Over the years, the academy has become a prominent venue for anti-Israel activity. Arab oil-wealthy states invested large sums of money in Western Universities, to buy influence. With Middle East Centers or Islamic Centers, it gave them the opportunity to teach a revision of history tainting Israel in a negative light, and to influence who would be invited to teach and research in the social sciences. Staunch enemies of Israel were recruited, as well as Israelis who are critics of Israel. For example, Ilan Pappe, Neve Gordon, Adi Ophir, Ariella Azoulay, Hagar Kotef, Merav Amir, Amir-Paz Fuchs, and Uri Gordon, among others, were all recruited to Western campuses upon publicly expressing post-Zionist (read: anti-Zionist) views.
Last week, the New York Times published an article "Why Is There So Much Saudi Money in American Universities?" Which details Saudi investments in Western campuses, adding that the benefits to Saudi Arabia from these investments are clear. The Kingdom gets access to the brain trust of the world's top academic institutions when planning to modernize its economy. Equally important, the entree to Ivy League schools softens the image of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, hostile to women and LGBTQ with neither free press nor freedom of expression. Its associations beyond its borders intend to present it as an honorary Western nation. According to Robert Jordan, an ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush, "It’s a way of spreading soft power... in the same way the U.S. has done for years around the world.”
As it happens, last month, due to concerns of foreign money coming from China, among others, "Trump administration reviewing foreign money to US colleges," revealing that the "U.S. Education Department has opened investigations into foreign funding at Georgetown University and Texas A&M University as part of a broader push to monitor international money flowing to American colleges."
Still, Western countries haven't investigated the hatred and attacks against Israel, largely brought by the Arab-invested money, along with the paradigm change in social sciences with the rise of post-modernist teaching. Interestingly, when working the other way around, investments made by China on Israeli soil prompted the U.S to object to such collaborations for fears of harming American interests.
The war against Israel is also driven by some Jewish organizations, J-Street comes to mind in this context. Jewish American scholars deflect accusations of anti-Semitism. They are writing polemics against Israel while ignoring abuses of human rights by Arab regimes, including the Palestinians. By criticizing Israel alone, they subscribe to the notion that Israel can do no right and the Palestinians can do no wrong. One such a Jewish anti-Israel scholar is Rebecca L. Stein, an associate professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University who often publishes articles and books attacking Israel. In 2009 she was among a group of academics who signed a "call for divestment and pressure against Israeli apartheid" and in 2014 she signed a call "Operation Protective Edge: Stop the Carnage!" declaring that "We, the undersigned, are united in calling for an end to Israel's obscene assault on Gaza."
Stein recently published a report on a new Palestinian initiative intending to defame Israel through scholarships. Billed as a collaboration between the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (known as the Doha Institute) in Qatar, which is headed by former MK Azmi Bishara - who sought refuge in Qatar after escaping allegations of spying for Hizballah - and Birzeit University (BZU). Inaugurated a Master's program in the field of Israel Studies, which began operating in 2015. The first round of some 30 postgraduate students is due to complete their studies in the summer of 2019.
The purpose of the program is to "produce Palestinian knowledge of Israeli society” aimed at the "fundamentally remaking the dominant paradigm of Israel Studies as it has been configured in the United States and increasingly in Great Britain, with its proud 'advocacy' mandate on behalf of the Israeli state. Birzeit’s program turns this paradigm inside out, providing students with a radical alternative."
For decades, institutions of higher education across the Middle East were teaching Hebrew and "Zionist ideology" to Arab students as part of a "know your enemy" educational paradigm. Such educational projects also existed in the 1970s, when the PLO research center in Beirut had its own educational program along these lines, teaching Arabic translations of foundational Zionist writings.
Stein reveals the background behind the making of this program, which began informally in 2010 in conversations between Birzeit faculty and president, with the Ramallah-based Institute for Palestine Studies. Disagreeing weather to call it “settler-colonial studies,” or “Israel Studies,” it was later approved by the Palestinian Ministry of Education, and the funding was secured from Qatar.
The program director, Dr. Munir Fakher Eldin, a historian of modern Palestine, declares that his "basic strategy" is to show students that "all of the atrocities of Zionism and the occupation are basically comparable atrocities." He explains that in one of his classes, "we don’t only speak about settler colonialism and the Zionist land grab. I also talk about capitalism, because settler-colonialism benefited from the history of private property."
The program encourages students to continue to Ph.D. at Western universities to produce anti-Israel scholarships. One such a student is Izz Al-Deen Araj, during his MA studies, he "started to think about Israel as a settler-colonial society, not [merely] as soldiers...We understand the conflict through one model: settler-colonialism or apartheid". When another student, Marah Khalifeh, began the program, "Israel was something abstract: the enemy, the colonizer." Now with the "in-depth knowledge about Israeli society…It’s part of knowing your enemy, part of the knowledge of resistance." According to Khalife, "It’s all about the type of knowledge we are trying to produce. We are trying to produce a Palestinian knowledge of Israeli society… to create our own tools."
One professor in the program is Magid Shihade, an Israeli Arab resident of the Galilee and an expert in postcolonial theory. Shihade has taught in the program from 2015-2018. One of his courses was on the "1948 Palestinian society and politics", teaching the history of "Israeli state-sponsored discrimination, de-development and de-education within its Palestinian communities." Another professor is Nabih, who also holds a faculty position at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
There is no regional equivalent of the Israel Studies program in Birzeit outside of Palestine due to fear of accusations of normalization with Israel. In fact, the BZU’s Israel Studies program has a strong anti-normalization stance and supports BDS.
In striking contrast, in Israel, a Hebrew University Prof. David Levi-Faur, protested through the pages of the Academia-IL network, against Israeli security measures refusing to extend visas to foreign lecturers in the Palestinian territories, echoing an article by Amira Hass in Haaretz on the issue. “I do this also to say that we care, but also to ask for additional comments on the conduct of the Population Authority. Is it true that the abuse is only of Palestinians or is it the abuse of tourists and visitors because they are the 'other'? Are we indifferent…? It seems to me that the abuse is also committed against students and lecturers who come to Israeli universities. I believe that on the level of maltreatment of the 'other' by immigration authorities, Israel is high, alongside immigration authorities like the US and Britain." In response, long-time activist Dr. Efraim Davidi assured him, yes "there are those who deal with solidarity with the Palestinian universities! It is the organization of lecturers from the left in Israeli higher education: the "Academy for Equality".
Now, the question is, when will the West take notice of the war against a single country, that is Israel, on its campuses?
Why Is There So Much Saudi Money in American Universities?
Saudi Arabia has quietly directed tens of millions of dollars a year to American universities from M.I.T. to Northern Kentucky. What are the nation’s rulers getting out of it?
By Michael Sokolove
July 3, 2019
One spring afternoon last year, protesters gathered on a sidewalk alongside a busy street in Cambridge, Mass. City buses rolled past. Car horns sounded. A few pedestrians paused briefly before continuing on their way. The location was 77 Massachusetts Avenue, in front of a limestone-and-concrete edifice that serves as the gateway into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The building’s lobby leads to a long hallway known as the Infinite Corridor and into the heart of one of America’s most vaunted academic institutions.
Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, would be visiting the next day. The protesters, a mix of students and local peace activists, wanted his invitation revoked. They were opposed to the prince being welcomed as an honored dignitary and were calling attention to the Saudi state’s financial ties to M.I.T. — and to at least 62 other American universities — at a time when the regime’s bombing of civilians in a war in neighboring Yemen and its crackdown on domestic dissidents were being condemned by human rights activists.
Prince Mohammed, who is 33, became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, when he was named crown prince by his ailing father, King Salman. He was in the midst of an American tour and had already been to the White House to meet President Trump, who said, as they sat together in the Oval Office, that they had become “very good friends over a fairly short period of time.” The president thanked the prince for what he said was the kingdom’s order of billions of dollars of American-made military hardware. “That’s peanuts to you,” he quipped.
From Cambridge, Prince Mohammed’s travels would take him to California, where he rented the entire 285-room Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills and was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Rupert Murdoch and attended by numerous entertainment-industry grandees. In Silicon Valley, he met with Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, and other tech executives; in Seattle, he met with Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive. Saudi Arabia was already an investor in Uber through its sovereign wealth fund, which is controlled by the crown prince, and Prince Mohammed was negotiating to buy a stake in Endeavor, the Hollywood conglomerate that includes the WME talent agency and the Ultimate Fighting Championship business.
At these stops on the West Coast, he dressed in either a suit or jeans, sport jacket and open-collared shirt, instead of the traditional black robe and red-and-white-checkered kaffiyeh he wore to the White House. “Here was this young guy who was sort of hip and fit in with the Silicon Valley and Hollywood crowd, and they were easily manipulated,” says Robert Jordan, an ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush. “It was money speaking, and the temptation to hook up with a massively funded kingdom.”
On the sidewalk that day in Cambridge, one of the featured speakers was Shireen al-Adeimi, who is 35. She was born in Yemen and spent part of her childhood there. Her relatives in Yemen were now living through a civil war, one that had caused tens of thousands of civilian casualties and was threatening millions with famine — and yet had barely registered in the American news cycle at that point. The American universities doing business with the Saudis — largely in the form of sponsored research, paid for with money from Saudi Aramco, the giant oil company, and other state-owned industries — saw no reason to stop, and the lonely voices who argued against those ties were easily ignored.
Al-Adeimi lived nearby with her husband, a Ph.D. student, in an apartment owned by M.I.T. She was finishing her own doctoral studies at Harvard and would soon begin a job as an assistant professor of education at Michigan State. She had never been politically active before — “If I ever had something to say in public, I thought it would be about education,” she says — but had started speaking out against Saudi conduct in Yemen by posting on social media and by writing to American politicians. At the demonstration, she wore a gray blazer and a peach head scarf and spoke in a soft but steady voice into a hand-held microphone. “The man M.I.T. is hosting is starving millions of people to death by blockading access to food and medicine,” she said. “The man M.I.T. is hosting has created the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. Simply put, the man M.I.T. is hosting is a war criminal, and he should be punished for his crimes and not welcomed here.”
Al-Adeimi and five others entered the M.I.T. building and walked down the Infinite Corridor to deliver a petition to the university’s president, Rafael Reif. There were some 4,000 names on the petition asking him to cancel Prince Mohammed’s visit. Reif was not in his office, and they never got a response.
The next morning, Prince Mohammed spent several hours at M.I.T.’s Media Lab, a high-profile domain with a carefully cultivated progressive image and a language all its own. (It describes its curriculum not as interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary but as antidisciplinary.) A majority of the Media Lab’s $75 million annual budget comes from corporate patrons, which are referred to as members and pay a minimum of $250,000 each year. Prince Mohammed’s personal foundation was among the roughly 90 members. The Saudis signed three contracts that day, for a total of $23 million, two of them to extend existing research projects with M.I.T. The other one was for a new initiative between the university and Sabic, a Saudi state-owned petrochemical company, for research into more efficient refining of natural gas.
At the time of Prince Mohammed’s visit, Saudi Arabia seemed to be liberalizing, at least a little. Women had been granted permission to drive, finally, a reform that gained a great deal of media attention. When a movie theater opened in Riyadh that spring, it ended a 35-year ban on cinemas. (“Black Panther” was the first showing; a late scene, a kiss between two of the stars, was cut by censors.) Six months after the prince’s triumphal American trip, on Oct. 2, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who lived in Virginia and was a columnist for The Washington Post, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. American intelligence agencies held the Saudi state responsible and concluded that the crown prince himself most likely authorized the action. (A United Nations report released in June reached a similar conclusion.)
Later in October, M.I.T. announced that it was reassessing its extensive links to the kingdom. Richard Lester, an associate provost who oversees the school’s partnerships with foreign entities, was put in charge of that review. A nuclear engineer by training, Lester is an M.I.T. lifer, having joined the faculty in 1979 when he was in his mid-20s; he is now 65. His mission was to explore whether a source of money could be so unsavory as to warrant rejecting or returning the funds — hardly an easy task. Once an institution goes down that road, what other donors might some on campus find objectionable? What other streams of funding could be endangered? What names might have to come off buildings?
In December, Lester outlined his preliminary findings in a letter to Reif, which was also shared with faculty members and students. Lester had to acknowledge an uncomfortable fact: “One of those individuals now known to have played a leading role in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul had been part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage during the latter’s visit to the M.I.T. campus,” he wrote, referring to Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a Saudi intelligence officer. “This individual had engaged with members of the M.I.T. community at that time — an unwelcome and unsettling intrusion into our space, even though evident only in retrospect.”
Endeavor returned a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia this year, but many other American corporations stayed in business with the kingdom. In April, the regime executed 37 people in one day, most by beheading; one of the condemned was said to have been “crucified,” with his headless body displayed in public. Investors eagerly bought Aramco bonds, which were offered for the first time in April, and AMC still plans to build dozens of new theaters in the kingdom.
Activists on campus, however, wanted more from their universities. “They all have those Latin sayings, stating some higher purpose,” says Grif Peterson, a former fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. “Look at it, it’s right there on the wall.”
M.I.T. does not need Saudi Arabia’s money. Chartered on the eve of the Civil War (two days before the first shots were fired), it is one of those ultrawealthy universities whose finances are sometimes compared to the economies of small or midsize nations. M.I.T. spent about $3.6 billion on its operations last year, and its endowment, $16.5 billion, is the sixth-largest among American universities (and greater than the gross domestic product of nearly 70 countries, including Mongolia, Nicaragua and the Republic of Congo). The money it receives from Saudi sources is relatively modest, less than $10 million in many years, though the school has received individual gifts from Saudi billionaires of as much as $43 million.
Federal law requires universities in the United States to report revenue of more than $250,000 from outside the country, which is logged by the Education Department on what is known as the foreign gifts report. It shows that Saudi money flows to all sorts of American schools: M.I.T.’s elite peers, including Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Stanford and the California Institute of Technology; flagship public universities like Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley; institutions in oil-producing regions, like Texas A&M; and state schools like Eastern Washington University and Ball State University.
