B-G University gives honor to Jordanian

Muslim Brotherhood derides award to Jordan Red Crescent president as Israeli public relations ploy.

Ben Gurion University of the Negev has awarded an honorary degree to the president of the Jordan Red Crescent, a move that a university spokeswoman described as a rare touting of academic ties between Israel and an Arab nation. The Beersheba-based university said it was recognizing Dr. Mohammed al-Hadid for a joint Israeli-Jordanian program in emergency medicine, which he helped establish, as well as for his two decades of humanitarian work with the Red Crescent and other agencies. The award, which was announced Monday, could cause trouble for Hadid in Jordan, where the powerful Muslim Brotherhood movement rejects the country's 1994 peace treaty with Israel and has published a blacklist of prominent Jordanians with Israeli ties. Hadid is not on that list. In Amman, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr derided the award as an Israeli public relations ploy and warned it could harm Hadid's reputation. "It is better to reject it," Abu-Bakr said, "because it will harm his good reputation among his family and people during his life and even after." Hadid said he had no intention of rejecting the award and would accept it at the Israeli university next Monday. "It is purely to honor my humanitarian work ... It is not political at all," he said. "I consider this award as upholding tolerance and the culture of dialogue among people." Partly because of its location, the university has a long history of working with Arab academics and students, university spokeswoman Faye Bittker said, though much of that work is under the radar. "We try to respect the political situations of the people we work with when they don't want publicity, and to recognize those who work with us when we can," she said. In 2005, the university awarded an honorary degree to Egyptian playwright and critic of radical Islam, Ali Salem, but Egyptian authorities refused to let him go to Israel to attend the ceremony. Egypt's ambassador to Israel was also awarded an honorary degree in 1995. Thirty years ago, the university conferred special "Star of Peace" awards, created especially for the occasion, on then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin after they signed a historic peace accord, Israel's first with an Arab nation. Sadat and Begin were both on campus to accept the awards.