Letter to the Editor 2/20/14

In “Vassar ignores values behind ASA boycott,” Dann and Massad argued that Israel’s academic institutions are complicit in the oppression of Palestinians. But if we accept that reasoning, the ASA would also have to feel an “ethical responsibility” to boycott Palestinian academic institutions. This is particularly true for Gaza’s Islamic University, which—according to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism—is closely associated with Hamas, a group that is designated by the Department of State as a terrorist organization.  Hamas reportedly “used the Islamic university laboratories for research and development for Qassam rockets,” weapons which have been fired into Israel since it withdrew from the territory in 2005. Moreover, Hamas leaders like the late Sheikh Dr. Nizar Rayyan—who was active in the Iz A-Din Al Qassam Brigades, served on the Islamic University’s board of trustees and was a lecturer in Islamic Sharia studies—have demonstrated that the terror group takes its genocidal anti-Semitic Charter seriously. As Rayyan told Jeffrey Goldberg, Israel “is an offense against God” and the Jews “are a cursed people.” Indeed, Rayyan was so fanatical that in 2001, he sent his teenaged son Ibrahim on a suicide attack.

Regrettably, the glorification of such terror attacks is common on Palestinian campuses. As Matthew Levitt noted, Hamas propaganda is freely available on Palestinian campuses and some student groups help with “terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization of students.” At Birzeit University near Ramallah, Hamas candidates for student elections in 2003 reenacted suicide attacks by blowing up models of Israeli buses; recently, an “art” exhibit at the same university celebrated rocket attacks on Israeli villages. In 2011, Ahlam al-Tamimi, a graduate of Birzeit and proud collaborator in the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem, was released in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In celebration, the Islamic bloc at the Birzeit sponsored a well-attended event featuring an address by Tamimi.

Since Dann and Massad quote boycott advocate Judith Butler, it should be noted that Butler indeed helps to shed light on the “values” of the boycott movement. While Butler wants Israeli universities shunned, she had no problem lecturing at Birzeit and mentions the university in the acknowledgments for her “Critique of Zionism” as one of the places where she “learned from students and faculty.” Perhaps this helps to explain Butler’s view that Islamist terror organizations should be seen “as social movements that are progressive” and “are part of a global Left.”  But self-imposed blinders do not justify a movement that demonizes one nation and its academic institutions while ignoring the fact that Palestinian universities are incubators for anti-Semitism and terrorism.

—Melissa E. Green ‘78

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