Left warns of global boycott over Ariel U.
Leftist members of Knesset and Arab parties protest defense minister's decision first published in Ynet to recognize Ariel College as university. Meretz chairman: Hard to find differences between Barak and Netanyahu. Initiative also advocates establishing university in Nazareth
Ynet reporters Published: 01.20.10, 15:58 / Israel News
While Yisrael Beiteinu praised the defense minister's decision to recognize Ariel College as a university, Ehud Barak's decision is sharply criticized among the Left. Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said that the move is wrought with conceptual and moral bankruptcy.
Ynet first published Wednesday that Barak authorized implementation of the decision that stood amidst political clashes within the coalition. At first, the college will be officially recognized as a "university center" as it calls itself currently. In a few years, another discussion will be held about turning the Ariel campus into the eighth university in Israel.
Member of Knesset Chaim Oron launched a scathing attack against the defense minister: "Even those of sharp eyesight and fine-tuned capabilities of distinction have for some time had difficulty locating the conceptual differences, even in the smallest nuances, between Barak and Netanyahu. Barak's decision will only accelerate the trends toward isolating Israel from the academic world in the international community."
The decision also drew criticism from the Arab parties in the Knesset. MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said, "Barak continues to permit the infestation of settlements and surrender to Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. Barak's decision will only spur the academic boycott of Israel in the world. The Labor Party proves once again that that it is a barrier to reconciliation between the two nations."
MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) added: "This is a purely political decision that amounts to supporting the settlements under the guise of higher education. It is best for the government, if it wishes to support higher education, to support existing universities and to decide on starting a university in Nazareth."
Peace Now also criticized Barak's decision: "The Labor Party has again betrayed its principles and is perpetuating with its own hands the occupation and expansion of the settlements. In a place where there is no democracy, such as the West Bank, there is no place for an academic education founded on the values of justice and equality."
On the other hand, Yisrael Beiteinu praised Barak's move and emphasized that "this was done in accordance with the coalition agreement."
MK Alex Miller, who serves as chairman of the Student Union in the Knesset and lives in Ariel, praised the decision which, according to him, will strengthen Jewish settlement of the West Bank. "The government gave an important shot of encouragement today to the Jewish settlement in Samaria and to academia in Israel."
Amnon Meranda, Yaheli Moran Zelikovich, Sharon Roffe-Ofir, and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report
Gush Shalom's ad in Haaretz legitimizing academic boycott, January 22, 2010:
אהוד ברק העניק
עזרו לנו במימון הפעולות והמודעות
בצ'קים לגוש שלום, ת"ד 3322,
22 בינואר 2010
Israel moves to launch university in W.Bank settlement
* Israeli defence minister to allow university in settlement
* Palestinians, Israeli left decry move as a blow to peace
* Israeli critics fear backlash from foreign academics
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Israel has agreed to upgrade to university status a college built in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, a move critics see as placing another obstacle in the path of U.S.-backed efforts to resume stalled peace talks.
The decision by Defence Minister Ehud Barak formalised a 2005 cabinet ruling to that effect but also coincided with the latest visit to the region by U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that establishing a full Israeli university in land near Nablus that Palestinians want for their state was "part of the same policy of dictation rather than negotiation".
"Every time Senator Mitchell comes to the region, they greet him with such policies," Erekat added.
A statement from Barak's office confirmed that on Wednesday he had "given his authorisation for the Ariel College to become a university centre", a process that would be completed only once a separate academic panel gave its authorisation.
The college of more than 8,000 students was built in the 1980s in one of the biggest Jewish settlements on land occupied since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Barak's decision would help the college obtain academic credentials that would enable it to expand research and increase its student body to some 20,000 in the next decade, said Rinat Saguy, a spokeswoman for Ariel College.
"We are glad he has granted the permission," she added.
Israel says it plans to keep the Ariel settlement under any peace deal that creates a Palestinians state. Even Palestinian leaders acknowledge such settlements could be annexed by Israel in return for a Palestinian state getting more land elsewhere.
But critics of the college upgrade said the move created facts on the ground that may further complicate already delayed negotiations that have yet to produce any deal that would give Palestinians sovereignty in the West Bank.
Left-wing Israeli academics protested that a new university would siphon away funds earmarked for other educational institutions and possibly hurt their relations with foreign academics, especially in Europe, where university groups have threatened to boycott Israel in the past over settlement policy.
