Birzeit University occupies an important place in Palestinian history. The oldest Palestinian university, it grew out of an elementary school for girls created in 1924, when schooling was rare for Palestinian children. It became a college in 1942 and a university in 1975. Birzeit has been the site of numerous protests and clashes with Israeli authorities, who shut down the university frequently and for lengthy periods in the 1980s. "The university is guided by the principle of academic freedom and upholds independence of thought, freedom of discussion, and unimpeded circulation of ideas. Ironically, these principles made the Birzeit University community a target of harassment under the Israeli military occupation," says a history of Birzeit on its website.
Now the university is facing questions about whether it has abandoned those principles in failing to defend a professor who is a target not of Israelis, but of the university's Islamist students.
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