Full Bethlehem story

August 30, 2002

The rocket hole in the library of Bethlehem University that you refer to in your feature on the boycott of Israel ( THES , July 26) was probably caused during a skirmish between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops sometime over the past year.

Israel's first major anti-terror sweep into Bethlehem was last August; there have been several since. There was heavy fighting in Bethlehem during Operation Defensive Shield in late March and early April, and reports at the time indicated armed Palestinians shot from the university and Israeli Defence Force tanks fired back. It is a shame the article fails to mention this.

The Palestinian militants used not only schools and orphanages as snipers' nests, but church properties, eventually breaking their way into the Church of the Nativity.

Al Quds University has remained open, it is just hard for Palestinians from the territories to get to classes. The president's office was shut temporarily in July and re-opened after Sari Nusseibeh signed a written pledge not to use his office illegally to represent the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organisation in Jerusalem. Nusseibeh, of course, holds the Jerusalem affairs portfolio in the PLO.

Israel helped to build or expand all seven Palestinian universities in Judea/Samaria and Gaza after taking over administration there in 1967. Palestinian campuses have since become hotbeds of Islamic militancy and terrorism. Hamas has defeated Fatah at student elections at Bir Zeit and An-Najah in Nablus.

During the first year or so of the intifada, nearly half the suicide bombers were students recruited from the Nablus campus. Last year, Bir Zeit hosted a display in tribute to the intifada that included a replica of the Sbarro pizzeria in central Jerusalem where 15 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide bombing last August. Students at Bir Zeit stoned a top French official for calling Hizb'Allah a terrorist organisation.

David Parsons
Media officer
International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

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