One hundred sixty-five Israeli academics issued a petition on Sunday in which they vow not to take part in academic functions at the Ariel University Center of Samaria, because it lies across the Green Line.

The petition, which was initiated by Prof. Nir Gov of the Weizmann Institute of Science, says the educators took part because of their “discomfort in participating in any part of the academic activities taking place at the college which operates in the settlement of Ariel.”

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According to the petition, the settlement “is not part of the sovereign territory of the State of Israel, and therefore it is impossible to require us to work there. Our conscience and our social responsibility demand that we bring forth an obvious stance on the matter.”

The petitioners also say that Ariel “was founded on occupied territory. Only a few kilometers from the flourishing settlement, Palestinians live in villages and refugee camps under difficult living conditions, and lacking basic human rights. Not only do they not have access to higher education, a number of them don’t even have access to running water.”

The contrast between Ariel and the surrounding Palestinian areas constitute “two different realities that forge an apartheid state,” the petition adds.

It was signed by three Israel Prize laureates, Prof. Yehoshua Kolodny (the Hebrew University/Earth Sciences 2010), Prof. Benjamin Isaac (Tel Aviv University/ History 2008), and Prof. Itamar Procaccia (Weizmann Institute/Physics 2009).

Following reports of the petition on Sunday, Education Ministry Gideon Sa’ar issued a statement in which he criticized “public debates that are based on attempts to boycott and delegitimize.”

Sa’ar called the boycott “a provocation that lacks any meaning” and questioned the likelihood that the academics would have been part of any educational proceedings at the university in the first place.

The initiative was also criticized by Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman. He told Israel Radio that he would respond to boycotts with increased construction.

Ben-Gurion University’s Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of the Committee of University Heads, distanced herself and her committee from the boycott, saying that those who signed the petition did not represent any academic institution in Israel. Carmi also called for academics to avoid such initiatives in the future.

The settlement is home to nearly 20,000 Israelis. In August, three dozen theater actors and workers penned a letter in which they pledged not to perform at the then-soon-to-be-opened Ariel Center for the Performing Arts because it is located across the Green Line. Days later, the artists’ boycott was joined by 150 professors and authors who wrote a letter in which they vowed not to work at the facility either.

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