A statement by the Palestinian Union of University Teachers and Employees (PUUTE), published on the front page of the Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayyam, on Monday accused Nusseibeh of “normalising relations with the Sharon government” despite the Israeli prime minister’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 Nusseibeh of acting against a recent decision by Britain’s Association of University Teachers to boycott Israel’s Haifa and Bar Ilan universities.
British union boycott
The British union last month voted by a large majority to boycott Haifa University, for violating academic freedom by harassing Professor Ilan Pappe for criticising the Israeli occupation, and Bar Ilan University, for embracing a Jewish settler college in the occupied West Bank.
Last week, Nusseibeh, who signed a cooperation agreement with Hebrew University, 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 have been used by the Israelis in an effort to get the British union to reverse its decision.
Nusseibeh’s remarks angered the Palestinian academic community, which accused Nusseibeh of “allowing himself to be used by the powerful Israeli lobby for the purpose of perpetuating Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank”.
Speaking to Aljazeera.net, a number of Palestinian academics denounced Nusseibeh for what they said was “acting against Palestinian interests”.
Hebron University professor
Awni al-Khatib, professor of chemistry at Hebron University, said: “He (Nusseibeh) 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.” Al-Khatib 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.”
Nusseibeh was not available for comment. However, Al-Quds University official Imad Abu Kishk defended Nusseibeh’s “overtures toward the Israeli society”.
“We must open bridges between us and the Israeli society. 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 the Israeli society and tell Israeli Jews that what Sharon is doing is wrong,” Abu Kishk told Aljazeera.net. He added that cooperation with Hebrew University was necessary for the survival of Al-Quds University. Abu Kishk declined to elaborate on Nusseibeh’s criticisms of the British union’s boycott decision.
Teachers union leader
“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,” Abu Kishk said. However, Muhammad Abu Zaid, head of the Beir Zeit University Union of Teachers and Employees, dismissed 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 not to change its decision.
Nusseibeh, son of the Jordanian minister of defence during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Anwar Nusseibeh, has been a controversial figure.
Two years ago, he and a former head of the domestic Israeli intelligence service, the Shin Bet, signed in Switzerland the so-called Geneva initiative, which stipulated that Israel had the right to be an exclusive Jewish state. Nusseibeh was accused of giving attention to Israeli needs while ignoring Palestinian rights.
Khalid Amayreh is a journalist based in the occupied West Bank. This article was originally published by aljazeera.net and reprinted on EI with permission.