The US Embassy has excluded Ariel University, located in the West Bank, from the
invitation list for President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students during
his visit next week.
According to student union representatives, the
embassy contacted the other seven accredited Israeli universities, all of which
are located within the pre-1967 lines, but not the sole Israeli university
located in the West Bank.
Ariel University Student Union head Shay Shahaf
said he hoped the omission was an error that can be corrected rather than a
political statement with respect to their location.
He noted that his
school became Israel’s eighth accredited university in December and that there
still might be confusion over its students’ status.
MK Yoni Chetboun has
written a letter to the US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on the students’ behalf asking
that the embassy include representatives from Ariel University at the event,
scheduled for next Thursday at the Jerusalem International Convention
“This university was officially and legally recognized by the
government of Israel,” Chetboun wrote.
“By boycotting its students, your
government is very much taking a specific, one-sided political stand, which it
is supposedly attempting not to do,” he wrote.
“As a member of Knesset
who was elected by Israelis from all around the country, including from Judea
and Samaria, I want to believe that the inconsistent decision to boycott the
students of the University of Ariel was a decision that was made by your
president’s advisers, and not by the president himself,” he said.
University spokesman had no comment on the situation. The Prime Minister’s
Office and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro similarly refused to speak on the matter.
The White House referred all comments to the embassy.
An official from
the embassy said, “We are working with institutions that are partners in joint
programs with the US Embassy.” The embassy official added that there had not
been room for all its partners.
Volunteers on a Facebook website
affiliated with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry posted a protest note on Wednesday
against the decision, which was then removed.
Shahaf said that since
Ariel University students were academically on par with their peers, they should
be able to enjoy the same benefits as all other university students in
But although Ariel University has official ties with academic
institutions around the world, it has also been the subject of boycott calls
because of its location.
On Twitter, activists immediately commented on
the obvious implications of the United States’ refusal to invite students from a
West Bank settlement to a major event.
Palestine Today tweeted the
following note, “Dear American liberals: President Obama boycotted Ariel
University and so can you.”
Ariel University is located in the
fourthlargest Jewish city in the West Bank, of the same name, and is considered
by most Israelis to be a settlement bloc that will remain within its boundaries
in any final-status agreement.
The Palestinians, in turn, have insisted
that the city, which is located 16.1 kilometers over the pre-1967 line, is
situated on land that should be part of their future state.