In what threatened to become a public battle between two university presidents vying to prove each one’s constituency as the true victim, Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University, cited what appears to be a completely fabricated news report, one that he would have to know was fabricated. That article described the Israeli army’s “vicious incursion” on Nov. 17, during which Al-Quds students were shot.
Nusseibeh complained that the Brandeis University president “did not express sympathy” for the plight of his university. The president of Brandeis University refused to engage in such a media debate.
Al-Quds University has been the subject of many news articles recently. Brandeis University, founded in 1948 as a refuge for Jews who were largely shunned elsewhere, began a sister university relationship in 2003 with Al-Quds University, the Palestinian Arab university located in eastern Jerusalem.
The relationship continued for many years, despite numerous examples of Al-Quds University being an institution that honors terrorists who murdered many Israelis, other Jews, and Americans.
However, when a large group of Arabs were photographed during a Nov. 5 demonstration at the Al-Quds campus in paramilitary gear, with arms raised in what resembled a Nazi salute, trampling on pictures of Israeli flags, and honoring suicide bombers, the Brandeis administration finally called for an explanation.
Brandeis’s relatively new president, Frederick Lawrence, contacted his counterpart, Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh, whom he asked to denounce the demonstration, and to do so in both English and Arabic. Instead, the response Nusseibeh posted on the Al-Quds website and sent to Lawrence, attacked “extremist Jews” for “exploiting” a situation and daring to criticize and delegitimize Al-Quds University.
That was the last straw for Lawrence and for Brandeis University. The formal relationship between the two universities was suspended by Brandeis on Nov. 18 – not irrevocably, but certainly for the near future.
Because Nusseibeh was the one who issued the insulting statement – truly a slap in the face to President Lawrence as well as anyone else who had sought an explanation for a sister university publicly condoning Israel and Jew hatred – on Nov. 21, Brandeis also removed Nusseibeh from the board of advisors of the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.
There were some who were highly critical of Brandeis for disrupting the relationship between the schools, especially those who believe with all their might that the relationship might blossom into closer relations and better understandings between Jews and other Americans and Arab Muslims.
But the president of Al-Quds seemed stunned by Brandeis’s strong-willed response. An article appeared in the Times of Israel in which Nusseibeh suddenly claimed that he condemned the Nov. 5 demonstration. But because the public response on the Al-Quds website and its translation which was provided to Brandeis’s Lawrence by Nusseibeh himself was so utterly lacking in contrition, and instead blamed “extremist Jews” for essentially overreacting to something that was unimportant, Lawrence stood firm and refused to undo the separation.
NUSSEIBEH THEN TURNS ON BRANDEIS PRESIDENT
Nusseibeh was not content to simply bide his time and wait until he would likely to be welcomed back into the bosom of Brandeis University, or to some other American universities eager to claim kinship with a real, live Palestinian Arab university.
Instead, as reported in the Times of Israel, Nusseibeh then reached out again to its editor in a long email, arguing that Brandeis’s Lawrence had “gone overboard” in response to the Nov. 5 demonstration at Al-Quds.
In what way did Lawrence go overboard?
Well, in addition to suspending the relationship between the two schools and suspending Nusseibeh from the Center for Ethics board, Nusseibeh suggested Lawrence mischaracterized the letter Nusseibeh addressed to his students in response to the demonstration. He wrote that Lawrence “had chosen to read my letter to students as ‘inflammatory.’” In part, Nusseibeh went on, because Lawrence “will not accept that there are such people as ‘Jewish extremists.’”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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