For that last category of schools, the Saudi money comes almost entirely in the form of tuition for its students — full tuition, at the out-of-state rates, which are usually double what state residents pay. With a population of 34 million, Saudi Arabia is the 41st most populous nation in the world, but with 44,000 students in the United States, it is the fourth-largest source of foreign students, trailing only China, India and South Korea. Saudi students began coming to the United States in large numbers after a 2005 meeting between Crown Prince Abdullah (Mohammed bin Salman’s uncle) and President George W. Bush at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex. They were seeking ways to restore warmer relations between the two countries after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi; the first pillar of a new “foundation of broad cooperation,” as their joint statement put it, was for the Saudis to send greater numbers of students to the United States.
The Saudi government pays the tuitions directly, under individual contracts with many universities for undergraduate students. The contracts specify students’ majors and state that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Northern Virginia, which manages the college program, must be informed if a student seeks to switch concentrations. “This financial guarantee provides coverage only to the degree and major specified above” is the language I saw in one contract, for a student at the University of Kansas. Any changes to the major, it continued, would render the contract “null and void.” No other nation pays for its American-based college students in the same systematic way. Most other foreign students, including the more than 300,000 from China, pay with family money and sometimes a combination of scholarships from their home countries and their American schools.
In 2018, the 411 Saudis at Eastern Washington University accounted for more than 12 percent of the school’s total tuition revenue while making up only 3 percent of the student population. Northern Kentucky University has educated more than 700 Saudis over the last decade. According to François LeRoy, the university’s director of global engagement, most of them have been men, tending to major in engineering technology. A substantial number are married and live off campus with their families. Their presence has served the additional benefit of helping the local economy. “The car dealerships have done wonderfully well,” LeRoy says, “because most of them purchase a car as soon as they arrive.”
Saudi high school graduates are not generally considered as strong academically as those coming from China or other nations sending students to the United States. A consultant who advises universities on issues related to international students told me he believes that the Saudis gravitate to less selective schools where they can easily gain admission.
M.I.T. does not educate a great many Saudis: Just six undergraduates and 27 graduate students (out of about 11,600 total students) were enrolled in 2018. Its relationships and transactions with Saudi Arabia are largely with the Saudi government and various state-owned entities. The same is true of other top-tier American universities.
At least 25 universities have contracts with Aramco; Sabic, the petrochemical company; or the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, a government research facility in Riyadh. M.I.T. works with all three. Many of the agreements focus on technical aspects of oil and natural gas extraction and processing. Economists at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government are working directly with the Saudi government to reconceive the kingdom’s labor market for the day when it will be unable to rely as much on revenue from oil — and also to increase opportunities for women and younger workers. In all these instances, the universities’ collaborations with the Saudis are akin to consulting, but academics do not call it that, unless it is work done on the side; they call it academic research.
The benefits to Saudi Arabia from these relationships are clear. The kingdom gets access to the brain trust of America’s top academic institutions as it endeavors to modernize its economy, an effort Prince Mohammed has named Vision 2030. Perhaps as important, the entree to schools like M.I.T. serves to soften the kingdom’s image. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, hostile to women’s and L.G.B.T.Q. rights and without protections for a free press or open expression, but its associations beyond its borders can make it seem almost like an honorary Western nation. Another way to view the Saudi relationship with American universities is as a form of branding; its recent moves to sponsor prominent sporting events serve the same purpose. “It’s a way of spreading soft power,” says Jordan, the former ambassador, “in the same way the U.S. has done for years around the world.”
On his trip to Cambridge last year, Prince Mohammed spent a full day along the two-mile corridor that is arguably America’s most hallowed academic ground. After the morning at M.I.T., he made the short trip in his motorcade to Harvard, where he participated in what was called a faculty round table, followed by a reception with local college presidents.
No one asked him about Yemen or about much of anything else. An administrator at Harvard who helped arrange the crown prince’s event there described it as “a show, a meet-and-greet — there was not a big give-and-take or an opportunity for questions.” It was a repeat of how Prince Mohammed spent his time at M.I.T. “They asked to come, and we agreed to host them,” says Richard Lester, the associate provost. I asked if he knew the reasons for the crown prince’s visit. “I think one of them undoubtedly was that there was a P.R. value associated with the visit,” he said. “And they may have also been genuinely curious about what we do here.”
Administrators at universities with ties to Saudi Arabia emphasize their role as a liberalizing influence. The University of New Haven, a private school that has a criminal-justice program, helps educate Saudi law-enforcement officers. The program has come under scrutiny because of the kingdom’s notoriously harsh and autocratic justice system. New Haven’s president, Steven H. Kaplan, told me that his institution had created a curriculum based on American constitutional law that would make Saudi students less likely to be involved in any activities like rounding up, torturing or executing dissidents. “We are helping implement the kind of change that will instill in citizens there the kind of values that would cause them to resist and oppose such horrible acts,” he said. He acknowledged that he had no way of knowing for sure what activities students were involved in once they graduated.
To critics, the universities are selling their good names. Sally Haslanger, an M.I.T. philosophy professor, refers to the university conferring “symbolic capital” on the Saudi regime. “M.I.T.’s name, integrity, credibility and scientific excellence have power,” she told me, “and we have used it to burnish the reputation of Mohammed bin Salman and his regime.”
On a Frigid night in late February, about 100 people filed into a basement auditorium in the Cambridge Public Library for a program titled “Whose University Is It?” Two dozen speakers, a mix of professors, students and community members, addressed a range of what they considered dubious relationships between local universities and foreign or corporate interests. Halfway through the evening, Ruth Perry, a professor of literature at M.I.T., led the crowd in a version of the folk anthem “Which Side Are You On?” with lyrics she had rewritten for the occasion. One verse went: “A crown prince comes to visit/To take us by the hand/No partnering with killers/In Middle Eastern lands.” Another verse said, “Our schools get Judas cash.”
The debate over Saudi involvement in American higher education echoes the movement a generation ago that pushed universities to divest from apartheid-era South Africa, and more recently, calls from some quarters for schools to disassociate from Israel in protest of its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Faculty members and students — as well as the surrounding communities in urban centers like Cambridge — often want universities to reflect their own sense of moral clarity and outrage. University administrators, in almost all cases, resist.
Saudi Arabia directed about $650 million to American universities from 2012 to 2018 and ranks third on the list of foreign sources of money, one spot behind Britain, according to data contained in the foreign gifts report. The top spot is occupied by Qatar, another oil-rich Persian Gulf state and a bitter rival of Saudi Arabia. American strategic adversaries on the list, including Russia and China, reveal some other relationships — like M.I.T.’s partnership with a technology incubator outside Moscow. Its president is the billionaire oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was also an M.I.T. trustee until the Treasury Department put him on a sanctions list.
