West Bank university at heart of Israeli-European academic debate

Israel Anthropological Association urges European counterparts to back decision for non-cooperation with Ariel University and other institutions of higher education across the Green Line.

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October 14, 2018 18:25
3 minute read.
Ariel University in the West Bank

Ariel University in the West Bank. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The president of the Israel Anthropological Association (IAA) has urged the European Association of Social Anthropology (EASA) to back the IAA’s decision “to refuse cooperation” with Israeli academic institutions beyond the Green Line.

In June this year, the IAA voted to adopt a motion to refuse cooperation with the three institutions of higher education in the settlements: Ariel University, Orot College in Elkana and Herzog College in Alon Shvut.

This decision was taken after a law was passed in Knesset in February, placing institutes of higher education in the settlements under the authority of the Israel Council for Higher Education, instead of the separate council for Judea and Samaria they had been under until then.

In August, EASA held its annual general meeting in Stockholm and adopted a motion of non-cooperation with these institutions by 164 votes to 0 with 17 abstentions, describing them as “intended exclusively to serve the population of an occupying power in occupied territories, and specifically of institutions exclusively serving Israeli citizens situated within the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank.”

Despite this claim, Palestinians who are citizens of, and reside in, the Palestinian Authority are able to study in Israeli institutions of higher education, although on condition that there is no practical alternative in the PA, as well as if the program focuses on “cooperation, co-existence and regional peace.”

The EASA vote still needs to be ratified by its wider membership, and voting has been opened by electronic ballot and ends on November 2.

In September, IAA president and associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Nir Avieli wrote to EASA saying that he was “greatly heartened” by its decision to support the decision “to denounce the regularization of these institutions through their admittance to the Council for Higher Education (CHE), and our consequent decision to refuse cooperation with these institutions.”

He alleged that the institutions are not open to Palestinians, and “as such, they are exclusionary institutions, and beyond the pale of academic and anthropological ethics,” which is why the IAA adopted its own non-cooperation motion.

A spokesperson for Ariel University confirmed that Palestinians are able to study at the institution, while a spokesperson for the Council of Higher Education stated that Palestinians could indeed apply to and study at Israeli educational institutions anywhere in the country and the settlements.

“By voting so massively to support, EASA’s general assembly has shown solidarity with both its Israeli and Palestinian colleagues,” said Avieli, who said he wrote in his capacity as president of the IAA.

“Those of you who were not present at the assembly now have the opportunity to ratify and amplify that expression of solidarity,” he continued, adding, “I urge you to do so and thank you for your attention and solicitude.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Avieli said that he and the IAA were not calling for EASA to boycott Israel institutions of higher education beyond the green line, but rather to simply support the IAA’s decision.

“We did not call on anyone to boycott anything,” Avieli insisted, arguing that the IAA had merely “informed” EASA of its decision, “and they decided to vote in support of the decision.”

EASA did indeed support IAA’s decision, as well as adopting its own non-cooperation motion.

“If they decide to cooperate with Ariel, not to cooperate with Ariel, we have no connection to it, I am not a member of their association,” he said.

The right-wing Im Tirtzu organization said, however, that Avieli’s letter was tantamount to supporting non-cooperation with Israeli academic institutions.

“When Israeli academics encourage boycotts on Israeli academic institutions, it harms not only Israeli academia but society as a whole,” said attorney Yaakov Cohen, director of the Im Tirtzu’s legal division. “We are currently looking into legal recourse in accordance with the Anti-Boycott Law.”

“While decision-makers and Israeli universities invest resources and effort to combat the international BDS movement, they ignore the fact that the ‘BDS from within’ phenomenon is occurring under their noses,” Cohen said.


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