‘My life was threatened for taking students to Auschwitz’

A PALESTINIAN professor and peace activist who came under fire last year for taking a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz is among the international presenters set to appear at Limmud-Oz this month.

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, a Jerusalem-born academic and the founding director of Wasatia Moderate Islamic Movement in Palestine, will appear in four sessions at the festival of Jewish ideas in Sydney over the Queen’s birthday long weekend.

Dajani, who has doctorate degrees from two reputed American universities and has authored a number of books, described taking 27 students from Al-Quds University to Auschwitz as the climax of his educational career.

“That was an eye-opener experience for both myself and my students,” Dajani told The AJN in advance of his visit to Australia.

“The students who grew up in an environment of ignorance and misconceptions about the Holocaust … they realised that the Holocaust was a historic tragic reality and to deny it is not only wrong but also unethical,” he said.

Whilst he expected to receive some backlash from Al-Quds University for the trip, the extent of the fallout was beyond his expectations.

“However, the uproar that took place which eventually forced me to resign my posts at the university and led to threats on my life and to torching my car would not stop me from taking another group of young Palestinian leaders to visit Auschwitz,” he noted.

Dajani said he developed tendencies towards advocating for peace “after having changed my perception of the other from a demonised image of an enemy bent on my destruction and humiliation to a humanised image of a doctor healing the patient, a teacher educating the youth, and a performer enriching human civilisation.

“I realised that there are Jews who recognise my rights and my existence who are willing to support my cause to end the occupation, so I extended my hands to them to empower the peace makers on both sides so that our children will inherit a new world where peace, democracy and prosperity prevail,” he said.

As for how this might be achieved, Dajani believes the focus needs to be on promoting a culture of moderation.

“I believe that [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Mahmoud] Abbas are not leaning towards peace because they perceive that their people do not want to make peace and that there is too much hatred and enmity between both people,” Dajani said.

He suggested a starting point in resolving the conflict would be the Palestinian Authority acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state and Israel acknowledging the Palestinian right for a Palestinian state and facilitating its admission to the United Nations.

Dajani’s sessions at Limmud-Oz will include “Election post-mortem: What does Bibi’s win mean?”, “Revealing insights into the Muslim World” and “Moderation: the path to reconciliation and peace.”

“I am looking forward to presenting at Limmud-Oz and I find it an honour and a golden opportunity for me to visit Australia for the first time,” he enthused.

AJN session at Young Limmud

HAVE you ever wanted to know how to write a newspaper article, and how The Australian Jewish News comes together each week?

If you’re aged 9-12, come along to The AJN’s session at Young Limmud on Sunday, June 7.

Presented by AJN journalists Phoebe Roth and Evan Zlatkis, the workshop will teach primary school students the tricks of the trade of writing a news story, as well as provide a fascinating insight into the workings of the weekly newspaper.

“We can’t wait to meet all the budding young journalists out there,” Zlatkis said. “Who knows – maybe we’ll even meet a future editor of The AJN.”

“We are excited to not only present at Limmud-Oz, but to engage as participants and hear from the myriad of local and international speakers,” Roth added.

The AJN workshop will take place at 11.45am on Sunday, June 7. For more details, visit www.encounters.edu.au/Limmud/Home.


Professor Mohammed Dajani at Auschwitz in March 2014.

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