The totals on the foreign gifts report are incomplete, probably significantly so. Not all universities comply with the reporting rule in the same way, and some appear not to comply at all. The tuition payments alone from the Saudi government, which some schools report and others do not, could exceed $1 billion a year. (If the kingdom paid $20,000 in out-of-state tuition for every one of its students, the total would be $880 million, but some of them attend private schools that cost more.) The universities themselves are not clear about what they should report. “It’s such an obscure corner of the Higher Education Act that some institutions overlook it,” Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, told me.
M.I.T. officials say its annual revenue from its contracts with Aramco in recent years has usually been less than $10 million — a pittance to the oil company, which makes roughly $1 billion a day in revenues. Recent deals involve the research and development of methods to extract oil more efficiently and cleanly, as well as “computational modeling, artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnologies,” according to a university statement.
The agreements are part of a much larger picture: M.I.T.’s partnerships with big businesses in the United States and abroad. Aramco is a member of the university’s Energy Initiative, along with Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP. Most other major research universities have similar consortiums, a concept M.I.T. helped pioneer. Companies pay a membership fee to sponsor research and benefit from the findings.
The Media Lab is another corporate consortium. Despite its name, the lab’s focus is on computing and technology rather than the news media. Its director, Joi Ito, identifies as a hacker, and his motto for the lab — “deploy or die” — means that students should not be afraid to quickly test their ideas in the marketplace. (Ito is a board member at The New York Times Company.)
“It’s the classic model of leveraging private money at a very high level,” says Jonathan King, a biology professor and chairman of the editorial board of M.I.T.’s faculty newsletter. “The Media Lab did not grow out of a national science priority or a desire to cure cancer or Alzheimer’s. Its roots are entrepreneurial, not academic.”
The Saudi associations raise another question, which is whether universities should take a political or moral stand. The kingdom’s conduct has been extreme enough to inspire a rare instance of bipartisanship in Washington — a Senate vote in June to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its partner in the Yemen conflict. (The measure is unlikely to survive the expected presidential veto.) When I visited Shireen al-Adeimi at Michigan State, eight months after she spoke on the sidewalk in Cambridge, she was clear about what she thought M.I.T. should do. “Just disassociate from him,” she said, referring to the crown prince. “If this was an African warlord from a poor country, would we even be having this conversation? Would they be so cautious about how they respond?”
Richard Lester’s office looks onto the tree-lined courtyard where M.I.T.’s graduation ceremonies take place each May. He was born in Yorkshire, in northern England, and still speaks with a British accent. “I hope you’re O.K. with dogs,” he said as his mini-labradoodle stretched out beside his desk.
M.I.T. has been alone in publicly grappling with what to do about its Saudi associations, which has won the university some grudging respect, even from its critics. “They are the only school that’s been willing to engage at all and give us anything to push back on,” says Grif Peterson, the former fellow at the Berkman Klein Center. There are certainly reasons for those on campuses — or anywhere, really — to fear speaking out against the Saudi regime. Last August, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, called for the release of two jailed Saudi human rights activists. It was a fairly diplomatic rebuke. In response, the Saudis criticized Canada’s “negative and surprising attitude” and announced a long list of retaliatory measures, including recalling several thousand Saudi students.
One Saudi student in the United States whom I asked to interview said he would participate only if I shielded his identity. “Thanks for reaching out, please DO NOT use my name, affiliation or any descriptive information in any published work,” he wrote me in an email. When we met, he said that in contrast to what he considered some forward economic reforms by the government, “freedom of expression has been going in the other direction. You can’t risk even moderate criticisms. And if you’re an explicit critic, I feel like you could end up in prison.”
In Lester’s office, I told him about a meeting I had the day before with a senior Harvard administrator. The official had said he would be happy to talk with me about Harvard’s relationship with Saudi Arabia when I got to Cambridge. But when we settled into his office, he informed me, sheepishly, that I could not quote him by name. He apologized, saying that the directive came from someone higher up in the administration.
The Harvard administrator reached across his desk and handed me a two-paragraph written statement. It said that the university would no longer set aside 100 seats in its summer program for Saudi students who were sponsored by the crown prince’s personal foundation, which is known as MiSK. The statement, which has not been publicly disclosed, was not signed — the letterhead was from the Office of the Provost — and it did not say exactly why the agreement was being discontinued, only that “it has not been renewed.” There was no explicit reference to Khashoggi. “We are following recent events with concern and are assessing potential implications for existing programs,” the statement said.
When I told Lester that others seemed to speak only elliptically about Saudi Arabia, if at all, he said, dryly, “M.I.T. has its own culture, and the culture is one that I think appreciates facts.”
Lester knew that whatever he recommended to Reif, M.I.T.’s president, would displease some people. In his December report, he noted that M.I.T. had been aware of Saudi Arabia’s “internal repression and external aggression” but that until recently some still believed it was on a path to becoming a more progressive society. “The Khashoggi murder has deflated many of those hopes,” he wrote. “There were also the particular facts of this case, notably the combination of brazenness, brutality and contempt for international opinion that made it stand out even within the crowded global gallery of official malevolence.”
Lester asked for comments from the M.I.T. community — students, alumni and faculty members — and a majority of respondents wanted the university to sever its direct relationships with the kingdom and its closely related entities. In a follow-up letter in January, which, like his preliminary report, was made public, Lester noted that the respondents were appalled not just by “the Khashoggi assassination and attempted cover-up” but also by “the atrocities perpetrated against civilians in Yemen and the repression of human rights, the absence of basic rights of self-determination for women, the persecution of Saudi L.G.B.T.Q. citizens and the attacks on free speech in the kingdom.” In the most recent fiscal year, according to Lester, M.I.T. received $7.2 million for sponsored research from five Saudi sources: Aramco, Sabic, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and two state-run universities. “It’s a very negligible amount of money,” he told me.
In the end, M.I.T. severed its connection with only one Saudi entity: MiSK, which was a member of the Media Lab. Ito told me that the foundation had “some issues on payment” but refused to elaborate. “As a matter of policy,” he wrote in an email, “we don’t comment further on members and reasons for their leaving.”
Lester recommended that M.I.T. continue its other work with the Saudis, including the state-owned firms. The university gave faculty members serving as principal researchers the option of ending the collaborations. According to Forbes, Aramco accounts for roughly 87 percent of Saudi Arabia’s budget. To the critics, it is the giant oil company that funds the war in Yemen, the roundup of dissidents and all else that occurs in the kingdom. “It was a hard issue,” Lester told me. “I know that there are some who take the view that there is not a distinction between these entities — that they are all part of the regime, part of the government.” He concluded that a line could be drawn and that even some of the companies most closely affiliated to the Saudi regime served as moderating social influences — for example, by employing female engineers and managers.
Reif accepted Lester’s recommendations and, in his own letter, made a distinction between the Saudi government and the Saudi citizens M.I.T. has worked with. “Knowing these individuals, it is impossible not to see them as separate from the regime they did not choose and cannot control,” he wrote. The critics of the university’s ties to the kingdom had hoped for a different conclusion.
“Lester talked about what a tiny fraction of the overall budget the Saudi money is,” says Jonathan King, the editorial board chairman of M.I.T.’s faculty newsletter. “He could have decided that we don’t have to be in bed with murderers and a government that imprisons its women activists. But he insisted on keeping the relationship. I don’t get it. Why would M.I.T. want to sully its national and international reputation for chump change?”
