I wrote several posts a few weeks ago about Brandeis University’s abrupt severing of all ties with the Palestinian Al Quds University and its remarkable president, Sari Nusseibeh. In those posts I rebutted false claims suggested by Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence that there had been a “Nazi-like” rally on the Palestinian campus which extolled terrorists and suicide bombers. What was astonishing to me was that Lawrence, the leader of a major liberal arts university would accept as prima facie evidence, information proffered by the right-wing pro-Israel bloggers Pam Geller, Tom Gross and Israel Matzav, who led the ‘jihad’ against Al Quds. Since then even the NY Times has falsely called the same campus rally “Nazi-like,” though it had absolutely no association with Nazism. By the way, I wrote an e-mail to the reporter and the Times’ public editor complaining of the false charge. I received no reply.
I’ve been able to trace the Israeli origin of the charges against Al Quds to a November 11th article in Maariv. The article deals in general with the theme of so-called Palestinian incitement against Israel. In its litany of “sins,” it lists the Al Quds rally and a separate incident in which residents of the South Hebron Hills village of Beit Ummar purportedly hung a Nazi flag.
If you read the translation, you’ll see how a sloppy reading by someone looking to sensationalize the facts would allow all the blame to fall on Al Quds:
Documented: Nazi Salutes and Flags in the Palestinian Authority
At Al Quds University, students were photographed with arms raised, while a Nazi flag was flown over a Palestinian village.
Photographs taken at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem feature masked men affiliated with Islamic Jihad as they march with arms raised in salute. In other pictures, students may be seen also raising their own arms in a Nazi salute.
The article links to a November 6th blog post by UK Jewish, anti-Palestinian blogger, Tom Gross, who calls the salutes “fascist-style.” He added:
Students were encouraged to give what other students at Al-Quds described as Hitler-style salutes…
All this raises the question: who took these photos? Gross refuses to acknowledge who took them or how he received them. Curiously, the photos displayed at his site are hot-linked from Pam Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugged. The date of her post is also November 6th. So they both, almost simultaneously, published their information on the Al Quds rally. Geller does link back to Gross but the latter makes no mention of his collusion with Geller in this smear campaign.
I’d hazard a guess that Gross, who prides himself as being an “independent” Middle East analyst, preferred not being associated with Geller’s bellicose reputation. In a related matter, Geller’s Islamophobic American Freedom Defense Initiative suffered a legal defeat as a federal judge found its Boston MTA ads which called Muslims “savages” to be offensive. He found that the discriminatory nature of her message trumped her so called free speech rights.
Coincidentally, Gross also omits from his website biography that he’s a member of the international advisory board of the far-right NGO Monitor and a founding member of the pro-Israel, neoncon Henry Jackson Society based in the UK. Not as “independent” as he makes out to be.
Robert Spencer and Pam Geller have in the past paid anti-Muslim activists to spy on pro-Palestine rallies by videotaping them. My guess is that she and Gross secured the photos either directly or indirectly from the Shabak or its Palestinian informants. They, in turn, likely passed them on to the government hasbara apparatus. From there it was but a hop, skip and jump to Geller, Gross and Fred Lawrence.
One thing that otherwise reputable people like Fred Lawrence may want to consider is whether they want to make decisions based on material proffered to them by ideologues like Gross and especially Geller.
Returning to Gross’ post, the notion that “other students” described the salutes pictured here as “Hitler-style” is preposterous. No Palestinian would do so. But Tom Gross, Bibi Netanyahu, and the Shabak certainly would. So we’ve caught Gross in a major fib.
Apparently, there is a some small moral conscience inside Gross, as he wrote this mealy-mouthed statement which purports to get him off the hook for the pro-Israel Nazi-smear of Al Quds he inspired:
I would also like to make it clear that while it is good these sites are covering this issue, I disassociate myself with the use of language in some of the reports linking to this page that use the term “Nazi salute” or “Nazi style” or “Hitler-style” or “genocide”.
I believe that such terms should only be used in the context of World War Two, and I avoided using them myself on this webpage, as I have elsewhere.
A more apt term would be “Fascist-style”.
Really, Tom, what’s the diff?? Is that the best you can do after siccing the dogs of Hitler on the poor Palestinian campus??
In my earlier posts, I noted that Islamic Jihad itself denied the salutes had anything to do with Nazism, but rather represented raising one’s arm toward Jerusalem, a city Muslims (and Jews) consider sacred. According to the Brandeis campus paper, a faculty report on the incident said:
…The student group holding the demonstration denied any connection between Nazism and its gesture…Instead, the gesture was meant to be related to a pledge supporting Al-Quds. The report also mentions that…scholars on both campuses indicate that the salute is used by other Middle Eastern political groups…
In fact, no modern Palestinian groups have ever supported Nazism or displayed Nazi regalia as part of their rituals. In Israel, on the contrary, some Jews have raised Nazi flags in political protest against the State. But I think this fact no more associates the State of Israel with Nazism than a campus salute associates Al Quds University with it.
