Editorial Opinion

Jewish left must reject Arab university that honored killer of peace activist

By Stephen M. Flatow

Among American Jewish peace activists, Al Quds University has long been one of the most admired Palestinian educational institutions. Will this change now that Al Quds has honored a terrorist who recently murdered an American Jewish peace activist?

This tragic story began last Oct. 13, when Palestinian terrorists Baha Alyan and Bilal Ghanem, armed with guns and knives, boarded a bus in Jerusalem. One of the passengers happened to be 78-year-old Richard Lakin, a civil rights veteran from Connecticut who “taught English to Israeli and Palestinian children” in Jerusalem and “never missed a peace rally,” according to his rabbi.

Alyan and Ghanem stabbed this defenseless elderly man in the face and chest. And then they shot him in the head.

Last week, Al Quds University honored Alyan [who was shot and killed on the spot; Ghanem was arrested] by organizing a “human chain of readers” which they called the “Glory of the Martyrs.” Alyan’s father joined hands with 2,500 students who wore shirts bearing Alyan’s photograph. According to the Palestinian news agency Wattan, the students “wrote letters… to the souls of Martyr Baha Alyan and the other Martyrs.” (Translation courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch)

The Jewish peace camp has long had a soft spot for Palestinian universities. Many peace activists operate from the assumption that education will lead to peace. They think poverty and unemployment are the causes of Palestinian terrorism. So they believe that Palestinians who go to college are likely to emerge as reasonable, rational people.

Of course, study after study of the motives of terrorists severely challenges such assumptions. Sociologists and political scientists have never been able to document a link between poverty and terrorism, or between lack of education and terrorism. Many suicide bombers have come from affluent homes. Many senior terrorists have advanced college degrees.

Nevertheless, the Jewish left’s admiration for Palestinian universities such as Al Quds persists.

For instance, the website for Americans for Peace includes a sympathetic feature about Warren Spielberg, an American professor who is currently a fellow at Al Quds, where he is studying “the background causes for the current violence in Jerusalem.” I wonder if Prof. Spielberg will be examining whether a university’s sponsorship of an event glorifying a murderer might serve as an inspiration to future violence.

The home page of Peace Now Canada’s web site boasts that have arranged for Al Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh to speak at “major synagogues and other venues in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.”

The example that is the most painful to me concerns student leaders of J Street at Brandeis University. My daughter Alisa was a junior at Brandeis when she visited Israel in 1995 and was murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

Three years ago, Brandeis severed its partnership agreement with Al Quds after the university hosted pro-terrorist rallies by students in military uniforms giving the traditional Nazi salute. The leaders of the J Street chapter at Brandeis, Eli Philip and Catie Stewart, responded by organizing a delegation of students to visit Al Quds in order to “repair relations” between the two institutions and “create a framework for long-term student dialogue between Brandeis University and Al Quds University.”

The leaders of Al Quds University have now made it clear what “dialogue” means to them. It means: “You American Jews tell everyone that we are ‘moderate’; and don’t say a word when we glorify those who murder American Jews.”

What Al Quds has done, in honoring Baha Alyan, is not merely a profound insult to American Jewry; it is actively encouraging the murder of more Jews, by teaching the Al Quds student body that knifing and shooting an elderly Jewish peace activist is a noble and honorable act.

If Jewish peace activists continue to maintain friendly relations with Al Quds, they are not merely trampling on the memory of their own friend and colleague; but they also will be sending a message to the Palestinians that incitement to murder is acceptable.

How could that possibly help promote the cause of peace?

So, I appeal to Americans for Peace Now and J Street and everyone who is part of their camp: Honor Richard Lakin’s memory, and promote genuine peace, by severing all ties to Al Quds University.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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