The Palestinian professor who touched off a maelstrom of controversy by taking a group of students to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in Poland is now at odds with his former employer after the school accepted his resignation.
Dr. Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, who headed the American studies department and served as chief librarian at Al-Quds University, stirred up controversy among Palestinians who felt the March trip was inappropriate. Although the participants were all students at Al-Quds, Dajani said that the trip itself was under the aegis of Wasatia, the nongovernmental organization that he heads whose goal is to “promote a culture of moderation and reconciliation between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.” But when the trip became a public issue, criticism was leveled at the school and the professor. Dajani said he received threats and the employee and student unions, to which he did not belong, formally banned him from membership. On May 18, Dajani submitted his resignation from Al-Quds University.
Incoming university president Imad Abukishek said he was surprised by the resignation, given the lengths he said the school went to on Dajani’s behalf. “We thought he noticed what we did for him and that he would respect what we did for him,” Abukishek said, citing two university-assigned security guards hired to protect Dajani and the school’s attempt to confront the unions to demand the rescinding of the ban issued against the professor.
Dajani, however, said he saw the university’s response in a different light. In his letter of resignation addressed to outgoing university president Sari Nusseibeh, Dajani charged that as a result of the fallout from the Auschwitz trip, “the educational environment on this campus for teaching and learning is not available at your university, which makes it difficult to practise my mission to educate and practise academic freedom.”
In a statement, the administration strongly disagreed, citing the school’s efforts to “act promptly and effectively to deal with the actions” of the two unions and the hiring of the bodyguards. The administration insisted that Al-Quds did all it could do “to deal with the repercussions of his visit,” and did so even though it “was being made to deal with ‘an external activity carried out by Prof. Dajani in his private capacity as the CEO of an independent NGO, which he runs [that] … had nothing to do with the university.’” The statement added that the school did all it could “to ensure that individuals, including Prof. Dajani, had the right to express their views freely, and to act freely within the confines of the law, without fear of intimidations or threats.”
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