DECEMBER 9, 2022
Palestine News

Swiss uni closes institute over pro-Palestine tweets

Swiss uni closes institute over pro-Palestine tweets

The University of Bern has closed its research institute dedicated to the study of West Asia and the Muslim world following an investigation sparked by tweets from one of the institute's lecturers in support of Hamas' 7 October attack on Israel.

 The university announced that the Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies (ISNO) in its "current form is closed" and the study of the subject will be "reorganized." The institute's co-director, Serena Tolino, who was temporarily relieved of her duties in October, received a formal warning for "poor management" following the investigation.

The investigation was undertaken after an unnamed lecturer in the institute posted several tweets to the social media site X in support of the Hamas-led Palestinian resistance's Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. During the operation, Palestinian resistance fighters attacked Israeli military bases and settlements to break Israel's 17-year siege on Gaza and to take Israeli captives to exchange for the thousands of Palestinians held captive in Israeli prisons.

Some 1,200 Israelis were killed during the 7 October operation, including soldiers and civilians. Some were killed by Hamas, others were killed by Israeli forces using attack helicopters, drones, and tanks, per the Hannibal directive. 

The lecturer allegedly wrote on X that the Hamas attack was the best present he had received before his birthday.

In another post, he allegedly commented on a video of the Hamas raid with the words "Shabbat Shalom" ("Peace be Sabbath"). The online posts have since been deleted.

In response, the University of Bern announced that a lecturer at the institute "inappropriately posted on X" and was "dismissed without notice."

The university alleged the lecturer's comments were anti-Semitic.

"I would like to reiterate that the University of Bern condemns all forms of violence and discrimination. This relates particularly to the current debate on religious discrimination, especially antisemitism," said Prof. Dr. Christian Leumann, Rector of the University of Bern.

Academics who are critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinian rights under international law have often been accused of antisemitism.

Prominent examples include US academics John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, who have written extensively about the power of the Israel lobby in the US and its role in pushing the US military to invade Iraq in 2003. The US invasion and subsequent civil war killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

In 2011, Walt wrote in Foreign Policy, "Ever since John Mearsheimer and I began writing about the Israel lobby, some of our critics have … accused us of being anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists. They used these false charges to try to discredit and/or marginalize us, and to distract people from the important issues of U.S. Middle East policy that we had raised."

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