A leading Palestinian university in the West Bank funded by U.S. and European donors does not allow any Israeli Jews to set foot on campus, according to a reporter’s firsthand account.
Amira Hass, a reporter for the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, detailed her recent experience being asked to leave a conference at Birzeit University, located near Ramallah in the West Bank. Hass reported Sunday that she was asked to leave due to a university policy in place for the past two decades “stipulating that Israelis (Jewish Israelis, that is) are not allowed on the university grounds,” she wrote.
Hass herself has been highly critical of Israeli policy, and made news last year after encouraging Palestinians to throw stones at Israelis, calling it their “birthright.”
A Palestinian student attends his graduation ceremony at Birzeit University near the West Bank city of Ramallah, as some 2,500 students received their degrees at the end of the academic year, June 26, 2014. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
Hass had separate conversations with four faculty members who confirmed the policy, and she recalled being rejected in 1998 from an Arabic language course on campus to which she applied.
“It is well known that the university doesn't employ Israeli Jews as academic staff, even from anti-Zionist left-wing circles,” Hass wrote. “The claim that the law applies to me because I am representing an Israeli institution is a shaky one: Palestinian citizens of Israel who teach at Israeli universities are not subject to the same policy."
In a statement Monday, the university did not dispute Hass’ account nor her description of the policy barring Jewish Israelis, but stated it did not "object" to Hass visiting the campus.
“Birzeit wishes to clarify that neither the university administration nor any of its components object to Hass presence,” Birzeit University posted on Twitter. “The university as a national institution distinguishes between friends and enemies of the Palestinian people.”
“We, as part of the Palestinian national movement, deal with people according to our national interests and cause. We believe that the university is a seat of learning, whereas any variations or difference in opinion should be subject to peaceful and balanced dialogue for teaching and learning purposes,” the university added.
Two major U.S.-based charities — the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation — as well as many European donors provide funds to Birzeit University, according to the foundation's websites and a draft financial report on the university website.
In addition, the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation has provided scholarships for women to study at Birzeit, according to the foundation’s 2013 annual report, and has cooperated on other projects, according to the university's website. Stanford University’s School of Education is cited as a partner of the Birzeit Najjad Zeenni IT Center of Excellence and the two institutions have joint projects.
Hass wrote that she traveled to the West Bank campus last week to attend a conference called "Alternatives to Neo-Liberal Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – Critical Perspectives" sponsored by the German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Center for Development Studies.
“During the first presentation on Tuesday, two lecturers from the CDS approached me within 10 minutes of each other, asking me to step outside, saying that they needed to talk to me,” Hass recalled. “I asked them to wait until the break, but after they asked me a third time, I stepped out of the conference hall. ‘Am I not allowed to be here?’ I asked, half-kidding, but one of the lecturers answered that there was a problem.”
“The students manning the conference registration desk saw that I had written ‘Haaretz,’ realized I was an Israeli, and ran to tell the university authorities. The security department in turn went to the conference organizers, the lecturer said. She and her colleagues were afraid, she told me, that students would break into the conference hall in protest over my presence,” Hass wrote, adding that she saw no students approaching.
When the two lecturers demanded she leave, she left.
“One of the lecturers explained that it is important for students to have a safe space where (Jewish) Israelis are not entitled to enter; that while the law is problematic, this was not the time or place to discuss amending it,” Hass wrote. “She also told me that Professor Ilan Pappe, author of the book 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,' among others, had been invited to deliver a lecture at Birzeit, but owing to the law, gave the talk off campus.”
Katja Hermann, director of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's Regional Office in the Occupied Territories, told Hass that had she known of the Birzeit policy, she wouldn't have agreed to hold the event on campus, according to Hass’ account.
Hass wrote that she had successfully entered campus “dozens of times” over the past 20 years, “but I was never told that there was a university law against my very presence, as an Israeli Jew, on Birzeit's campus.”
Hass' account came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday accused Israel of implementing a policy of “abhorrent apartheid."
Naftali Balanson, managing editor at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based organization that tracks international funding of nonprofits that support efforts to boycott Israel, told TheBlaze Monday that Hass' story is a sign of “blatant anti-Semitism and a violation of human rights, regardless of the political opinions or professional affiliation of the individual in question.”
“It is also a betrayal of the most basic academic values. Unless Birzeit University immediately reverses its discriminatory policy, funders should withdraw their support and organizations of good conscience should refuse to hold events at or partner with the institution in any way,” Balanson said.