Maariv also quotes PM Netanyahu’s remarks about the Al Quds incident:
It’s especially troubling that even in these days [of peace negotiations] that we witness such salutes and swastikas in the Palestinian Authority. This is a direct result of the incitement there against the State of Israel.
If you’re alert, you’re wondering where the “swastika” reference comes in. It seems that there was a separate incident outside the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar in which the IDF was summoned to take down a Nazi flag that was hung. The Maariv article displays a Facebook posting which it claims was made on the village’s Facebook page. It quotes the supposed posting as saying:
Today, the heroes of Beit Ummar hung Hitler’s flag over a power line: may their efforts be blessed.
The Facebook post displayed in the article does not say this. That post merely describes the incident. So we have an example of a reporter publishing a supposed post without offering any proof that it exits or who was its author. The reporter made no effort to speak with the IDF unit which removed the flag. He never found anyone from the village to interview about the incident, let alone someone who acknowledged the village was responsible.
In fact, the Beit Ummar Popular Committee released this forceful denunciation of the flag incident. If someone from the village did do this no one in the rest of the village wants anything to do with it.
Maariv’s reporter never wonders whether someone else might gain from such a provocation: settlers or even the security services themselves. Nazi symbols simply do not resonate for Palestinians. They don’t carry much weight or import. So why would any Palestinian bother doing such a thing? It’s much more likely that a settler provocateur would engage in such an act in order to elicit outrage among Israeli Jews and the outside world.
And that’s precisely what happened. Fred Lawrence fell right into the trap. But he didn’t fall unintentionally. His was a willing one. Brandeis would have us believe that it is a liberal arts institution “cherishing its independence from any doctrine or government.” That’s what it’s mission statement says. But you can kiss that notion goodbye. A former chair of the school’s board of trustees once told a faculty member that the essence of the school is that “we support Israel.” When the professor asked how that squared with its mission statement, the trustee dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “The reason I said we support Israel is because we do.” You won’t find that in the mission statement because it might be a bit, er, uncomfortable to explain. But it’s Brandeis’ #1 unwritten law.
In fact, pro-Israelism is virtually the official religion of American Jews. This is, in fact, one of the reasons why American Jewry finds itself in the deep whole portrayed by the Pew Center’s recent poll of American Jewish identity. Young American Jews in particular are fleeing from Israel and the bastions of Jewish communal life: synagogues and Israel lobby-type organizations.
In that pro-Israel context, Lawrence’s cutting of ties with Al Quds makes perfect sense. Brandeis’ mission is not to create international academic relationships with Palestinian universities. It’s real mission is to educate American Jewish youth and raise funds from the wealthiest 1% of American Jewry. Those donors are overwhelmingly, not just liberal Zionists, but hardline pro-Israel. The school’s trustees are closely allied with the Islamophobic David Project, Aipac, and numerous other Israel Lobby groups. Fred Lawrence probably didn’t even need to be told to ditch Al Quds. He knew what his trustees would want him to do and he did it.
To give but one example of Brandeis’ real nature, Michael Steinhardt gave $12-million to endow an Institute in his name that is part of the Cohen Center. It’s no accident that demographers working under the Center’s auspices have produced ten years of glowing surveys of Birthright-Israel participants “proving” that the billion-dollar investment of Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt, and other wealthy pro-Israel donors have inculcated pro-Israel values and given them something to live for as Jews. Such surveys take the guise of serious academic research, but they are nothing more than agitprop for pro-Israelism and self-interested boosterism that inflates donors egos with their own sense of success. In that sense, Brandeis happily allows itself to be co-opted both by pro-Israel mega-donors and by its own pro-Israel sympathies. The result is hasbara that passes for rigorous inquiry.
Returning to one of the statements that opened this post: Al Quds University has been smeared by a carefully manufactured campaign in the pro-Israel media. Serious academics and media outlets have either knowingly or unknowingly bought into the smear. They should be ashamed.
There will be a Brandeis faculty meeting next month at which Al Quds will be discussed. Some faculty are seeking to renew ties with the Palestinian school. One hopes sanity, reason, and real liberal values will prevail.
I should add that after the recent resolution endorsing BDS by the American Studies Association, Brandeis’ own American Studies program almost immediately voted to cut off its ties with the ASA. That was followed by three other schools. All of them were pressured to do so by letters sent to them by Israel Lobby groups like the Anti-Defamation League. Next month, the Modern Language Association takes up debate on the issue.