Michael Sokolove is a contributing writer for the magazine and the author of “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino,” from which his last article for the magazine was adapted.
A version of this article appears in print on July 7, 2019, Page 22 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: The Kingdom and the Campus. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper |
Trump administration reviewing foreign money to US colleges
By COLLIN BINKLEY
June 14, 2019
The U.S. Education Department has opened investigations into foreign funding at Georgetown University and Texas A&M University as part of a broader push to monitor international money flowing to American colleges.
Both universities are being ordered to disclose years of financial records amid concerns they have not fully reported their foreign gifts and contracts to the federal government, according to letters sent to the schools Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press.
The inquiries are part of a broader campaign to scrutinize foreign funding going to universities and to improve reporting by schools, according to a Trump administration official familiar with the effort.
More schools probably will face questioning as federal officials focus on an issue they see as crucial to transparency and national security, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Federal law requires U.S. colleges to report contracts and donations from foreign sources totaling $250,000 or more, but past filings from Georgetown and Texas A&M “may not fully capture” that information, according to the letters.
As an example, department officials wrote, both schools should have reported funding related to branch campuses they operate in Qatar, an oil-rich nation in the Mideast that hosts the outposts of several U.S. colleges.
The records being sought by investigators go far beyond Qatar, though, and include dealings with China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, and specific companies in those nations.
Investigators ordered both schools to disclose funding from Huawei or ZTE, the Chinese tech giants that some U.S. officials call a threat to national security. Georgetown is being asked to detail money it received from any sources in Saudi Arabia or Russia, including Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company.
The letters warn that Georgetown and Texas A&M could face legal action and financial penalties if they’re found to have broken the rules.
If investigators find a violation, it can be referred to the U.S. attorney general’s office for action “to compel compliance and to recover the full costs’” of the investigation and enforcement, according to the letters.
Georgetown officials said the school is reviewing the letter and will cooperate with the inquiry. The university said in a statement that it “takes seriously its reporting obligations and provides all information as required by the Department of Education every six months.”
Texas A&M issued a statement saying it takes compliance and security seriously. “We just received the document today from the U.S. Department of Education and are reviewing it. We are fully cooperating with the inquiry.”
The crackdown follows complaints from some lawmakers that the Education Department hasn’t done enough to review foreign funding to colleges. The issue has gained attention amid heightened tensions with China and some other nations.
In February, a bipartisan panel in Congress urged U.S. colleges to cut ties with the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language program funded by a branch of the Chinese government. Some critics say it is a threat to U.S. national security and academic freedom.
The same panel found that 70% of U.S. schools receiving $250,000 or more from China to operate Confucius Institutes failed to report the funding, and that the Education Department failed to provide adequate oversight.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, chairman of the panel, told the department in January to issue updated guidance and improve its oversight practices. On Thursday, he applauded the agency for taking action.
“When U.S. schools take money from foreign governments, the American people deserve to know about it,” he said.
Colleges have complained that the rules are unclear. In January, the American Council on Education, which represents dozens of college chiefs, asked for clarity on several aspects of the law and noted that the last guidance on the topic was issued in 2004.
The group said schools have been given no guidance on how to correct errors in their filings, for example, and said it is unclear if university foundations, which often house colleges’ endowments, are subject to the rules. The letters to Georgetown and Texas A&M both say the schools should have reported funding from their foundations and other nonprofits they control.
Foreign funding information that schools submit to the Education Department often provides little detail about where the money comes from and none about how it’s used. Typically schools report only the amount of money, the date of the agreement, the country it came from and, sometimes, a specific source within that country.
According to data submitted by Georgetown, the school has received more than $415 million from abroad since 2012, including $36 million last year.
Nearly all of Georgetown’s foreign money reported for 2018 came from sources in Qatar, including $33 million from the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit that has a partnership with Georgetown to support the school’s campus in Qatar.
Data filed by Texas A&M show that the school has received $285 million from foreign sources since 2014, including $6.1 million last year. All of Texas A&M’s reported funding from last year also came through a partnership with the Qatar Foundation.
How One Palestinian University is Remaking ‘Israel Studies’
At Birzeit University (BZU) in the Israeli occupied West Bank, just north of Ramallah, a growing cohort of young Palestinian students are studying for their M.A. in Israel Studies. The program’s first cohort was admitted in 2015. By the summer of 2019, nearly thirty Palestinian students will have received their degree.
In the Birzeit classroom, students and faculty are, in their words, “trying to produce Palestinian knowledge of Israeli society” through deep, critical engagement with Israeli culture, politics and society, often working with primary texts in their original Hebrew. In the process, they are fundamentally remaking the dominant paradigm of Israel Studies as it has been configured in the United States and increasingly in Great Britain, with its proud “advocacy” mandate on behalf of the Israeli state. Birzeit’s program turns this paradigm inside out, providing students with a radical alternative.
The idea for the program began informally in 2010 with conversations between Birzeit faculty members, at the behest of the University president, and the Ramallah-based Institute for Palestine Studies. There was some minor disagreement among faculty about the program’s founding principles, evident in disputes over its naming: “settler-colonial studies,” favored by some, was rejected in favor of “Israel Studies.” After approval from the Palestinian Ministry of Education, funding was eventually secured through a partnership with the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, an institute headed by former Palestinian member of Israel’s Knesset (Parliament) and Birzeit faculty member, Azmi Bishara. The first Birzeit students in Israel Studies matriculated in the fall of 2015.
Like the broader Birzeit student population, the majority of M.A. students come from the Ramallah area, with smaller numbers from other West Bank locales, including Jerusalem, and the occasional student from the Gaza Strip who receives the requisite permits from Israel. The financial incentives are considerable: thanks to support from The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, the program has the means to provide students with full scholarships and living stipends and thus it can attract some of Birzeit’s best students. Most of the program’s faculty are Birzeit professors, but it also employs part-time faculty from other institutions, including Palestinian scholars from inside Israel.
The program’s mandate is clear: to establish a Palestinian base of critical knowledge about Israel and its settler-colonial history through deep engagement with Israeli political systems, religious thought, society and culture. The program’s current director, Dr. Munir Fakher Eldin, a historian of modern Palestine, characterized its rationale this way:
The idea for this program came out of the certain realization that it’s absurd to be under occupation for 50 years, with over a century of conflict with Zionism, and not have any Palestinian production of academic knowledge on Israel. So the basic idea is that we need this expertise… But this idea raised lots of questions. Can you study Israel and break with Israeli mainstream knowledge production? And the answer was: yes, of course.
