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SU cuts ties with Al-Quds University

Political tension in Israel is hitting close to home for the Syracuse University community.

Following a series of anti-Semitic demonstrations on Al-Quds University’s campus, Syracuse indefinitely suspended its relationship with the Palestinian school on Nov. 21.  SU is following in the footsteps of Brandeis University, which also suspended its ties with the school on Nov. 18.

On Nov. 5, the demonstrators held a Nazi-style rally on the Al-Quds University’s Jerusalem campus, making threatening and offensive gestures. A video of the event, captured by Middle East Media Research Institute, shows demonstrators performing mock executions and urging Palestinians to harm Israelis.

Kevin Quinn, SU’s senior vice president for public affairs, said in an email: “We are very disappointed and saddened to have learned of these recent events at Al-Quds University. Syracuse University does not condone hatred or intolerance in any way.”

SU’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism was involved with Al-Quds University, Quinn added.

This relationship involved students attending a series of seminars and meeting with Palestinian academics, said Miriam Elman, an associate professor in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Elman, who was involved in establishing SU’s relationship with Al-Quds University, said there have been anti-Semitic demonstrations on campus since the fall, but that the Nov. 5 demonstrations propelled Syracuse to take action.

“Where it crossed the line from free speech to hate speech was the visual depiction of the demonstrators dressed to look like, in my mind, SS troops, (doing) the Nazi salute,” Elman said. She added she felt it was troubling that the university allowed these types of demonstrations to continue.

Elman said it was unclear whether the demonstrators were students, but that the group was involved with a student organization in some way.

Al-Quds University released a statement about the demonstrations on Nov. 17.

“Whoever harms another individual or group is also harming the university, its image and its reputation; this is an abomination,” the university said in the statement.

But professors such as Elman are not entirely convinced that Al-Quds University has taken the steps necessary to prevent these types of demonstrations. She said Sari Nusseibeh, the president of the university, only issued a statement at the insistence of Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence.

“There needs to be an unequivocal reiteration of the fundamental principles of Al-Quds,” Elman said, calling Nusseibeh’s initial response “unacceptable.”

In a Nov. 25 Times of Israel op-ed, she said she also found other statements in Nusseibeh’s response troubling. Examples include Nusseibeh’s statement that without the Holocaust, “there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”

Elman said she was disappointed that the administration did not consult the professors involved in the program before suspending ties with the school.  She added that while she supports the decision, she would have liked to discuss the suspension with faculty members.

She stressed the point that the suspension is not a termination of the program. Elman said the programs in the past were a positive experience for students.

“We’re leaving the door open to resuming ties,” Elman said. “We’d like to have a possibility to continue these programs. Now there will be a discussion of what needs to be done moving forward.”

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