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Khaled Amayreh | Al-Ahram Weekly | June 2, 2005
The Union of Palestinian University Teachers and Employees (UUTE) has strongly denounced Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibah for "normalising with Israel" and "serving Israeli propaganda interests".
A statement by the UUTE, published on the front page of the Ramallah- based daily, Al-Ayam, last week, accused Nusseibah of "normalising with the Sharon government" despite the latter's policy of "bullying the Palestinians and stealing their land".
"This constitutes a strong blow to the Palestinian national consensus against normalisation with Israel," said the statement.
"We call on all concerned parties within the Palestinian Authority, including President Mahmoud Abbas and the Higher Education Council to take the necessary measures to put an end to this behaviour, which doesn't represent the position of the Palestinian university teachers and employees, and dismiss the president of the Al-Quds University."
The statement also accused Nusseibah of acting in harmony with the Israeli stand against a recent decision by the Union of British University Teachers to boycott two Israeli universities (Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities).
The British Union in April voted to boycott Haifa University for violating academic freedom by persecuting and harassing Professor Ilan Pappe for criticising the Israeli occupation and Apartheid, and Bar Ilan University for embracing a Jewish settler college, Ariel College, in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli government, in an apparent gesture of defiance to the British Union, voted earlier in May to upgrade the status of the settler college, built on land confiscated from Palestinian peasants and farmers in the Salfit region, from a junior college to a university.
Israeli and Zionist circles around the world waged a vociferous campaign against the British Union of University Teachers, accusing it of "anti- Semitism". This campaign eventually forced the AUT to suspend the boycott.
Nusseibah, who signed a cooperation agreement with the Hebrew University in London, two days before the AUT was due to reconsider the boycott, reportedly criticised the British boycott, describing it as "wrong and unjustified".
He was quoted as saying that "problems should be resolved through dialogue not through sanctions".
His remarks were hit upon by Israeli circles and media in an effort to get the British Union to reverse its decision, on the grounds that one can't be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.
Nusseibah's remarks incensed the Palestinian academic community, which accused Nusseibah of "allowing himself to be used by Israeli circles for the purpose of perpetuating Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank."
Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to a number of Palestinian academics who nearly unanimously denounced Nusseibah for acting against Palestinian nationalist interests.
"He (Nusseibah) criticised the British Union boycott of two Israeli universities, but he didn't utter a word against the routine Israeli policy of closing Palestinian colleges and universities and of erecting roadblocks that prevent professors, employees and students from reaching Palestinian campuses," said Awni Khatib, professor of Chemistry at Hebron University.
Khatib, a liberal-minded academic, said Palestinian academics were not against scientific cooperation with their Israeli colleagues.
"What we are against is the manipulation by Israel of this cooperation to perpetuate inherently racist and discriminatory policies against our people.
"Apartheid should never be allowed to prosper under the rubric of false normalcy."
The Palestinian chemist called on Israeli colleagues to issue an unmistakable condemnation of Israel's "occupation and Apartheid".
"We want them to raise their voices against the institutionalised occupation, against the ugly apartheid, the systematic theft of Palestinian land and the ongoing ghettoising of Palestinian towns and villages by this satanic wall," Khatib said, referring to the separation wall Israel is building in the West Bank.
Nusseibah himself was not available for his reactions. However, Al-Quds University official Emad Abu Kishk defended Nusseibah's "overtures towards Israeli society".
"We must open bridges between us and the Israeli society. [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon is hermetically closing Jerusalem and cutting it off from the West Bank, he is stealing our land and building more colonies. Hence, we must communicate with Israeli society and tell Israeli Jews that what Sharon is doing is wrong," Abu Kishk told the Weekly.
He added that cooperation with the Hebrew University was necessary for the survival and development of Al- Quds University.
Abu Kishk refused to elaborate on Nusseibah's criticisms of the British Union of University Teachers' decision to boycott the two Israeli universities.
"I have not read his statements in this regard, but I can tell you that we will never have any dealings with the settler college in Ariel."
However, Mohamed Abu Zeid, head of the Bir Zeit University Union of Teachers and Employees, dismissed Abu Kishk's arguments as "spurious and inconsistent".
"The world must understand that there is no symmetry between the occupied and the occupier, when we achieve freedom and independence, we can then cooperate with the Israelis as free men and women, not as subjects and slaves with no civil, political or even human rights.
"And, yes, we are willing to cooperate with any Israeli academic and institution that denounces the occupation of our land and persecution of our people."
Abu Zeid appealed to the British Union of University Teachers not to change its decision regarding the two Israeli universities.
"My dear colleagues: Nusseibah is acting in a very undemocratic manner. His position regarding your courageous decision to boycott the two Israeli universities is utterly unrepresentative of the Palestinian academic community. Even teachers and employees at his
own university are nearly totally against his position."