The program’s curriculum is robustly interdisciplinary. All students receive intensive training in Hebrew and have the opportunity to pick from a roster of courses in such subjects as Zionist ideology and history; Judaism, Jewish history and thought; society and political systems within ‘48 Palestine; Israeli demography; Israeli political economy; Israeli culture and literature, and the list goes on. A settler-colonial framework is central within the curriculum, as is a comparative analytic framework, as Dr. Fakher Eldin suggests:
My basic strategy is to show them that all of the atrocities of Zionism and the occupation are basically comparable atrocities. They exist in a wider context. In my special class entitled “The Land Question,” for example, we don’t only speak about settler colonialism and the Zionist land grab. I also talk about capitalism, because settler-colonialism benefited from the history of private property… In other words, I [dismantle] the sense of extreme uniqueness. This is something new in the students’ minds and it’s a very important lesson.
Complicating the Story
When I met Izz Al-Deen Araj at Birzeit in November, 2018, he was in the final months of his M.A. work. A resident of Ramallah, he had also completed his B.A. at Birzeit, as had the vast majority of his colleagues in the program, with a major in sociology. He had opted for the program’s three-year thesis-track (some students elect only coursework, completed in two years) and when I met him, was finishing a thesis about the politics of demography within the Israel—that is, the ways that the Israeli and Palestinian demographic balance figures within internal political debates. His next step, he hoped, was a PhD program in the U.K., provided that the requisite visas from Israel could be obtained.
Echoing the accounts of others, he described his learning experience as a process of continual surprise particularly so during his thesis research. The diversity and complexity of Israeli positions on the question of demography exceeded all prior expectations:
One side argues that we should keep the Jewish majority and we don’t want more land. The other argues that land is more crucial and we shouldn’t be as concerned with the demographic problem. I was amazed at how this discussion became the main factor [in determining] the left wing and the right wing in Israel.
So much of what he had learned about Israel was entirely new to him, he said, noting the influence of the ultra-orthodox Jewish population on the Israeli political and social landscape, the numerous inequalities inside the state’s Jewish populations, the tremendous variance in political discourses and the list went on. Such complexity, he said, had forced a rethinking of both the political paradigms and theoretical models on which he had previously relied.
When I finished the first semester, I was totally shocked because we all know about Israel [when we enter the program]. But I understood that most of what I knew was… not exactly wrong but…well, I started to think more deeply about Israeli society.
On the one hand, he said, he “started to think about Israel as a settler-colonial society, not [merely] as soldiers.” But this, too, he felt was inadequate to the variability of the Israeli social and political landscape. “We understand the conflict through one model: settler-colonialism or apartheid. But I think we can use more complex models…. Can we understand the administration of the West Bank in the same frame as we understand the [administration] of Gaza?”
The work of complexifying students’ prior knowledge about Israel is perhaps the program’s chief mandate. In the process, prevailing Israeli and Palestinian discourses and political models come under critical scrutiny. Again, Fakher Eldin:
I believe in thinking critically and thoroughly, and having the courage to ask difficult questions. In our case, it’s very easy to over-simplify the occupation of Israel, to create certain conventions about what Zionism is. And these are very critical positions because we are the victims of Israel. But in most cases, this is the only thing we know about Israel: the violence that it inflicts on Palestinians. We also need to move beyond this and study the Israeli system that produces this violence…You can problematize power in very important ways if you know the power system.
In my conversations with faculty and students, I learned of numerous student experiences along these lines—that is, of classroom and research experiences that challenged their prior conceptions of Israeli history, politics, and society. Professor Nabih Bashir, a scholar of Jewish intellectual thought in the medieval period, told a similar story about his students’ first encounter with Judaeo-Arabic literature in his course on Jewish history and thought:
After some introductory classes, after they became familiar with the Hebrew Alphabet, I give the students pages of an old manuscript to read… My most delightful moments are seeing their excitement after they have the tools to read it.
The Master’s Tools
Marah Khalifeh was a student in the Israel Studies program’s first MA cohort; she entered in 2015 and completed her degree in 2017. When she began the program, she said, “Israel was something abstract: the enemy, the colonizer. I didn’t know more than that.” She left, she said, with an “in-depth knowledge about Israeli society…It’s part of knowing your enemy, part of the knowledge of resistance.”
When Marah started, she had just completed her B.A. at Birzeit in English literature; within the program’s thesis track, she focused on the writings of Israeli Mizrahi author Sami Michael. It was the polyvalence of Michael’s personal history that most intrigued her, his refusal to fall neatly into state-authorized categories: “He’s a communist, he’s Iraqi, a non-Zionist as he calls himself. And he’s Israeli. I tried to explore how he deals with these multiple and contradictory identities in this colonial context.”
On the one hand, she said, her prior conception of Israel as a colonial, perpetrator state was inadequate as a way to understand to Michael’s identity as (in her view) both “the victim and the assailant.” Yet when she considered the possibility of interviewing Sami Michael for her research, a proposition she would eventually reject, she found returning to core anti-colonial principles:
“At first I thought to myself, he’s Iraqi [so that’s ok]. But at the end of the day, he’s Israeli and he was in the army, and he’s part of this colonial society… He’s using the tools that Israel gives him. He’s not creating new tools.”
Her discussion of the Birzeit program frequently returned to Audre Lorde’s trope of the “master’s tools.” It was in these terms that she described the Palestinian relationship to the Israeli legal system, the subject of one of her Israel Studies seminars. The material fascinated her, even as it underscored the need for alternative Palestinian political instruments:
How you can you legally colonize a people?…[The Israeli state] tries to be legitimate and follow the law. Yet, at the same time, it’s the Israeli law that is legitimizing the occupation of the West Bank, and legitimizing the Nakba itself… So are we, as Palestinians, using the Israeli legal system or is it the system using us?… It’s like trying to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.
“Two Colonial Geographies”
At BZU, students have the opportunity to learn from Palestinian professors and researchers from ’48—the Palestinian terminology of choice to refer to Palestinian communities residing inside Israel as citizens. While they comprise the decided minority of the BZU faculty, their imprint on student learning is particularly striking within the Israel Studies program. Professor Magid Shihade was one such professor. A resident of the Galilee and expert in postcolonial theory, he taught in the program from 2015-2018, including a course on ‘48 Palestinian society and politics. He found that most of his students were encountering this material for the first time: namely, the history of Israeli state-sponsored discrimination, de-development and de-education within its Palestinian communities. For his students, the course material was novel and important; but their personal encounter with him, and other professors from ’48, was equally eye-opening. Marah Khalife:
In the day to day, we [Palestinians from the West Bank] do not deal with Palestinians from ‘48. The idea of being able, for instance, to live in Nazareth and be in Ramallah in the afternoon was new to me. For us from ‘67 [West Bank] it’s hard to be in two places, in two colonial geographies, during the same day. You either wake very early in the morning or arrive very late at night. But for the professors [it was different]: you call him in the morning and he’s in Nazareth and by 2 o’clock he’s in the class with us. So it’s reimagining Palestine.
The place of ‘48 Palestinian students within both Israeli and Palestinian universities has shifted considerably over the last decade. On the one hand, there has been an influx of these students into the West Bank, particularly to the Arab American University (AUJ) in Jenin (a private college, founded in 2000), attracted by its paramedical training and proximity to the Galilee. For the institution, they are a much-needed source of revenue, and actively courted. Today, they represent 55 percent of AUJ students. Other universities in the West Bank such as Al Najah University in Nablus are now courting Palestinian students from inside Israel, eager for the revenue.
