and encouraging ethical practice in civic and professional life.”
The Center for Ethics was launched in 1998. It has three components, in one, Brandeis undergraduates work abroad in NGOs for eight to ten weeks in the summer. A second component brings together practitioners in the coexistence and conflict field from around the globe to share best practices and develop cooperative projects. A third project was to bring in “distinguished visitors.”
The first “distinguished visitor” brought to Brandeis as part of the Center for Ethics was Sari Nusseibeh.
Nusseibeh and former Brandeis president Yehuda Reinharz have been described as close friends. Nusseibeh became a member of the Center’s international Advisory Board. Other members include Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Thomas Buergenthal, former Judge of the International Court of Justice and several jurists and dignitaries from countries such as India, Mauritania, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
The Chair of the Center is Justice Richard J. Goldstone (yes, that Goldstone).
PUSHBACK ATTEMPT BY NUSSEIBEH
Based on the length of time it took the University to respond to questions regarding Nusseibeh’s status at the Center for Ethics, it appeared that the answer to the question posed by The Jewish Press – would Nusseibeh remain officially affiliated with Brandeis University – was not clear-cut.
And then on Nov. 20, a media account in the Times of Israel was issued with the curious title “Al-Quds university head condemns Nazi-style demonstration on campus.”
The editor of the Times of Israel, David Horovitz, wrote that he sat with, and asked Nusseibeh point blank, whether Nusseibeh condemned the Nov. 5 demonstration, “Nusseibeh said yes.”
But Horovitz apparently neglected to ask Nusseibeh if that statement was correct, why he issued a public statement blaming “Jewish extremists” and “Jewish opportunists.” Why was Nusseibeh’s statement of contrition only made in private, to a Jewish reporter for a Jewish publication?
The Times of Israel article quotes Nusseibeh: “Needless to say, the event on the campus by this small group — trampling on Israeli flags and behaving as though sympathizing with Nazi or fascist ideology — in no way represents our university values, and we are constantly trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening.”
That statement by Nusseibeh and his prior, official response to the incident don’t match up.
And even in the Times of Israel article, Nusseibeh’s words harken back to the tone of the original public statement.
The Al-Quds president pivoted and suggested that it was the decision by Brandeis which will “strengthen those on the other side who call for boycotts of Israeli universities. It will be picked up by the people who say there is no future in these cooperations [with Israeli institutions]. We have been trying to say it is possible. Yes, there are obstacles but we try to overcome them. We can only overcome them by working together.”
“Hopes for peace” Nusseibeh told Horovitz, “rest on people from both sides who try to hold the reins and steer the whole situation toward ultimate reconciliation, and not allow extremist actions on both sides to blow up the whole thing.”
That’s actually a quote from Nusseibeh. He’s lecturing Brandeis University on not allowing “extremists” to blow up their good relationship, instead of lecturing the extremists not to blow up anything.
Daniel Mael, a Brandeis junior from Massachusetts was reached mid-day Tuesday afternoon by The Jewish Press. Upon hearing that Brandeis had chosen to also sever the connection between the school and Nusseibeh, Mael was extremely pleased.
“I told President Lawrence when I saw him at the FIDF dinner in Boston Tuesday night that I was proud of what he and his staff had done,” Mael said.
“I feel this is an appropriate response. I personally found President Nusseibeh’s statement [on Nov. 18] to be extremely offensive, and this is a necessary course of action.”
The suggestion by Nusseibeh that the Nov. 5 demonstration was “inconsistent with the human values we try to teach” at the university and “misrepresented who we are and what we stand for” does not reflect a litany of anti-Israel and pro-terrorist activities at Al-Quds through the years, including naming courses and school buildings after terrorists.