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Israeli University Gives Rare Honor to Jordanian

Israeli University Gives Rare Honor to Jordanian

May 19, 2009

Medical Research, Negev Development & Community Programs, Social Sciences & Humanities

An Israeli university has awarded an honorary degree to the president of the Jordan Red Crescent, a move that a university spokeswoman described as a rare touting of academic ties between Israel and an Arab nation.

The Ben-Gurion University said it was recognizing Dr. Mohammed al-Hadid for a joint Israeli-Jordanian program in emergency medicine, which he helped establish, as well as for his two decades of humanitarian work with the Red Crescent and other agencies.

The award, which was announced Monday, could cause trouble for al-Hadid in Jordan, where the powerful Muslim Brotherhood movement rejects the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel and has published a blacklist of prominent Jordanians with ties to the Jewish state. Al-Hadid is not on that list.

In Amman, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil abu-Bakr derided the award as an Israeli public relations ploy and warned it could harm al-Hadid’s reputation.

“It is better to reject it,” abu-Bakr said, “because it will harm his good reputation among his family and people during his life and even after.”

Al-Hadid said he had no intention of rejecting the award and would accept it at the Israeli university next Monday.

“It is purely to honor my humanitarian work … It is not political at all,” he said. “I consider this award as upholding tolerance and the culture of dialogue among people.”

Ben-Gurion University’s main campus is in Beersheba in Israel’s arid south, less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Jordanian and Egyptian borders and only about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Gaza Strip.

Partly because of its location, the university has a long history of working with Arab academics and students, university spokeswoman Faye Bittker said, though much of that work is under the radar.

“We try to respect the political situations of the people we work with when they don’t want publicity, and to recognize those who work with us when we can,” she said.

In 2005, the university awarded an honorary degree to Egyptian playwright and critic of radical Islam, Ali Salem, but Egyptian authorities refused to let him go to Israel to attend the ceremony. Egypt’s ambassador to Israel was also awarded an honorary degree in 1995.

Thirty years ago, the university conferred special “Star of Peace” awards, created especially for the occasion, on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin after they signed a historic peace accord, Israel’s first with an Arab nation.

Sadat and Begin were both on campus to accept the awards.

Associated Press Writer Shafika Mattar contributed to this report from Amman, Jordan.