The same period has seen a concurrent rise in the number of ‘48 Palestinian students enrolled in Israeli universities. In prior decades, Israeli universities were effectively off-limits to Palestinian citizens, given stringent admission requirements that tended to favor Jewish Israeli students. Today, numerous Israeli institutions trumpet their growing Palestinian student populations as evidence of democratic inclusion. Such is the case at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, now actively courting Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Critics of this policy charge Hebrew University with cementing the annexation of Palestinian Jerusalem.
At BZU, Palestinian faculty from ‘48 func'tion within something of a legal gray zone. According to Israeli law, Israeli citizens are not permitted to enter Area A (the sector of the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority, where the university is located). As Professor Bashir notes: “The fact is that every time we, as Palestinians from Israel, go through the Israeli checkpoints, we are actually breaking the Israeli law.” For the time being, the Israeli authorities have elected to turn a blind eye.
BZU’s Israel Studies program is not without Palestinian precedents. Al Quds University in Jerusalem began its Israel Studies program in 2005, housed within its International Studies M.A. program. The BZU program also work closely with the handful of other Palestinian research centers that study Israeli politics and society, including Mada al-Carmel (The Arab Center for Applied Social Research, Haifa-based) and Madar (The Palestinian Center for Israeli Studies, Ramallah-based). Like the BZU and Al Quds program, both are post-Oslo institutions.
The Israel Studies program also has regional precedents. For decades, in institutions of higher education across the Middle East, Arab students have had the opportunity to study Hebrew and Zionist ideology as part of a “know your enemy” educational paradigm. Educational projects of this kind also existed beyond the university context. In the 1970s, for example, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s research center in Beirut engaged in its own educational program along these lines, including Arabic translations of foundational Zionist writings. But today, no regional equivalent of the Birzeit program exists outside of Palestine due to the taint of normalization—projects that normalize relations with Israel, therein legitimizing its policies and regime on both sides of the Green Line. BZU and Al Quds University offer the only degree-granting M.A. programs in Israel Studies in the Arab World.
BZU’s Israel Studies program, for its part, has not faced such critiques from within the institution despite the university’s strong anti-normalization stance and support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] movement. “It’s never been an issue on campus,” says BZU Professor of Anthropology Rema Hammami. “Even the student groups who have raised normalization as an issue around specific events and professors, have never raised them towards the Israel Studies program.”
Normalization aside, some students and faculty still voice unease with the program’s central tenets. Professor Shihade was among those program founders who raised early concerns about the program’s name—preferring “settler-colonial studies” as a means of differentiating the program from the hegemonic scholarly paradigm in the United States and Great Britain. He reported a similar unease among some of the students he taught—less so within the classroom than beyond, when they returned home to their families. “When the students say, ‘we are doing Israel Studies,’ they are looked at in a slightly suspicious way from the society in general.”
The Birzeit program is raising more eyebrows within Israeli university settings, particularly amidst growing international support for BDS. For most Israelis, the very mention of BZU harkens back to a threatening history of radical political organizing during the first Palestinian uprising (1987-1991), when students and faculty were on the political frontlines Professor Nabih, who also holds a faculty position at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, spoke of the suspicion he faces from his Jewish Israeli colleagues:
The moment they know that I am teaching in a Palestinian university, they start with their interrogation, as if there are Jewish secrets that I am going to expose to the enemy …They can’t imagine that some guy from Ramallah would want to study Judaism without having evil impulses.
Thus far, there has been little Israeli media or state scrutiny of the BZU program; but one imagines that, within the current political climate, such scrutiny is only a matter of time.
“Our Own Tools”
The growth of the Israel Studies program coincides with new challenges for Palestinian universities in the West Bank. During the last year and half, Israel has denied visa extensions to many international professors and scholars teaching at these institutions, particularly those actively supporting BDS. According to some recent reports, nearly half of the foreign faculty working in West Bank universities have been denied in the last year and a half. BZU’s faculty has been heavily impacted. The University, represented by the Palestinian legal advocacy organization Adalah, is currently bringing a legal case to the Israeli high court.
At BZU, as across the West Bank, student education continues under conditions of duress. Students and faculty are under perpetual surveillance, questioned and arrested on a regular basis. “We already have an education in Israel Studies,” many students noted wryly, thanks to the experience of living under military rule.
And while all of Palestine’s institutions of higher education suffer under military occupation, the Israel Studies program is subject to a unique set of constraints that confront students and professor alike in the most benign details of their daily educational work. Fakher Eldin:
The power relations are against you as a Palestinian researcher [in this field]: you can’t interview your enemy, you can’t do ethnography, you can’t easily teach and study Israeli sources…There are many constraints, but there are also many ways to overcome these disadvantages. I think we we’re seeing the fruits from the students who are writing theses. They’re coming up with very interesting ideas about Israeli politics.
Within Palestine’s constrained financial and political present, the professional futures for students in the Israel Studies program are admittedly uncertain. Some graduates hope to pursue to Ph.D.s in related fields in Europe or the United States. Others have moved on to governmental or media work within Palestine, or have joined the neoliberal NGO workforce. For her part, Marah Khalife is just beginning a job at the newly opened Palestine Museum, housed on campus, where she believes that her critical analytic skills will be put to good use.
When one studies the BZU Israel Studies program from the vantage of the United States, amidst the growth of donor-driven Israel Studies programs with their unapologetic advocacy commitments, it appears as a radical act of intellectual and political refiguration. In the hands of its faculty and students—in their close work with the details of Israeli politics and society, in their openness to the surprises and complexities that emerge from taking archives and histories seriously—the very notion of “Israel Studies” is being wholly remade. Here, again, Marah Khalifeh:
The general framework we’re studying under is clear to us. It’s all about the type of knowledge we are trying to produce. We are trying to produce a Palestinian knowledge of Israeli society…to create our own tools.
Note: Thanks to Joel Beinin, Munir Fakher Eldin, Rema Hammami, Shira Robinson, and BZU faculty and students.
---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: David Levi-Faur
Date: Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 6:35 PM
Subject: [Academia-IL] אקדמיה לא אכפתית?
מצרף את הכתבה של עמירה הס (למעשה שתי כתבות) בנושא של אשרות עבודה למרצים באונ' בשטחים הכבושים.
אני עושה זאת גם כדי לאמר שאכפת לנו אבל גם כדי לבקש הע/ארות נוספות על התנהלות רשות האוכלוסין. האמנם התעמרות רק בפלסטינים או גם התעמרות בתיר ובמבקר באשר הוא אחר ? האמנם אנחנו אדישים או שמא אחד המגזרים שמרים קול יותר מכל מגזר אחר בנושאים אלו ?
נדמה לי שההתעמרות היא גם בסטודנטים ומרצים שמגיעים לאוניברסיטאות ישראליות למהדרין. אני מעריך שבסולם ההתעמרות באחר רשויות ההגירה בישראל נמצאות גבוה לצד רשויות הגירה כמו ארה"ב וברטניה. האמנם?
