How can that possibly be one might ask? Of course at Brown, as at many universities around the country, Middle East Studies has long been a platform for Palestinian propaganda. Many Brown students likely say they believe the lie that Israel is an apartheid state simply to avoid being shunned, or worse, by their woke classmates, professors and administrators. In the Spring of 2019, 28% of the Brown student body signed a sophomoric petition - incredibly enough, also signed by 100 or so faculty - calling for the imposition of economic sanctions on Israel. But Brown enabling Hamas? Hamas whose charter proclaims that "the struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave", that "vows... and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine", and "that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad"? Hamas - that in an official statement on August 16 congratulated the Taliban "on the demise of the American occupation [in Afghanistan].....proves that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, will achieve victory." What possible connection could exist between Middle East Studies at Brown and Hamas terrorists? But there is a connection - the connection is Birzeit University whose president is Brown Middle East Studies Professor Beshara Doumani.
To recap briefly my last post, Birzeit prides itself on its relentless opposition to Israel. It has produced and glorified leading Palestinian terrorists, including, for example, Kamal Nasser. Among Nasser's roles were PLO spokesman and operations chief, member of the PLO Executive Committee and one of the key planners of the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes. Kamal Nasser Hall at Birzeit is named in his honor; Nasser also is honored annually by Birzeit on "Land Day". On May 26 of this year, following Hamas' launching of, ultimately, 4000+ rockets into Israel leading to the Israeli response that resulted in a ceasefire, Birzeit demanded "concrete action to end Israeli colonialism and apartheid" and recited the usual Palestinian grievances and alleged the usual supposed facts without ever once mentioning Hamas. Why no mention of Hamas? Because Birzeit endorses and enables Hamas.
Hamas is a major presence at Birzeit. Hamas-supporting students at Birzeit routinely prevail in student council elections. Just last month Birzeit's Hamas-supporting students posted the following on social media:
"The Hamas student faction at Birzeit University invites you to attend a visit to the family of the heroic prisoner Montasir Shalabi, who carried out the heroic [attack] at the [Tapuah Junction]."
What was Shalabi's "heroic" act? He murdered 19 year old yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta and wounded two other Israeli teenagers in a drive-by shooting. Why visit the killer's family? It was to protest the Israeli government's policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists who kill Jews. That policy certainly can be the subject of legitimate protest, even though the families of jailed Palestinian terrorists like Shalabi are compensated by the Palestinian Authority under its "pay for slay" policy. As described by the New York Times last April, because "[pay for slay] payments are based largely on the length of the prison sentence, critics [of the pay for slay policy] say the most heinous crimes are the most rewarded", the Shalabi family is likely being very well taken care of. But college students describing a 44 year-old spineless coward as a hero for murdering one teenager and wounding two others in a drive-by shooting speaks volumes not only about the character, or more precisely the complete absence of character, and the nihilistic politics of those students, but also of the university that condones and encourages their behavior.
What did Brown professor Doumani's university have to say about the July incident? Nothing at all it seems about the murdered and wounded Jewish teenagers. Instead it complained on its website that 15 of the 33 students protesting the demolition of the family home "following a solidarity visit to the family of political prisoner Muntaser Shalibi" were arrested and allegedly mistreated by the Israeli authorities after their arrest. The real facts about the treatment of the arrested student protesters? Who knows. Birzeit's characterizations are of course not remotely credible - its descriptions are boilerplate, standard political posturing. But Birzeit's position concerning Shalabi is perfectly clear - he is a "political prisoner", and apparently not a drive-by shooter who chose to kill one teenager and wound two others.
Quite apart from the fact that it is unconscionable that Brown Professor Doumani is simultaneously president of Birzeit, has Doumani ever expressed a view on the Birzeit/Hamas connection or even on the presence of Hamas-supporting students on his campus? Has he given any thought as to how the Birzeit/Hamas connection might negatively impact his ability to continue to be a credible professor in Middle East Studies at Brown? Or at Brown beyond just Middle East Studies? Did anyone at Brown ask him these or related questions before granting Doumani leave to run Birzeit? If so, what were Doumani's answers? If no one at Brown asked any such questions, why not?