Uri Avnery, a former Israeli lawmaker and veteran left-wing critic of settlements, said Barak had "granted legitimacy to all those in the world who call to boycott Israeli universities".
Neve Gordon, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University and member of a group that sought a court order to cancel the Ariel College decision, called it "another instance of Israel deepening its roots in the West Bank".
"You create facts on the ground, then say we can't return these areas. It's a part of the old wall-and-tower approach to building settlements," Gordon told Reuters in a reference to the Zionist strategy of building outposts to claim territory.
He also criticised Barak personally, saying he was ignoring his own left-wing Labour party's past commitments to a deal on Palestinian statehood: "I thought Barak was for a two-state solution," Gordon said. "But apparently he is not." (Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah; editing by Alastair Macdonald and Paul Taylor)
Anti-boycott campaigners: Ariel upgrade is like 'a red rag to a bull'
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Fri., January 22, 2010
The decision to upgrade the status of Ariel College to a university will greatly motivate proponents of an academic boycott of Israel, but will not change the legal realities preventing this, leading figures in the campaign against the boycott told Haaretz yesterday.
Ariel College's upgrade - announced yesterday by Defense Minister Ehud Barak - will be a "red rag to a bull" for British academics promoting a boycott of Israel, said Ronnie Fraser of London, a leading boycott opponent.
"The reason that the University and College Union has not boycotted Israel is that its legal advisers said this would violate British anti-discrimination laws," Fraser explained, referring to the British lecturers union.
Boycott vote voided
In the union's annual congress in May 2009 a majority of members voted for a boycott, but Secretary General Sally Hunt said it was "void" on "legal grounds." This was the third consecutive year that this has happened.
"Ariel College's status does not change British law," Fraser said.
"The upgrade underlines the entire Israeli university system as complicit in illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian lands," said Mike Cushman of London, one of the leaders of the academic boycott campaign in the U.K. "It will galvanize efforts to boycott not only Ariel College, but other universities."
In September, the Spanish government disqualified Arial College from an architectural competition, as it was operating "on occupied land," in the words of one of the competition organizers for Spain's housing ministry. So far, no European or North American university has implemented a sweeping boycott of Israel or Israeli scientists.
Dr. Sue Blackwell, one of the leaders of the campaign to boycott Israel in the U.K. and a senior representative in Britain's lecturers union, said it was "too early to say" whether Ariel college's upgrade would affect pro-boycott actions. This campaign began in earnest in Spring 2002, according to Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld of Jerusalem, who wrote a book on academic boycotts of Israel.
Gerstenfeld says the November vote by the board of the University of Trondheim in Norway (NTNU) on boycotting Israel was a key event. The institution's board voted against the boycott after receiving considerable media attention and condemnations by Norwegian politicians. It was the first time a European university had held an official vote on the subject.
UK boycott initiator slams Ariel university recognition
Israeli-British Prof. Haim Bereshit slams 'war criminal Barak, suggests he 'occupy additional territories and declare universities there as well'
Hagit Klaiman Published: 01.22.10, 14:21 / Israel News
LONDON – Israeli-British Professor Haim Bereshit, one of the initiators of the British academic boycott against Israel more than two years ago, had slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to recognize the Ariel College as a university.
"There are thousands of professors living in Israel, many of them known worldwide. If they eat this vermin, we will continue to act against the Israeli academia as an agent of the occupation," he told Ynet on Friday.
"We are deluding ourselves that Israel is a normal country, because in a normal country the defense minister does not deal with university permits, and particularly not in an illegal university in occupied territories," Bereshit argued.
On Wednesday, five years after the Israeli government decided to declare the Ariel College a recognized university, the defense minister agreed to implement the decision that was part of the political clashes within the coalition.
In the first stage, the college will be officially recognized as a "university center", as it defines itself today, and another discussion will be held in several years ahead of making it Israel's eighth university.
Bereshit used particularly blatant words to describe the move: "We are unfazed by the fact that an Israeli general, a war criminal, declares a university. Perhaps in order to expand the education institutions, he will think it right to occupy additional territories and declare universities in those places as well.
"The most serious thing, which should not be seen as insignificant, is the fact that there is an educational institution in occupied territories," Bereshit claimed. "We in the British professors' organization have not waited and have worked even before this happened to include the Ariel College in the 'gray list', which does not allow academic institutions to have any ties with this institution. This is in fact a boycott process, although it is not defined as such due to the complexity of this matter."