למה בעצם שיהיה אכפת לאוניברסיטאות ישראליות שירושלים מחבלת בחירות האקדמית של אוניברסיטאות פלסטיניות ומשבשת העסקת מרצים זרים בהן?
רקטות קסאם, אבנים או בלוני תבערה אינם הסיבה שישראל מתערבת בחירות האקדמית של אוניברסיטאות פלסטיניות ומחבלת בתהליך העסקתם של מרצים מחו"ל או בקבלת סטודנטים זרים.
השיבוש השגרתי הישראלי הזה בחיים התקינים של האוניברסיטאות הפלסטיניות אינו מעניין נשיאי אוניברסיטאות ישראליות, דיקני פקולטות, מרצים בכירים ואת אוכלוסיית הסטודנטים. עובדה: קולם לא נשמע אף פעם, אף על פי שהמניפולציות של משרד הפנים ומתאם הפעולות בשטחים במתן אשרות לאקדמאים ולסטודנטים שיעדם המובלעות הפלסטיניות התחילו מזמן ורק החמירו בשלוש השנים האחרונות. אולי הם יתחילו להתעניין בנושא אם מועצות סטודנטים באירופה ובארה"ב, וכמה איגודי מרצים, יעלו שוב את מכשול האשרות לאקדמאים כסיבה להחרמת אוניברסיטאות ישראליות. הנציגים הישראלים הרשמיים יתלוננו לבטח שמדובר באנטישמיות, יגלגלו עיניים בצדקנות ויגידו שלא ידעו. גם את זה לא ידעו.
ולמה בעצם שיהיה אכפת לאקדמיה הישראלית שבשל מגבלות התנועה שמטילה ישראל חסרים לאוניברסיטת ביר זית מרצים לכלכלה מתמטית ולהנדסה אזרחית, למשל, אם לא אכפת לפקולטות למשפטים ששופטים בירושלים מאשרים לעמותת אלע"ד לגרש את משפחת סיאם מביתה בסילוואן, ולסטודנטים לארכיטקטורה ולמרצים שלהם לא מזיז שהצבא הורה על הריסת שכונה בוואדי אל־חומוס, שקרובה לגדר ההפרדה, גם כן בירושלים.
למה שהאוניברסיטה העברית תתעניין באפליה הברורה הבאה, אחת מאין־ספור: יש נוהל ברור ונוח של משרד הפנים להעסקת אקדמאים זרים באוניברסיטאות בישראל. אין נוהל מקביל (שחייב להיות ישראלי, כי ישראל היא השולטת בגבולות ובזהות של השוהים במובלעות הפלסטיניות) לגבי העסקת זרים באוניברסיטאות הגדה. האוניברסיטה העברית הרי גם לא מתעניינת בהתעללות הישראלית בגטו עיסאווייה, שבמורדות הגבעה שעליה היא חולשת.
הסטודנטים והמרצים הם חלק אינטגרלי מכלל הציבור הישראלי־היהודי, ואינם שונים ממנו באדישותם לפגיעה באקדמיה הפלסטינית. להוציא פלסטינים אזרחי ישראל וקומץ פעילי שמאל יהודים באוניברסיטאות בישראל, שהאחידות המחשבתית שכופות קבוצות כמו "אם תרצו" לא משתקת אותם, בשביל האקדמיה - כמו כל הציבור הישראלי - שליטתנו בפלסטינים היא Non Issue. כ-30 מרצים זרים בביר זית מתוך סגל של כ-450 מרצים ועובדים אחרים, זה לא הרבה. כ-20 מורים זרים למוזיקה מתוך 110 בקונסרבטוריון ע"ש אדוארד סעיד, זה כבר שיעור גבוה יותר של אנשי סגל שלכודים ברשת הגחמות והשרירותיות של המינהל האזרחי ורשות האוכלוסין וההגירה.
הרבה או מעט, מה שחשוב הוא העיקרון ולא הנתונים הפרטניים. לו היה נוהל ברור ונוח, הדומה לזה המוחל בישראל, יש להניח שמספר המורים למוזיקה והמרצים למדעים או במסלולים בין־תחומיים שונים, היה אף גבוה יותר. כדי לאייש משרות חסרות או כדי לפתח תחומים חדשים שעכשיו, בלית ברירה, האוניברסיטה אינה מציעה, יש להניח שגם אוניברסיטאות פלסטיניות אחרות - שמעסיקות פחות זרים או בכלל לא - היו מבקשות להרחיב ולהעשיר את הסגל שלהן באורחים מחו"ל.
יש זוועות גדולות בהרבה מפרופסור ותיק להיסטוריה בביר זית, שתקוע יותר משנה בקפריסין מכיוון שישראל לא מחדשת לו את אשרת הכניסה למובלעת רמאללה. או מהעובדה שהבחינות נסרקות ונשלחות במייל למרצה שלא הורשתה לשוב. ושוב נזכיר את שכונת סילוואן, שעמותה ימנית הטובלת בכסף מתעללת בה בשם ארכיאולוגיה וולט־דיסנית, מאמללת את תושביה ודוחפת אותם לעזוב.
אבל טעות לדרג את אופני החבלה הישראלית בחיים הפלסטיניים לפי זוועתם המדממת. מתקפת העם היהודי־הישראלי נגד העם הפלסטיני היא רב־מערכתית. היא מנוהלת באמצעים צבאיים וטכנולוגיים מתקדמים שמפותחים באוניברסיטאות הישראליות, ובנהלים מסובכים; בידי משרדים ממשלתיים ועמותות ריגול והכפשה כביכול לא ממשלתיות, ובידי מועצות "אוטונומיות" כמו עפולה, נוף הגליל ומועצת בנימין; בהתעלמות תקשורתית ובהסתה מתוחכמת או בוטה שמושמעת יום־יום ברדיו ובטלוויזיה. גם אם ישראל לא היתה הורגת או פוצעת פלסטיני אחד בהפגנות, עדיין זו היתה מתקפה רב־מערכתית לפירור הקולקטיב הפלסטיני ולהפיכתו לקובץ מקרי של פרטים, שעל כל אחד מהם להתמודד לבד עם התוקף.
ישראל משקיעה משאבים אנושיים, טכנולוגיים, כספיים ואינטלקטואליים כדי להמשיך את המתקפה הרב־מערכתית לפירור הקולקטיב הפלסטיני. לשם כך היא נעזרת במשאבים אנושיים, כספיים ואינטלקטואליים של יהודים ברחבי העולם, שלא לדבר על התמיכה הדיפלומטית, הכלכלית והפוליטית של מדינות רבות. כשמביאים בחשבון את ההשקעה הישראלית, היהודית והעולמית העצומה הזאת אפשר שוב רק להתפעל ולהתרגש מהעמידה האיתנה הפלסטינית - של היחידים ושל הקולקטיב - ובהם האוניברסיטאות הפלסטיניות.
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Date: Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 5:26 PM
Subject: [Academia-IL] יש מי שעוסק בסולידריות עם האוניברסיטאות הפלסטיניות