The Israeli government, after debating for five years, has approved the application of Ariel College to be a full national university. The College (which I will in future call the University of Occupation), is located in the settlement town of Ariel. Every Israeli university objected strenuously to the College’s effort because they knew that Ariel was substandard academically, that there was no need for another Israeli university, and the campaign was political rather than educational.
But there’s another issue that plays a role here that few are considering (including few in the BDS movement thus far): the upgrade of Ariel is a huge boon to this movement, one of whose calls is for the boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions. By turning Ariel into a university, the government is thumbing its nose at both its own domestic educational apparatus, but also the international education and political communities. Through this decision, which is entirely political in nature, the BDS movement will now be able to turn to academic institutions around the world and say that in Israel politics and Occupation trump educational priorities:
One Israeli university official said that Ariel was a political college, and that the “absurd” idea to promote it stems from the fact that it has political patronage.
If Israel tells the world that Ariel is on a par with distinguished institutions like Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion and University of Haifa, the world will see through this in a heartbeat. Foreign universities considering affiliations or joint projects with Israeli institutions will have to weigh not only whether they wish to associate with a national educational system that places politics before pedagogy, but whether they can trust the claims of excellence of any Israeli school. The mediocrity and political nature of Ariel will drag down the high rankings of other Israeli schools.
Or as the caption of the protest sign says in the above photograph: Ariel will proudly introduce to the world the new field of Occupation Sciences.
Not to mention that Ariel will be one of the few universities in the world answerable not to civilian authorities, but to the IDF military commander in the West Bank. It’s all a big charade, but because the West Bank is not yet formally annexed as Israeli sovereign territory, the state apparently can’t declare itself the proper civil authority guiding Ariel’s affairs. For that, it calls upon the military authority which administers the region on behalf of the State. Which means higher education in the Territories is being delivered at the muzzle of a gun?