Palestinian University Suspends Contacts With Israeli Academics

February 3, 2009 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Jerusalem – The only Palestinian university to maintain ties with Israeli colleges and also to oppose international calls for a boycott of Israeli academics has suspended contacts with Israeli universities in the wake of the war in Gaza.

Al Quds University, with 10,000 students on campuses in the West Bank towns of El Bireh, Abu Dis, and East Jerusalem, had been noted for its ties to Israeli academe despite years of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. But on Sunday it froze all projects with Israeli colleges for six months, pending a policy review.

The unanimous decision was prompted by Al Quds faculty members, who said they were disappointed that their joint projects with Israeli colleagues had failed to produce any tangible results and had caused friction with other Palestinian universities.

The Al Quds president, Sari Nusseibeh, who in the past has opposed boycotting Israel and has called for “cooperation based on mutual respect,” persuaded his colleagues not to break off ties permanently, but to suspend cooperation for a limited period instead.

Al Quds faculty members told The Chronicle that some Arab donors, notably Kuwait, had refused to provide funds to the university because of its policy of dialogue and cooperation with Israel. Al Quds has about 60 joint projects with Israeli institutions, with a combined budget of about $5-million.

“If the two-state solution is as far away today as it was 10 years ago, there is no justification for continued academic cooperation based on reaching that solution,” said a statement issued by the Al-Quds University board and reported by the International Middle East Media Center. “And there is no justification for continued official and nonofficial cooperation in other fields, foremost security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Ending academic cooperation is aimed at, first of all, pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too long and that the international community has stopped demanding.”

The report linked the decision to rising calls for an academic boycott of Israel in Canada and the United States following the recent fighting in Gaza, in which several Palestinian universities suffered millions of dollars in damage.

The university board expressed disappointment over the absence of serious protest from Israeli academics, in particular, and civil-society organizations, in general, as well as the failure of those groups to “understand the injustice that Palestinians are suffering from.” The board called on local, international, and regional academics to support the university”s stance by halting academic cooperation with Israeli institutions, the Ma”an News Agency reported. –Matthew Kalman

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