According to the professor, academic institutions in South Africa were included in the same list during the apartheid era.
"I have never heard of any academic institution or academic organization in Israel adopting a resolution against the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza or any mass student protests on this matter, and this leads me to believe that no one cares," Bereshit accused. He added that the Israeli population was one of the best in the world in terms of academic training.
Norway university plans Israel boycott
Rector at University of Bergen says he supports boycott; some lecturers complain to Israeli embassy
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich Published: 01.24.10, 00:25 / Israel News
University of Bergen, among Norway's largest academic institutions, intends to impose an official academic boycott against Israel over what it claims is its apartheid-like conduct, Ynet has learned.
The university's management has not yet officially responded to the move or presented its stance on the issue. However, the institution's Rector, Signumd Gronmo, enthusiastically supports the boycott calls.
In a debate held last week regarding the question of academic boycotts, the rector boasted that his university does not maintain any ties with Israeli academia and told attendants he wishes to enlist the support of lecturers at the university to realize the boycott call.
The rector said that the move has encountered difficulties because of a "handful of objectors" who aim to torpedo the move. However, lecturers at the university who oppose the boycott handed over a complaint regarding the rector's words to Israel's embassy over the weekend.
University of Bergen boasts roughly 14,500 students and employsabout 3,200 staff members.
West Bank college boosts settlements
Jonathan Cook, Foreign Correspondent
Last Updated: January 24. 2010 11:31PM UAE / January 24. 2010 7:31PM GMT
NAZARETH, ISRAEL // Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, approved last week the upgrading to university status of a college in a settlement located deep inside the West Bank, a move certain to further undermine Palestinian confidence in the peace process.
The decision, authorising the first Israeli university in Palestinian territory, is expected to entitle the college to significant extra funding, allowing it to expand its student population.
About 11,000 students, most from inside Israel, already attend the college in Ariel, studying amid a population of 18,000 settlers.
The expansion of Ariel, 20km inside the West Bank and close to Nablus, is likely to increase tensions with the US administration of Barack Obama. The White House has demanded a settlement freeze that is being only temporarily and partially honoured by Israel.
The United States and Israel have repeatedly clashed over Israeli plans to extend its separation wall east of Ariel, effectively annexing the settlement and separating the central and northern parts of the West Bank.
Peace groups have been particularly shocked that authorisation for Ariel college’s upgrade came from Mr Barak, leader of the Labor Party. Members of his centre-left faction had previously blocked attempts by right-wing parties to change the college’s status.
Several Israeli academics also warned that it would add fuel to existing campaigns in Europe to boycott Israeli universities, which have been accused of complicity with the occupation.
“This is all about trying to make the settlement of Ariel ‘kosher’,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlement growth. “It helps to reinforce the growing consensus in Israel that Ariel should remain part of Israel permanently.”
Ariel College has grown dramatically since its founding in 1982 as the West Bank campus of Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, close to Tel Aviv. On becoming independent in 2004, the college immediately began lobbying for university status. A year later it won the backing of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister then, who described the upgrade as of “great importance” in realising a policy of “strengthening the settlements”.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister, declared at the time that a university in Ariel would ensure the settlement “will forever remain part of the state of Israel”.
The upgrade was opposed by Israel’s education oversight body, the Higher Education Council, which threatened to withhold recognition of the college’s degrees.
Nonetheless, in 2007 the college renamed itself the “Ariel University Centre”, a change of status initially endorsed by the government of Ehud Olmert. Under pressure from education officials, however, the decision was reversed on the grounds that only Israeli military authorities in the West Bank – under Mr Barak – could authorise such a change.
Despite opposition from members of his party, the defence minister finally consented last week.
Yossi Sarid, a former chairman of the Higher Education Council, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday: “Thanks to [Mr Barak], we will have the only university in the free world whose founders and owners are uniformed officers.”
Mr Barak’s approval suggested the growing power of the far right in Mr Netanyahu’s government, said Anat Matar, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv Universty.
Two weeks ago, Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, threatened to block all legislative proposals from Labor unless Ariel College’s upgrade was approved.
Yisrael Beiteinu has made the settlement’s expansion a key plank in its platform because Ariel has a large proportion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Mr Lieberman’s core constituency.
Alex Miller, an Ariel resident and Yisrael Beiteinu politician, issued a statement last week welcoming the decision as an “important shot of encouragement for the settlements”.
