Three professors from Brandeis University recommended on Monday that it “resume
and redouble” its relationship with Al-Quds University, three weeks after the
Massachusetts school suspended its connection following an Islamic Jihad rally
on an Al-Quds campus.
The professors’ 20-page report amounted to a sharp
criticism of Brandeis president Fred Lawrence’s decision to suspend the
A spokeswoman for Brandeis said on Tuesday that Lawrence is
traveling and has not had the opportunity to review the report
The report provides the most comprehensive accounting to date of
the period between the November 5 rally — which featured students wearing
military garb, carrying fake weapons and saluting in a Nazi style — and
Brandeis’s decision to end the decade-long relationship between the schools on
November 18. The report was written by three professors who have worked closely
on the Al-Quds partnership: Daniel Terris, Susan Lanser and Daniel
The professors wrote that Islamic Jihad’s student branch received
permission to host a rally at the school’s Abu Dis campus outside of Jerusalem,
but the group deviated from a permissible protest by carrying fake weapons and
trampling on the Israeli flag. However, Al-Quds was hesitant to break up the
protest, they wrote. Security officials feared that, if disbanded, the members
would clash with a group of Hamas-affiliated students who had gathered
Instead, the university allowed the protest to continue but
responded swiftly in its aftermath by creating an investigatory committee, the
report stated. That committee has yet to issue its findings.
asked the professors on November 12 to conduct an investigation during a
previously scheduled five-day trip, which was slated to begin on November 16.
The day after the professors arrived at the university, the president of
Al-Quds, Sari Nusseibeh, wrote a long letter to students addressing issues of
hate speech and extremism.
On November 18, only hours after receiving an
English translation, Lawrence announced that Brandeis would sever ties with
Al-Quds. He said he was outraged by the letter and what he called Nusseibeh’s
refusal to condemn the protest.
Also in response, Brandeis suspended
Nusseibeh from the advisory board of the International Center for Ethics,
Justice and Public Life. That decision appeared to draw the most ire from the
They wrote 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.”
In response to the report, Nusseibeh wrote
in an email that “I do not wish to make any public statements regarding the
unfortunate incident involving Brandeis... and hope that cooperation between the
two universities will soon resume.”
While the Islamic Jihad rally
represented ideas “antithetical” to the values of both universities, the
Brandeis report authors wrote, it should nonetheless illustrate the importance
of engaging with the Al-Quds community in an effort to combat
“If one ultimate goal of both universities is to promote a
culture of peace and mutual respect, then it is better, whenever possible, to
engage the more extreme political elements and to use the campus as an
educational oasis for exposing students to the range of interpretations and
options that exclude violence and hatred,” they wrote.
courage to persist in the face of disturbing and even abhorrent speech is the
more promising path to peace and the path consistent with Brandeisian values,”
Faculty members at both universities said the future of the
relationship remains unclear.
Jytte Klausen, a Brandeis professor who
studies comparative politics and the role of Islam in the West, said on Tuesday
that Lawrence and Nusseibeh “allowed things to spin out of control” before
knowing the facts of the incident.
Gordon Fellman, chair of Brandeis’s
Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies program, said the demonstration was a
“minor episode” that was subject to an overreaction. He said he expects the
relationship to redevelop.
“The price of not reestablishing it is greater
than the price of reestablishing it. The price is Brandeis looks kind of silly,”
But Jerry Cohen, a Brandeis professor of American Studies, said
the report only looked at the narrow issues of the protest and aftermath, as
opposed to the “entire relationship.”
Cohen said the relationship has
been defined by Brandeis previously touting the relationship but avoiding a
critical, public discussion about the “so-called partnership.”
Al-Quds side, Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, who founded the school’s American Studies
program, said that if Brandeis’s concerns were only academic, and not political,
there is hope for reconciliation.
Otherwise, he wrote in an email, “this
attack will undermine all the work we do to promote moderate culture within the
Palestinian community and will empower radical forces. This is the motivation
behind the demonstration.”