A group of 30 Palestinian students arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday, in what is believed to be the first organized visit by Palestinian students to a Nazi death camp.We mentioned the tiny and quite anomalous Wasatia party previously.
The students are spending several days in Kraków and Oświęcim guided by two Jewish Holocaust survivors.
A news blackout on the trip was requested by the organizers. The presence of the Palestinian group at Auschwitz-Birkenau is being reported here for the first time.
The students from Al-Quds University and Birzeit University, near Ramallah, are participating in a joint program on Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution with the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The program’s aim is for Israeli and Palestinian students to learn about the suffering that has helped shape the historical consciousness of the other side.
Last week, a group of Israeli students visited the Dheisheh refugee camp, located south of Bethlehem, to learn about the Palestinian experience of suffering during the founding of Israel in 1948 – known to Palestinians as the Nakba (“the catastrophe”).
The reactions of each group will be studied by a group of PhD psychology students to see whether exposure to the conflicting historical narrative helps the students to understand their enemy, and facilitates efforts toward reconciliation and coexistence.
The Palestinian side of the program is directed by Mohammed S. Dajani, professor of American Studies at Al-Quds. Because of the Palestinian freeze on joint projects with Israeli universities, the Palestinian students are participating under the banner of Prof. Dajani’s Wasatia movement of moderate Islam.
Al Quds University came out with a strong statement distancing itself from the idea that they would support Arab students learning about the Holocaust.
Al Quds University denied any relationship with the visit carried out by an Al Quds lecturer along with a number of students to an extermination camp for the Jews.But it appears that Al Quds will cooperate with Israeli universities when it wants to:
The statement said that university lecturer Dr. Mohammed Dajani and the students involved acted in their personal capacity, and they were not representatives of the University, adding that the university lecturer took a personal leave of absence was not within the mandate from the university.
The university said it has been committed to cut its relationship with Israeli universities since 2009 by the University Board.
The Technion, known as Israel’s MIT, is working along with Al Quds University, a Palestinian institution for higher learning in Abu Dis, in order to attempt to remove pharmaceutical residues from waste-water, an environmental problem that plagues both Israeli and Palestinian societies. Presently, whenever one takes any sort of medication, the residue of the medications get mixed up with the water supply whenever someone uses the bathroom. The re-used water then seeps into agricultural crops and adversely affects the environment. Both the Technion and Al Quds University are committed to collaborating to fix this health hazard that harms ecosystems within the Holy Land.So the issue doesn't seem to be cooperating with Israeli universities so much as being aghast at the idea of Palestinian Arabs learning to be even slightly sympathetic to Jews.
The project is sponsored by the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, which works to build peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians via collaboration and dialogue, and the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi.