Israeli assaults demand action (1)

July 19, 2002

The week that acres of newsprint were expended on the removal of two Israelis from honorary positions on the editorial boards of two specialist journals ("Israeli sackings prompt inquiry", THES , July 12), Israeli police minister Uzi Landau raided the offices of Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh in East Jerusalem. Staff were evicted, files, documents and computers were confiscated, the building was sealed off, and the work of 720 university employees, responsible for more than 6,000 students, was disrupted.

The closure order cited the fact that Nusseibeh was a member of the Palestinian National Authority. This seemingly made the university an agency of the Palestinian Authority and, hence, "in contravention of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement".

Even Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, cannot accept that the action relates to any "fight against terrorism". The closure follows a well-worn pattern: on May 29, students and faculty were prevented from entering Bir Zeit University; on June 25, the Palestinian Polytechnic University in Hebron was attacked; and last year, the National Statistics Bureau of Palestine was trashed.

Landau's actions not only deny academic freedom to the Palestinian academics at Al-Quds in a most violent way, they are also a direct attack on Palestinian moderates. Nusseibeh, who trained as a philosopher at Oxford University and is the son-in-law of Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, initiated a Palestinian petition condemning suicide bombings. Israeli culture and sport minister Matan Vilnai said Nusseibeh was "one of the Palestinian leaders with whom it will apparently be possible to talk".

Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which includes among its members leading academics in UK universities, notes that Ephraim Sneh, Israeli transport minister, recognises the foolishness of Landau's actions. We call on Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and other members of the Israeli cabinet to dissociate themselves from this barbaric assault on Al-Quds and to re-open the East Jerusalem site, returning all confiscated items immediately.

We call on academics in Britain and in Israel to join us in this condemnation.

Irene Bruegel
Jews for Justice for Palestinians

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