Fears for Jewish students after doctor who praised terrorists is elected rector of Glasgow University

Ghassan Abu-Sittah delivered a tearful eulogy to the founder of a terror group


Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah speaks at a commemoration for PFLP founder Maher Al-Yamani (Photo: Heritage and Culture Forum)

A British-Palestinian doctor who praised terrorists has been elected as rector of the University of Glasgow, prompting fears for the safety of Jewish students.

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who received 80 per cent of first preference votes, was elected by students to serve a three-year term in the highest governing body of the university.

The high-profile doctor has become known as a hero surgeon who worked in Gaza and has been treated as an expert on the situation in the Strip by the world’s biggest media outlets, including BBC, Sky and CNN.

However, a JC investigation into Abu-Sittah revealed that over the years, he has praised a terrorist murderer in a newspaper article, sat beside a notorious terrorist hijacker at a memorial and delivered a tearful eulogy to the founder of a terror group that was later involved in the October 7 atrocities.

The vote went ahead despite an announcement from Glasgow University’s vice chancellor earlier this month that the university was investigating the allegations about the doctor. 

Caroline Turner, director of legal advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), said: “We were told that given the serious nature of the allegations, the Clerk of Senate would investigate, we heard nothing further and Dr Abu Sitta was allowed to continue as a candidate.

“Given his extremist history, it is difficult to see how, as rector, he would treat any Jewish Zionist or Israeli with equality or respect their rights. It is also difficult to imagine how any such student would feel that the university was the safe and welcoming space the university hopes to create for all its students.

“We hope that his conduct as rector will be monitored, and if he fails to adhere to the Code of Conduct for members of the court and other ethical standards, prompt action will be taken against him.”

The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) said they were “deeply concerned”, adding: “His past statements and actions, including praising terrorists as reported, stand in stark contrast to the values of peace, dialogue, and mutual respect.”

Ahead of the election, the doctor had said that he would end the university’s use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

"While I am absolutely committed to tackling all forms of antisemitism, it is my belief that, by linking criticism of Israel to antisemitism, this definition threatens academic criticism of Israel and Palestinian solidarity events,” he wrote in a manifesto.

"My fear, shared by the University and Colleges Union, is that such a definition risks undermining freedom of speech and intellectual thought on campus. Accordingly, as rector, I would call for the replacement of the IHRA definition with the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.”

In November, the plastic surgeon delivered a press conference on the Israel-Hamas conflict that was broadcast by Sky News. He also provided testimony to Scotland Yard’s war crimes unit.

However, he has a history of disturbing remarks and associations. Writing for Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar in 2018, Abu-Sittah hailed Ahmad Jarrar, who masterminded the murder of father-of-six Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting near Nablus, as one of Palestine’s “dearest and best sons” and a “hero”.

The doctor wrote: “The martyrdom of the resistance member Ahmed Nasr Jarrar, the hero of the Nablus operation, at the hands of the Zionist occupation army… like the hundreds of resistance fighters who were martyred at the hands of this satanic alliance, represents a pivotal moment.”

In 2019, Abu-Sittah was pictured sitting next to the notorious hijacker Leila Khaled at a memorial for a leader of terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Maher Al-Yemani.

In 2020, a year after Al-Yemani’s death, Dr Abu Sitta delivered an emotional eulogy at his graveside in Beirut which was captured on camera and exposed by the JC last December.

Dr Abu Sitta previously told the JC: “While I may in the past have used emotive language at the funeral of a friend or following an extra-judicial killing, I vehemently oppose terrorism, and civilian casualties on all sides. As a surgeon, my vocation is preserving life and I repeat my calls for a sustainable ceasefire and lasting peace.”

His lawyers said that the doctor did not know that Jarrar had been involved in the killing of a rabbi and that he would never condone murder.

Dr Abu Sittah had written the article because the Jarrar was the victim of an extra-judicial Israeli killing and that he should have faced due process instead, they claimed.

His legal team added that Dr Abu Sittah “abhors” anti-Jewish racism and only opposes the IHRA definition because of its “chilling effect on legitimate criticism of Israel’s actions”.

The University of Glasgow said: “As has been the case since the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858, the Rector is nominated and elected by registered students and represents them at the University Court, the institution’s governing body.

"Each candidate is subject to an independent nominations process under powers established by the Universities (Scotland) Acts. The University has adhered to this legislation, and the electoral rules established under it, in the conduct of the present elections.

“Ahead of the hustings last week, candidates were also reminded of the responsibilities and duties of the Rector- once elected- including adhering to the Code of Conduct for members of Court and upholding the University’s policies and values with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion.”

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