Whether or not anyone at Brown ever explored these issues with Doumani - and someone at Brown obviously should have - Doumani's August 2, 2021 "Introductory Message" to the Birzeit community is particularly revealing. It is replete with his views related to "the Palestinian cause" and notes "dramatic and radical changes in the nature and character of our struggle"; he goes so far as to state "I've returned to my homeland - in particular to Birzeit University.....".
Doumani's use of the term "homeland" is curious for a man born in Saudi Arabia, who spent much time in Lebanon growing up and went to college in Ohio. To be sure, Wikipedia describes Doumani as a "Palestinian" whose family was "dispossessed" from Haifa during the "1947-1949 Palestine War". But the source for those supposed facts, whatever they might mean, eg "dispossessed" from Haifa, or however odd they are, eg "1947-1949 Palestinian War", is the "Institute for Middle East Understanding", a non-profit dedicated to providing "journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and Palestinians...". While the Institute for Middle East Studies is hardly a reliable source on matters related to Israel and the Palestinians, that is beside the point here. Far more importantly, since there apparently is no dispute about Doumani's birthplace or his life in Lebanon or in this country, by using the term "homeland" to describe the Ramallah, West Bank location of Birzeit - the Hamas charter uses "homeland" to describe all of Israel - Doumani has again signaled his adherence to the multi-generational definition of the supposed "right of return". The "right of return" is a cornerstone of Hamas policy (and of the Boycott Divest Sanction movement Doumani wholeheartedly supports). Under this policy, not only is Saudi-born, Lebanon-raised, U.S.- educated Doumani entitled to "return" to what is now Israel, but so are his children and his children's children ad infinitum irrespective of their birthplaces or citizenship. This fantasy, this genealogical Ponzi scheme, has been peddled for decades by those who believe that Israel must be eliminated as a Jewish state.
Bad enough that Brown delivered Doumani to Birzeit, but now Doumani has returned the favor by delivering Birzeit to Brown. On August 24, Brown announced that through the funding of Doumani's Darwish Chair, one of three Visiting Fellows in Palestinian Studies in the 2021-22 academic year will be Rema Hammami, associate professor at Birzeit. According to the announcement, Hammami's current research "focuses on the collusion between liberal peacebuilding/neo-humanitarian intervention within the logics of ongoing Israeli military occupation...". Birzeit's Hammami - and the two other Visiting Fellows - "will be organizing a panel discussion on currently relevant matters related to their research, visiting undergraduate classes, and meeting with graduate students." Can there be even the slightest doubt that the messages Hammami will be delivering on campus will be, among others, the importance of the resistance to, as she puts it, "ongoing Israeli military occupation"? Of course not - that is a bedrock principle of Hamas and Birzeit and Hammami and Brown Professor Doumani. (The two other Darwish Visiting Fellows are Ruba Salih, the lead author of a recent article entitled "From Standing Rock to Palestine We Are United" under the banner of "diaspora politics, décolonisation and the intersectionality of struggles" in a journal called "Ethnic and Racial Studies", and Noura Erakat, a Rutgers professor who, among her undertakings and articles, touts herself as having served as "national organizer of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation". More about the Middle East Studies curriculum at Brown in subsequent posts.)
Beshara Doumani, a professor on the Middle East Studies faculty at Brown and the holder of an endowed chair and, as things now stand, who will return to Brown when his Birzeit presidency ends, runs a university in Israel's West Bank that takes pride in being "a thorn in the side of the occupation". That same university, now Doumani's university, not only permits, but supports students who publicly embrace Hamas. In his opening presentation to the Birzeit community, Doumani espouses principles central to the Hamas charter. And to take Doumani's place at Brown while he runs Birzeit, through the funding of Doumani's endowed chair, Brown appoints three visiting scholars for the 2021-22 academic year to lecture at Brown and to meet with students in other settings all of whom hold the same views as Hamas, Birzeit, Birzeit's Hamas-supporting students and Doumani on "the occupation" and the supposed "right of return" and likely much else. These are not hard dots to connect.
Middle East Studies at Brown enabling Hamas? Really not much of a stretch at all.
Willis J. Goldsmith, Brown '69