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.’”
Talk about doubling down. In his official public statement, Nusseibeh blamed “Jewish extremists” with starting “vilification campaigns” in order to discredit the reputation of the “prestigious” Al-Quds University. The Al-Quds community, according to Nusseibeh’s published statement, is subjected to Israeli “extremism and violence” and are “denied our rights under occupation.”
Nusseibeh also downplayed the number of participants in the Nov. 5 demonstration, and its prominence on his university.
VIDEO PROOF UNDERMINES NUSSEIBEH’S CLAIMS
But there is a YouTube video of both the Nov. 5 demonstration and an earlier, similar one, from the spring, on the MEMRI website. There was nothing slapdash, impromptu or easily-overlooked about the demonstrations in which murder, the overthrow of Israel and martyrdom are glorified. There is a large stage on which part of the demonstrations took place, and a huge mural behind and above the stage, glorifying Palestinian Arab “martyrs.”
REPORT OF ISRAELIS SHOOTING 40 ARABS, INCLUDING AL-QUDS STUDENTS, ‘A BIG LIE’
Nusseibeh whined further in his email to the Times of Israel, criticizing Lawrence for never bothering “to express any sympathy for the continued plight of my university — the latest being yet another vicious incursion by the army into the campus.” The Times of Israel surmised that Nusseibeh “was referring to an incident last week reported by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.”
There was indeed a large article in Ma’an on Nov. 17, which described the brutalization by Israeli military of Palestinian Arabs in the Al-Quds University area. According to this report, “Israeli forces shot 40 Palestinians including a large number of university students with rubber-coated steel bullets during a raid on a Palestinian village east of Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon.” There were many pictures and descriptions of students being injured, including by tear gas grenades and sound bombs.
Curiously, Ma’an is the only place that incident was reported.
After searching for hours online to find a single report about the incident other than ones reproduced from Ma’an, The Jewish Press began pummeling the spokespeople for the IDF, the Israeli border patrol and the Jerusalem police, trying to find out what happened.
Finally we spoke with Col. Samuel Ben-Ruby, spokesperson for the Jerusalem Police. The Jewish Press asked him whether 40 Arabs, including Al Quds students, had been shot on Nov. 17, as had been reported in Ma’an.
“Absolutely not,” Ben-Ruby said.
“What happened was there was a long investigation with the police and the Shin Bet working together, and it concluded on that day. We arrested about 40 Arabs, mostly from the Hamas terrorist organization. We detained about eight students, five were taken to court, of those, three were released. In two weeks time we will know the results of the two who are still being held.”
But how could that be? Ma’an described so much damage, and repeatedly mentioned the rubber bullets and the tear gas and the sound bombs, The Jewish Press explained to Ben-Ruby.
An American journalist, Mya Guaneri, who teaches at Al-Quds was quoted in the article. She said she was present when the incident took place, that there was “tons of broken glass” and that “it looked like the Intifada.”
“That’s a big lie. There were no bullets, there was no tear gas and there were no sound bombs,” Ben-Ruby responded.
“Look,” he asked, “if Israelis shot 40 Arabs, including students, do you really think we wouldn’t have the media from all over the world, including Siberia, camping out at Al-Quds, until every newspaper in the world had the story on their front page?”
The Jewish Press tried several times to reach Mya Guaneri. We told her we had questions about the Ma’an report, but she did not answer. The Nov. 17 incident is not mentioned in any of Guaneri’s tweets, blog posts or articles. Guaneri does discuss other incidents, on other dates, in which she is harshly critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinian Arabs.
It isn’t only Nusseibeh, however, who relied on the Ma’an report as proof that while what happened at the Nov. 5 demonstration at Al-Quds may have been inappropriate, really, how can you blame the students for acting out when the Israelis shoot at and brutalize them?
In an article in the Nov. 19 Brandeis student newspaper, The Justice, one of the groups critical of the university’s decision to separate from Al-Quds was Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine. That group wrote: ““BSJP is disappointed at Brandeis’s decision, which reflects the university’s double standard regarding social justice when it comes to Palestine. We wish a quick recovery to the 40 injured students from the [Israel Defense Force] attack today on al-Quds University.”
So, the attack by the Israelis never happened, 40 Palestinian Arabs were not wounded by rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs or anything else. The media report appears to be a complete fabrication. Yet the President of Al-Quds invoked the incident described in the article to show how insensitive Brandeis President Lawrence is to the plight of the Al-Quds students. But wouldn’t the president of Al-Quds know the article was fabricated? Wouldn’t he know what actually happened?
The Al-Quds president also repeatedly downplayed the Nov. 5 military demonstration at his university as insignificant, that few if any students were involved, and that it was not typical of his university or his students. Yet the video evidence flatly contradicts Nusseibeh on these counts.
Which university president has gone overboard?
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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