Ron Nachman, the mayor of Ariel, has said he intends to turn the settlement into Israel’s version of Princeton, a US town that has flourished on the back of its Ivy League university.
Mr Barak’s officials said the new status of “university centre” would be a transitional measure before Ariel College became Israel’s eighth fully fledged university, probably within two years.
Ariel College plans to double its intake of students over the next decade, triple the size of its campus and build a new neighbourhood for staff. About 70 per cent of the college’s students are drawn from the Tel Aviv area inside Israel, as well as a small number of Israeli Arab students.
The college displays an Israeli flag in every classroom and requires all students to take at least one course on Judaism or Jewish heritage, usually overseen by settler rabbis.
Ariel, the fourth-largest settlement in the West Bank, is considered by most Israelis as one of the “settlement blocs” that will be annexed to Israel in a peace deal. Palestinians say such an annexation would effectively cut the West Bank in two.
There are widespread fears among Israeli academics that calls for a boycott of Israeli universities will intensify following the Ariel College decision. Yaron Ezrahi, a professor at Hebrew University, called the decision the “academisation of the occupation”.
Amal Jamal, the head of political science at Tel Aviv University, said the upgrade would also highlight the extent to which universities inside Israel colluded with the West Bank college. “There is strong support for the college among some academics at Israeli universities, which co-operate with it in holding conferences, conducting research, supervising doctoral students and teaching,” he said.
A vote by the British lecturers’ union in 2005, in favour of a limited academic boycott of Israel, targeted Bar Ilan University because of its links to Ariel College. Similar boycott motions have been passed annually by the union, though later overturned.
Last November, a Norwegian university, Trondheim, became the first to vote on boycotting Israeli universities, though the motion was rejected.
Ariel College found itself at the centre of international controversy last year when Spain disqualified its researchers from the finals of a competition to design a solar-powered house. Spanish officials said the institution could not participate because it was built on occupied Palestinian land.
TAU scholar to advocate Israel boycott
Jan. 21, 2010
JONNY PAUL, JPost correspondent in London , THE JERUSALEM POST
A Tel Aviv University academic will call for a boycott of Israel, speaking at a London university event next month to commemorate "one year since Israel's attack" on Gaza.
Dr. Anat Matar of TAU's Philosophy Department will be speaking on February 17 at London University's School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - a campus renowned for anti-Israel activity.
Matar's talk is to be titled "Supporting the Boycott on Israel: A View from Within."
She is taking part in a series of events over the coming weeks organized by the Palestinian societies at five University of London campuses - University College London, SOAS, Imperial College, Kings College and Goldsmiths - as well as at the University of Westminster.
In an article in Haaretz in August, Matar accused her own university of being complicit with the "occupation" and questioned Israel's stance on Palestinian academic freedom and basic education.
A mother of a conscientious objector, on her profile page on the university's Web site Matar lists her main nonacademic activities as "movements against military service" and the "Israeli Committee for Palestinian Prisoners."
Dr. David Hirsh, a sociology lecturer at University of London's Goldsmiths College and editor of Engage, a campaign against the academic boycott call against Israel, strongly criticized such moves, saying they were "delusional" and "dangerous."
"Israeli anti-Zionists boast that their country carries out the most important and horrific genocides in the world," he said. "The delusions of grandeur of Israeli anti-Zionists are as puerile as those of the most naive and proud nationalists. But it is dangerous to tell Europeans that the Israelis are a unique evil on the planet, because this lie finds a resonance in the collective memory and it feels plausible to some contemporary Europeans."
The series of events is titled, "Gaza: Our Guernica," in reference to the bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. The 1937 attack caused widespread destruction and civilian deaths, with 1,650 reportedly killed.
"In April 1937, on a market day, the Nazis attacked Guernica from the air, first with bombs and then with incendiaries. Fighter planes followed the bombers to machine-gun survivors. It was the first time anybody had launched an attack from the air to kill a civilian population. A third of the population was killed or seriously injured in an afternoon," Hirsh said.
The series of events opened last Thursday with a candlelight vigil at University College London, recently in the headlines after it was discovered that failed Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society there.
Two other Israelis are taking part in the series. On Monday, journalist Daphna Baram spoke at SOAS in a talk titled, "Besieged in Self-Righteousness: Israeli public discourse after the last invasion of Gaza."
Next Wednesday, Israeli academic Avi Shlaim, professor of International Relations at Oxford University, will speak about "Gaza: Past and Present" at Goldsmiths.