During the recent controversy regarding Neve Gordon’s L.A. Times op-ed supporting the BDS movement, one of the arguments offered by Israeli academic opponents was that a boycott would harm precisely those institutions within Israel doing the most on behalf of tolerance and co-existence between Jews and Arabs. The following story will certainly give the lie to that argument.
This year, a new private Israeli academic institution launched, the Carmel Academic Center. Among its offerings within the department of business administration was an accountancy concentration. But one week before classes began, the school cancelled it. Why? Too many Arabs. That’s right. Only three Jews registered and the rest were Israeli Palestinians. Not wanting to develop a reputation for being in bed with Arab lovers, the entrepreneur who founded the school pulled the plug. Here are some internal conversations published by the Alternative Information Center. Israeli Channel 2 broke the original story:
Dr. Amos Baranes, a senior lecturer at the Carmel Academic Center and head of the Accounting Concentration, held a conversation about this decision with Gil Reshef, the entrepreneur behind the for-profit Carmel center…: In this recorded conversation, Reshef said: “If it is a majority Arab, we can’t allow ourselves…[to become] an institution that will be categorized as Arab. Haifa University has this image and has a big problem [as] it is perceived as a university of Arabs […] If we will be seen as Arab, [students] will not come […]” Shocked by this conversation. Dr. Baranes met with Carmel Academic Center President, Professor Yehezkel Taler, formerly the Deputy Chair of the Israel Council for Higher Education. The conversation was recorded: Dr. Baranes: “Yesterday I had a conversation with Gil; Gil also raised the issue about which you spoke, the Jewish/Arab issue, that we shouldn’t be an Arab majority […]” Taler: “Here there was also a problem. Of all those who registered, three were Jews, the rest Arab.” A horrified Baranes turned to the Israel Council of Higher Education, which accredits all institutes of higher education in Israel, including the Carmel center. In a written response, the Council noted that “it was clarified beyond doubt that the college didn’t open the program due to financial considerations.” However, when Carmel College President Taler learned that Dr. Baranes contacted the Israel Council for Higher Education, he removed Baranes from the center’s academic council and told him his future at the college is unclear. Taler told Baranes (in a taped conversation): Taler: “I don’t want you there (Carmel’s academic council) […] I am not prepared that someone from the academic council will correspond with Ahmad Tibi (Dr. Tibi, Knesset member from the Ra’am Ta’al party) and the Israel Council for Higher Education.”
There you have it. This is the way the academic system sometimes works in Israel. The worst aspect of this is that the oversight organization, the Council of Higher Education, merely whitewashes the racism, instead of doing its job and objecting to it. This makes the Council and Israeli higher education (or least private higher education) a laughingstock. Decades ago, the Ivy League had a Jewish quota and many of our parents couldn’t attend for that reason. That’s why, in fact, schools like Brandeis University were founded. Unfortunately, there will be no Israeli Arab equivalent of Abe Sachar, Brandeis’ first president, to found a great Israeli Arab university. Besides, the state would never stand for it as it would show the world that because Arabs cannot get the same quality education Jews can, that is necessary to create an institution that will provide such training.
On a similar theme, the Orthodox schools of Petah Tikva refused to enroll 100 Ethiopian students in recent weeks. [UPDATE: After the education ministry threatened to cut off the schools' funding, they grudgingly accepted them.] I simply don’t understand how a country can allow public schools to refuse to enroll a student due to his or her skin color and ethnicity. Petah Tikvah and Pisgat Zeev also received notoriety recently for conducting Iran-type modesty patrols. However, in this case the culprits were apprehended for miscegenation, mixed Arab and Jewish dating. I wonder if it’s something in the water in Petah Tikvah that makes people even more racist than the average Israeli.