The University of Jordan is facing a backlash on social media after it extended an invitation to an Israeli-American academic to give a lecture during an online workshop, the New Arab reports.
According to the report, a “pro-Palestine committee” has condemned the university, claiming the invitation is an attempt at normalisation.
Gideon Ariel, a scientist focusing on biomechanics, was reportedly invited to lecture on “bio-mechanics and kinetic behaviour” during a two-day online workshop held by the University of Jordan at the end of May.
A statement from the Supreme Executive Committee for the Protection of the Homeland and Confronting Normalisation, seen by the New Arab, called on the university to take action against the members of staff who had extended the invitation to Ariel, and requested an apology.
Meanwhile, some Jordanians expressed their outrage on social media. One user termed the invitation “a new level of détente”, while another asked in Arabic, “University of Jordan students, what news of the Zionist who wants to give a lecture? Something new?”.
According to the New Arab report, the University of Jordan, in response to the backlash, defended the invitation saying Ariel lives in California and holds American citizenship.
“The lecturer presented his work to more than 500 participants from 15 countries, including Germany, Palestine, Egypt, Australia, the United States, Japan and Iraq,” the university said in a statement.
Adding that Ariel was not on Jordanian soil during the event and “the university does not know the religious orientation of any of the participants”.
One Twitter user, however, claimed this defence was inadequate, and quipped, in Arabic, that the university should now invite Benjamin Netanyahu to lecture students, since the Israeli prime minister spent some of his childhood in the US.
Jordan is one of only two countries in the Middle East to have formal ties with Israel, after a peace treaty between the neighbours was agreed in 1994.
However, relations between the two have become tense in recent weeks over Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley. On 15 May, King Abdullah II warned that Netanyahu’s annexation plans would cause a “massive conflict” between Israel and Jordan.
Yet, despite calls by senior US presidential aide Jared Kushner for Israel to “greatly slow the process” of annexation, Netanyahu’s unity government is set to start the takeover of West Bank settlements, considered illegal under international law, from 1 July.