Last March, Professor Mohammed Dajani, head of the Al-Quds University Department of American Studies in East Jerusalem, led a delegation of 30 Palestinian students to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was believed to be the first organized visit by a Palestinian student group to the death camps. Two Jewish Holocaust survivors guided the delegation, which also spent several days in Krakow.
At the same time, Israeli students toured a Palestinian refugee camp.
Mr. Dajani hoped that the trip would convince both the Palestinian and the Israelis that the conflict between them need not be intractable.
Israel and the United States praised him and the trip he led.
On May 18, Mr. Dajani, a former Fatah fighter whom Israel had banned for 30 years, resigned from Al-Quds. Instead of supporting him, the university had expelled him from the staff union, and made its displeasure with him clear. Fellow Palestinians called him a traitor.
Mr. Dajani had hoped that the university would reject his resignation, thus sending what he called a “clear message” that “the university supports academic freedom, and considers my trip as an educational journey in search of knowledge.”
He also said that the university’s acceptance of his June 1 resignation exposed Palestinian “double talk” when it comes to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
We are saddened that the realities on the ground brought Mr. Dajani down. He is courageous, and his intentions are good. We hope that his work will continue, and that more people within both Israeli and Palestinian academic worlds will at least use education as the wire cutters to cut through the barbed wire of hate and ignorance.