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Brandeis looks to resume ties with Palestinian university

Brandeis University said Thursday that its president and other leaders are in discussions with a Palestinian college about reestablishing a partnership, more than two months after suspending ties over a controversial Mideast rally.

The nonsectarian, Jewish-sponsored university in Waltham halted its decade-old partnership with Al-Quds University in November after the president of the Arab school refused to condemn a campus demonstration at which marchers reportedly flashed Nazi-like salutes and that included banners of dead suicide bombers.

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“Talks between the universities have been going on since the relationship was suspended,” Brandeis spokeswoman Ellen de Graffenreid said Thursday. “The focus of the discussions is on what ongoing relationship might be appropriate between the two institutions.”

She said the ultimate goal of the talks is for the two institutions to become partners again.

“These are sensitive issues, and putting a timetable on these discussions is not appropriate,” she said. “Both institutions need to have discussions with their stakeholders.”

The suspension came after the president of Brandeis, Frederick M. Lawrence, asked Al-Quds president Sari Nusseibeh to issue an “unequivocal condemnation” of the demonstration.

But a statement Nusseibeh released fell short of condemning the Nov. 5 demonstration. Instead, he described a university campus as “a sacred space for free and open discussion, the exchange of ideas, and the expression of contradictory views.” And parts of his statement seemed to be directed at Brandeis and Lawrence.

“These occurrences allow some people to capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies,” Nusseibeh wrote.

Brandeis called Nusseibeh’s statement “unacceptable and inflammatory” and suspended its partnership with Al-Quds.

“While Brandeis has an unwavering commitment to open dialogue on difficult issues, we are also obliged to recognize intolerance when we see it, and we cannot — and will not — turn a blind eye to intolerance,” Brandeis said at the time.

Brandeis administrators stressed that the university was suspending, not terminating, the partnership.

In December, three Brandeis faculty members and a university advisory board urged school leaders to lift the suspension. On Thursday, de Graffenreid said that Lawrence personally has been speaking with Al-Quds representatives.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@ globe.com. For more coverage of area campuses, visit boston.com/yourcampus.
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