US university suspends ties to Palestinian school

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Brandeis University has decided to suspend its partnership with a Palestinian university over what it calls a failure by leadership to condemn an on-campus demonstration in which marchers reportedly made what Brandeis officials said looked like Nazi salutes.

Brandeis, based in suburban Boston, is a nonsectarian university founded by the American Jewish community. Its president, Frederick Lawrence, formally suspended the partnership with Al-Quds University on Monday. In a news release, the university said it would "re-evaluate the relationship as future events may warrant."

But Al-Quds in a statement Wednesday urged Brandeis to reconsider. The university said it launched an investigation immediately after the Nov. 5 rally and informed all political factions on campus not to hold such activities. The university said the campus political wing of Islamic Jihad responsible for the rally has a small number of students who violated their agreements with the university.

The faction's activities are unacceptable and contrary to the university's "liberal policy and the human values we are trying to promote," the statement said.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad is a violent militant group committed to Israel's destruction. It has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.

Al-Quds said in its statement that the partnership between the universities has shielded students from extremist influences.

"Our arms are always open for peace," it said. "This has been and will always be our stance, despite the repeated attacks by the Israeli military on our campus and students."

The demonstration on the Al-Quds campus included masked demonstrators "wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons, and who marched while waving flags and raising the traditional Nazi salute," according to a statement from Brandeis. The demonstration included banners depicting images of dead suicide bombers.

Lawrence contacted Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh and requested that he issue an unequivocal condemnation in Arabic and English.

But Brandeis deemed the resulting statement issued Sunday "unacceptable and inflammatory."

The original Al-Quds statement said "extreme elements" often try to capitalize on campus events that "misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies."

"As occurred recently, these opportunists are quick to describe the Palestinians as a people undeserving of freedom and independence, and as a people who must be kept under coercive control and occupation," the statement continued. "They cite these events as evidence justifying their efforts to muster broad Jewish and western opinion to support their position."

Nusseibeh is considered a leading Palestinian intellectual and advocate of non-violence who worked with an Israeli peace activist and former security official on peace initiatives.

A spokesman for Islamic Jihad's military wing in the Gaza Strip told The Associated Press that although similar, there is no connection between Islamic Jihad's salute and that of the Nazis. The raised arm pointing toward the sky symbolizes a desire to reach holy Jerusalem, currently under Israeli control, he said.

The decade-long partnership between the schools has included student and faculty exchanges that Brandeis says have advanced the cause of peace and understanding and provided educational opportunities.

Brandeis did not close the door entirely on the partnership, saying the university "will re-evaluate the relationship as future events may warrant."