Facing pressure and incitement, Palestinian professor resigns over Auschwitz trip

Facing pressure and incitement, Palestinian professor resigns over Auschwitz trip

Al-Quds University’s Professor Mohammed Dajani, who earlier this year organized the first group of Palestinian university students to tour the Auschwitz death camp, has resigned from the university, Israel’s daily Haaretz reported Sunday.

According to Dajani, a campaign of “incitement” forced him to resign his post as head of the Department of American Studies at the Jerusalem-based Palestinian university.

Last march, Dajani took 27 Palestinian college students to visit Auschwitz in Poland as part of a project designed to teach empathy and tolerance.

Following the trip, Dajani was denounced as a “traitor” and “collaborator” by Palestinian critics, subjected to fierce criticism from Arab colleagues, and expelled from a university teachers’ union.  Dajani’s own university disowned the trip. 

“Dr. Mohammad Dajani’s union membership at Al-Quds University has been suspended because of his visit to Auschwitz,” Rima Najjar, an assistant professor of English Literature at Al Quds, wrote on her Facebook page.

Najjar quoted Arab academic, Mazin Qumsiyeh, as saying, “[Dajani] adopted the Zionist perspective that Judaism and Zionism are the same thing and in our opinion this is an anti-Semitic attitude to equate Zionism and Judaism and somehow link making peace and Zionism with the issues of Jewish suffering around the world.”

According to Haaretz, Dajani submitted a letter of resignation on May 18 and his resignation took effect on June 1.

“I wanted the president of the university to take a stand by not accepting my resignation and in doing so to send a clear and loud message to the university employees and students, and in general, to the Palestinian community, that the university supports academic freedom and considers my trip as an educational journey in search of knowledge by which I broke no university policy, rules, or regulations,” Dajani told Haaretz.

“My letter of resignation from Al-Quds University was a kind of litmus test to see whether the university administration supports academic freedom and freedom of action and of expression as they claim or not,” he added.

In an April interview, Dajani said: “I was brought up in a culture of denial of the Holocaust. It was a taboo and I never studied about it in school or the university. Whatever I knew about it was vague… it was either exaggerated or it was part of the atrocities within the Second World War.”

The professor said he hopes the March trip to Poland is only the first of many and will perhaps eventually lead to the Palestinian authorities introducing Holocaust education into the school curriculum.  But that hope, slim as it ever was, is looking even more doubtful in the wake of the reaction to the professor’s trip.

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